A good law school study schedule can make a big difference in your grades. A good study schedule can also save you stress, give you a sense of control and lower your anxiety during law school. If you are looking for a way to improve your law school grades and lower your stress level in 2014, consider making a resolution to create and follow a hand-crafted study routine.
For a full step-by-step guide to creating a perfect study routine, please go to the wonderful Three Years of Death blog. For a brief guide, please continue reading.
There are two steps necessary to plan your ideal study routine: First, before your semester starts, choose when and where you will study. Second, each week of the law school semester, plan what you will study.
Step One: Before the Semester Starts, Choose When and Where you will Study
You can complete Step One as soon as you have your class schedule. The best way to do this is to have a blank weekly calendar in front of you with all seven days of the week on it. Make sure that you have a lot of space to write on each day. It helps if you divide your time into half-hour increments. Start from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed.
After you have your blank weekly schedule in front of you, complete the following steps:
1. Fill in the days and times that you have classes with one color.
2. Fill in your daily obligations and tasks. Some necessary tasks might include:
- Getting ready in the morning
- Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and taking breaks
- Commuting to/from school
You should also include:
- Time with family and friends
- Church/religious commitments
- Meeting with a study group (if you benefit from studying in a group)
- A break for a few hours, a half day, etc.
3. Plan time for sleep and exercise.
- Make sure to schedule 6-8 hours of sleep per night.
- Plan time to be active – whether it’s going to the gym or going on a walk. It is good for your body and your brain. It will also help to relieve stress.
4. Decide when and where you will study.
- Consider whether you are a morning person or a night person. If you cannot bear the thought of getting up early, schedule your study sessions for the afternoon and evening.
- Consider the best environment to study in: Is it at home, a library, or a coffee shop? Be true to yourself. If you really cannot concentrate in the law library, don’t go to the library to study simply because you feel you “should.”
- Make sure you are studying for the optimal amount of time.
- Study for at least one-hour chunks at a time. Aim to study several hours each day.
- Take breaks if you are studying for a long period of time.
An example of a schedule might look like this:
The above schedule would be fitting for someone who likes to study at home or in the library but gets distracted at coffee shops. It is for someone who likes to exercise in the afternoon and who makes time for family, friends, crafts, and church. The schedule allocates about five hours per day to study. Your study schedule may look completely different.
Now you know when you will study – it will be automatically programmed in your day! So how do you know where to begin when you sit down to study?
Step Two: Once you Start your Semester, Prepare Goals Every Week.
Sit down once a week for an hour or so and prepare a weekly “To Do” list. The list should contain everything that you want to get done that week. It is best to incorporate planning your weekly “To Do” list right into your study schedule. Note that the mock study schedule above reserves 7:30 – 8:30 PM on Sunday night for this task.
When you are making your weekly list of things to do, be as specific as you can. Here are some tasks that you should include in your weekly to-do list:
- Read/skim cases and/or commercial briefs as well as any corresponding supplement.
- Create and review your outlines.
- Practice answering exam questions and compare your answer to the model answer.
- Complete legal writing homework assignments and research projects.
- Prepare to be on call (some weeks).
You can even break your weekly list of things to do into tasks you want to accomplish each day if you find that more beneficial.
By automatically programming studying into your day, you will be sure you are studying enough. By making weekly “To Do” lists, you will know what to do when you sit down to study and you will minimize the risks of not getting everything done or becoming distracted.
Ms. Ashley Heidemann graduated as the number 1 law student out of over 200 students in her class of 2011 at Wayne State University. She now works as a tutor for law students and the bar exam. She also offers a Law School Preparatory Course for students interested in learning the skills necessary to achieve a high GPA in law school.