Having to read hundreds of pages each week, make notes, complete problem questions and so on will make almost anything else seem appealing. Once, in a desperate attempt to avoid reading I watched YouTube videos so I could learn how to knit, which absolutely-had-to-be-done-right-away.*
To avoid – or let’s be honest here – minimise procrastination, here are a few strategies that I use to bully myself into studying…
Anyone who’s flown will have heard the old ‘please turn off all electronic devices’ speech from bored air hostesses, but it’s also a nifty mode to be in while studying.
Turn off the Internet if you can. If you need the Internet, physically log yourself out of Facebook, instead of staying logged in. That small step might make checking Facebook less compulsive, and might just remind you why you have the computer on in the first place. Keep your mobile phone in a different room, and check it during your break or at the end of your study session.
Find Out the Reason You’re Distracted (but don’t use it as an excuse to procrastinate)
There’s probably a reason why you feel compelled to go do X as soon as you’ve sat down to do your readings. Do you always look for a snack during study? Go make a tea? Maybe eat a solid meal before a study session, or have a bottle of water ready at your desk.
I always struggle to concentrate when I write down a goal of ‘study’. I realised I procrastinated most when I didn’t have a clear and specific method of study planned. For example, do I study property for an hour? Or do I complete five seminar questions in one hour before I move onto another subject?
I also found I had difficulty reading large volumes of text because I would lose my place and had to start over, putting me off my readings. A simple trick I found was to use an opaque ruler to follow what I was reading.Is there something that consistently puts you off studying? Identify it, do something about it, and do the reading for that case note you’ve been putting off.
Sit Next to an Over-competitive Law Student in the Library
Without fail, there’ll be at least one in each year. (If there’s only one in your law school then I’m going to transfer!) Sitting next to that infuriatingly prepared, seemingly-immune-to-distraction student in the law library may just get your butt into gear.
Undoubtedly there will be over the shoulder judgments, competitive reading and a distinct air of superiority if they see you watching a hilarious cat video on YouTube. Should that be open? Probably not…
The ‘Next Lamp Post’ Approach
A trick competitive runners use to motivate themselves and overcome fatigue is to aim for small landmarks. Say, instead of thinking about the next 20 km to run, they may aim to run to the next lamp post.
The same thing applies to studying. Do you have 200 pages to read before your class? Don’t despair at the amount of reading you have to do, and instead try to aim for a more achievable goal consistently, say make it to the end of the judgment, or to the next textbook heading.*True story. Four years later, I still haven’t finished that scarf I started. I will! I promise…
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