• Laura B

The lowdown on downtime

As law students we receive a wealth of advice when it comes to study skills, revision techniques and exam prep. We emerge from our degree with a great understanding of our learning styles and academic strengths. But we’re often less informed on the best ways that we can wind down, relax and actually detach from the daily grind of law school. While it’s important to keep tabs on assignment deadlines and to get involved in as many extra-curricular activities as you can, it’s just as important to make the best of your spare time.

An extra hour of reading might be great for your tomorrow’s tutorial but so is going to bed early and giving your body a chance to recharge!

It’s one thing to know that the legal profession is stressful, but quite another to actually treat yo’self to some quality downtime. Here are a few tried and tested ways to make the most of your downtime.

Go to bed early

For most of us the idea of getting seven or eight hours sleep is enough to send us into hearty peals of laughter. Why sleep when there’s another recommended reading to start? But the truth is that the less sleep we get, the more prone we are to lapses in concentration and forgetfulness. Sleep is important for consolidating memory and prepping our brains for another day of learning. So cramming at 1am isn’t actually going to help you in the morning – it’s only going to make you groggy! So shut down the laptop and reward that big smart head of yours through an early rendezvous with your pillow.

Spring clean your study space

If your desk is anything like mine, it can be less of a serene study zone and more a chaotic dumping ground for random stuff. Use some of your downtime to restore some of that much-needed tranquility. Clear away those half-empty mugs and scrunched up post-its. A tidy desk is a tidy mind.

Indulge your inner foodie

I can 110% recommend the subtle art of the ‘procrasti-bake’. There’s something about cooking that can lower stress levels and calm a busy mind. Law students seem to like procedure and formulas, so focusing your energy on a recipe is a great way to de-tangle your thoughts. Having a cooking routine set up also means you can ensure that you’re eating regularly and healthily. That being said, there’s nothing like a fresh pile of sugary baked goods to boost your self-esteem and score some brownie points (pun intended) with your mates.

Check in with your friends

If cooking isn’t your thing, embrace the law student café crawler stereotype and share some downtime with your friends over a coffee and/or slice of something delicious (pro-tip: consider talking about things that aren’t law school). My peers and I often find sanctuary in the cutest darn cake shop in our local area – conveniently open until 11pm for when we’ve been studying up late. Spending quality time with your mates can ensure you get your recommended daily intake of laughter and emotional support.

After all, in the words of the great Leslie Knope: ‘We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.’

Don’t forget your other interests!

Unfortunately, our hobbies and non-law interests can often be dismissed as mere indulgences. But law school shouldn’t take over our lives and overshadow the things that make up who you are. If you’re a film buff, go check out the latest flick. Gig junkie? Head down to the local for some live music. Gym junkie? Swap the solitary workouts for local open league soccer. Insert some fun into that well-worn study planner.

Take the time to self-reflect and remind yourself you’re doing great!

If you feel like your downtime is just a handful of minutes per day, there’s no reason why you can’t still put them to use. If meditation or yoga is your thing, go for it! Otherwise, unwind by giving yourself a small pocket of quiet time to reflect upon the positives that have come out of your day and how you have progressed towards your short and long term goals. Even if things everything’s a mess, a few deep breaths can make things a hell of a lot better. As Andy Dwyer once said: ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I read that once on a can of lemonade. I like to think it applies to life.’*

*I have now reached my quota of three Parks and Recreation quotes per article, I believe that’s a good time to conclude!

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