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Have you heard about the lumberjack?

Cartoon axe

Some of the best advice that I’ve received as a student was delivered to me in a rather surprising way. I was in a particularly poor state last semester as I was finishing off a large assignment. I sat practically drooling in front of my computer shifting through cases and trying to reach that ever distant word count.

I hadn’t been sleeping, eating or being human properly for the past few days in my attempt to focus all my attention to the assignment. I suspect my father had quite a shock when he entered my room to discover I had transformed into a zombie and had managed to collect all the coffee mugs in the house.

Instead of yelling at me or nagging, he simple came up to me and asked, “have you heard about the Lumberjack?”. I was slightly annoyed that he wanted to discuss a lumberjack when I was so busy with study. I turned to him and shook my head.

He then proceeded to tell me the Lumberjack Paradox...

A man was walking through the woods when he came upon a lumberjack attempting to chop down a tree.

The lumberjack was chopping madly away but barely making any impact on the tree because his axe was so blunt. The man asked the woodsman: "Why do you not stop and sharpen your axe? The chopping will go much faster", to which the woodsman replied: “I don’t have time to stop and sharpen my axe!"

My dad then told me, “as a student, your mind is your axe and your assignment is the tree. At the moment your axe is blunt and you are not making any progress on the tree. You could sit here for another three hours and make no reasonable progress or you could go to sleep, eat a proper meal and come back to it with a sharp mind.”

I followed his advice, took a break, and when I came back to the assignment refreshed I was able to finish it in under an hour. Who knows how long I would have spent trying to finish it in my previous zombie-like state.

As the middle of the semester is almost here and those assignments are starting to flood in, it is important to remember to make time to look after yourself. Learn to identify when your mind is blunt and what things you can do to sharpen your mind. Everybody will have different activities that will work for them. You might need to have a good sleep, watch a few good hours of some trashy TV or catch up with a friend.

Never feel guilty about taking the time to look after yourself while you are studying. It can be one of the best techniques to use when you are making no progress on your work. It is also a great technique for keeping your sanity while studying law!

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