Time is Money
Time Is Money: Top Tips To Manage Your Time Effectively
Guest Post by Jess Murray, Professional Writer and Researcher
If there is one thing that everyone knows about qualified lawyers, it is that they consider their time to be a highly valuable resource. Most bill their clients per hour, with some even doing it per few minutes. It is common for a law firm to break every project it handles down into the smallest tasks when completing final time sheets. For example, a conveyancing solicitor doesn’t bill its client simply for ‘buying a house’ –their invoice will list the minutiae involved, from initial property searches and liaison with surveyors; right through to handling mortgage complications and transferring the final payment.
So why should our time be any less valuable while we are studying the law? It is all too easy to get caught up in the magnitude of the task ahead of us, especially at the start of the year, or when exams start to loom. By following the example of our qualified colleagues, we can learn how to divide our time into manageable chunks that can be used effectively to achieve our goals – in this case, securing those crucial law grades.
Make a habit of it
As with anything, studying becomes easier when it fits into daily routine and becomes a habit. Try to study at the same time each day. Plan weekly reviews to adjust timings and topics if you need to. A good block of time to study for is around 45 minutes – make sure you schedule in plenty of short breaks.
Tidy surroundings make for a tidy mind, so keep your habitual study area uncluttered with as few distractions as possible. Keep a timetable of all your classes, mid-term tests and assignment deadlines: check items off as you achieve them. Leave some gaps in your timetable so that unexpected interruptions or changes of plan do not throw you completely off course.
Plan for short-, medium- and long-term success
Don’t forget the bigger picture when planning your time. Set up a school year calendar that shows the ‘top-line’ events and dates you need to remember. These should include non-academic appointments, such as medical appointments, family occasions, holidays and club activities. Make sure you add your exams as soon as you know their dates (or probable dates) so that you know exactly how much time you have to prepare. Add class tests, papers, projects, presentations etc as you become aware of them.
Now look at your medium term plans. Using this ‘larger picture’ you can now create a weekly schedule showing your commitments in more detail: assignment topics, times when you will visit the library, meet with tutors, have home study time and, most importantly, when you will enjoy some leisure time.
Finally, a daily list will really keep you on track – this is best drawn up last thing at night, when you can work out what you will need to do the following day and when you will be able to do it. Creating these plans may seem to take up valuable study time, but once you have established a system that works for you, planning your time like this will become a very useful habit that will allow you to remain in control and aware of your commitments and the time you have left to fulfil them.
Most importantly, once you have written your plans, make sure you follow them through. Don’t be swayed by peer pressure or the quest for short-term gratification. Focus on your longer-term goals.
Set priorities – and stick to them
You will always have more to do than you will have time to do it, so you will need to prioritise and work out what can be placed on the back burner and what needs doing right now. Weekly and daily plans will keep you focused once you have worked out what your priorities are.
So how do you select your priorities? Ask yourself what positive and negative things might happen if you make a certain task your main concern. What are the best and worst things that could happen, and could you live with those? How likely are they to happen, and how much time or energy will they take up – is the investment worth it?
What do we want? Procrastination! When do we want it? Whenever…
Procrastination – or the art of actively wasting time – is the diligent student’s enemy. Without a clear deadline or schedule, it is easy to procrastinate. Setting a timely goal, with achievable stages along the way will help keep you motivated and on track.
When you get an assignment, or learn an exam date, set a date straight away when you plan to start working on it. Count backwards from the exam or assignment deadline and work out how much time you will need to do the preparatory work and how much time will be taken up with other things, such as leisure, routines and family commitments. You can use your longer-term school calendar prepared above to help you with this.
Plan to start earlier rather than later to avoid getting stressed. Don’t get scared by the enormity of your task, break it up into manageable sections. Remember the old question: how do you eat an elephant? Answer… one bite at a time.