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Article by Eliza Liddicott
Dear student lawyers,
Happy New Year!– no it is not too late to say that.
As the holiday season draws to a close, we all make the unpleasant return back to real life, whether this be work, training or education. It’s must be said that this transition is hard, especially when the weather only wants to pick a fight with your umbrella or choice of layers, and the sky continues to grow dark so early. Any such times, the concept of motivation can fade just as fast as those resolutions you set …
However, it must also be said that staying productive is key to achieving your goals, and though it may seem like an easy option, we can’t let our educational or professional aspirations slip away in a deep winter slump. So if you have found the return back to the daily grind a little challenging, or if you are dreaming of the lazy winter break days at home rather than focusing on the tasks ahead, do not fear. The Student Lawyer is here to provide some tips on how to stay productive during winter and makes the most out of your legal journey. Also, as its not just the next few months that count, but 2020 as a whole, TSL has not forgotten to mention how to build a good foundation for all exams, dilemmas and deadlines you may face in the year ahead.
How to stay productive in winter – returning to the legal world:
Even though the days are gradually lasting longer, there still a sense of ‘winter’ in the air that can promote procrastination. When we wake up to the cold, sunless winter morning and return home to similar conditions in the evening, it can be hard to find the motivation to complete your to-do list. That is why it is crucial to tackle tasks in the middle of the day and thrive in the daylight when you are most likely to be productive. Though its important to ensure our minds a and bodies are well rested, waking up early can help you get you going in the morning. It’s best to start with the non-educational or professional tasks, so that, when daylight eventually hits your desk, you can avoid feeling dragged down by dark skies and put off what needs to be done. Use this sunlight as a source of energy you to achieve your goals, and try to draw upon the energy of colleagues, who may also have a midday mood-lift when the sun’s rays break through.
Having established a new daytime schedule, we must also keep our health in mind – staying warm, hydrated and in the positive study mindset. Crucial to avoiding illnesses that throw us off our game we need to take care of our physical health by eating well, getting enough sleep and remembering to wrap up! This is the best way to keep a cold at bay, and keep your brain functioning well. However, when trying to remain focused – with a certain test grade or task achievement in mind, it is also important to refrain from using winter sluggishness as an excuse for freedom acting in that way. Balance is the key here, otherwise, the winter productivity slum will continue into spring and summer, and so if we take good care of ourselves now, we can lay the foundations for success.
Finally, it can be said that the key tool to beating the winter blues is to simply look past them, and think of your short term goals as steppingstones for long-term achievements. Upcoming exams to study for? Remember that putting in the hours now will be beneficial to your next stage of legal studies. A library of legal reading to do? Just keep in mind that each word is adding to that base of knowledge that may come in handy in a future career. Waking up early every day and tracking out to school or work? This shows dedication and determination – attributes that any lawyer must have.
How to build a good foundation – practices for the rest of the year:
Coming up with a good plan for the next few weeks will keep us motivated in the sluggish winter. But, it is also vital to begin productive tactics that will set us on the right track for the rest of the years.
First and foremost, and I know that this is a mantra that we have probably heard before, but it remains true: start revising as early as possible – with a twist. Whilst some may suggest that you start making revision resources as soon as gathering holidays are over (or even before), remember that you should only spend time going over the topics you found difficult and not make a flashcard on every little detail in the textbook. Otherwise, when you are close to revise, you will be overwhelmed by a mass of resources on information that is probably in your brain already. Narrowing your revision to the topics that you really struggled with prevents wasting time, allows you to master the tougher areas (which exam questions are always on) and will mean that, come the exam period, you can focus on what you don’t know instead of also ploughing through what you do. Another great practice is to treat any mock exam or test as a real, one – revising in the same way that you would in the summer. This will stop you from becoming ‘rusty’ with regards to exam timings and technique and will keep the information constantly flowing through your mind, not lost in a notebook.
As we go into this new year and set goals that we will work on throughout, another good practice is to not dwell on past mistakes, such as a bad test score or assessment. Leave any occasion where you think you could have done better in 2019, and learn from your mistakes as you tackle 2020. Re-attempt exam questions until your answers are perfect, ask for help from teachers you previously avoided, do that little bit of extra research that you know will be beneficial in the long run.
For those who find procrastination plagues their studies throughout the year, the reverse to-do list may help to beat this problem. If you have not tried it before, make a to-do list of all tasks in your mind, noting whether they have high or low priority, and whether you have many or a few weeks until their deadline. Now, start with the lower priority, longer deadline tasks, both helping you tick off the to-dos and easing your mind into productivity. Then, when the higher priority task deadlines begin to flash on your calendar, you will be more motivated to channel energy into them and have no choice other than to get them done. Having reached their deadlines with a newfound drive, you will also have a sense of relief that the lower priority tasks are demolished, as you may not have even contemplated them whilst still stressing in procrastination. Voila, the reverse to do list.
How to remain involved in the law – beyond the textbooks and office walls:
Law is an amazing subject, both in study and in practice, yet it can be easy to let legal demands get the better of us. So, here are a few tips to constant stay in touch with the legal world:
- If you are feeling a little uninspired by your studies or daily routine, it is beneficial to take an active interest in the law, with activities that are not prescribed by the school curriculum or office. Firstly, a trip to the courts will help to bring your studies back to life, displaying the rules and procedures of this exciting subject in action. Alternatively, reading a book on an area of the law that your actually interested in can be the catalyst to boosting your productivity and keeping your mind active. It’s good to remember that we have chosen to study this subject due to its interesting and multifaceted nature, and it would be a shame to fall out of love with the law due to the odd stressful exam or difficult topic.
- Another way to stay in tune with the law – adding a few more cases or pieces of legislation to your daily life – is to subscribe to a blog posting regular and accessible updates about the world of the law. Listening to podcasts, looking at newspaper law pages and subscribing to an email service are also good options. Doing so will remove the association between exciting legal developments and work/study, and allow you to stay on top of the ever-changing legal sphere.
- Looking for a regular update service? Tapping your email into TSL will direct our commercial awareness updates your way, so that you can read a short yet informative run down on recent events and case law that will aid both an upcoming job interview or simply your bank of knowledge.
- Prefer to listen to legal news? The TSL team has recently released its own podcast coving a range of topics to help any student lawyer in their journey. The podcast, accessible via the free platform ‘Podbean’ and on iTunes, kicked off last December with a celebration of 100 years of women in the law, and you can expect interviews, updates and more in the new year.
- Finally, re-igniting your love of the law, or just adding to a current legal passion, does not have to be based around acquiring more legal knowledge – there is, of course, the practical side. Any future lawyer needs the skills that compose a professional, such as clear communication and organisation, and these can be fine-tuned in extra-curricular activities. Joining a debate club will hone your advocacy skills, and can be done both in and out of school, there are also mock trials to improve your ability to argue clearly and speak publicly. Alternatively, conducting a research project will be great preparation and practice for future education.
So, here are a few tips to beat winter procrastination and carry you through as you take on the new year. The key to success is starting the year off with strength and maintaining focused an calm throughout – so that exam-time cramming is avoided. Remember that work and study should be balanced with self-care and moments of relaxation, so that returning from a break can be positive and productive.
The team at TSL wish you a Happy New Year – with everything from study tips to legal updates coming your way.