Law-student-in-the-modern-world procrastination techniques

April 26, 2009

PART I: Getting there (10 to 45 minutes)

  1. Leave at-times noisy, distraction-filled house for coffee house.
  2. While driving, consider what coffee shop is most likely to have a large table, near an outlet on a Sunday.
  3. Consider the free wi-fi situation of every option.
  4. Arrive at favorite home-town coffee shop which features nice tables, free wi-fi, tasty soup and delicious brew.
  5. Park, get all my crap and enter cafe.
  6. Get dismayed, as the cafe is full of children!
  7. Experience high level of let-down as you realize a folk singer, his ukulele and his partner who appears to specialize in a variety of drums are about to start a kid’s concert taking up most of favorite cafe.
  8. Turn around and leave.
  9. Drive to option two.
  10. Consider how to go five or so hours without the soup break.
  11. Deal with it.
  12. Get latte, find big table near outlet. Smile about it being mostly empty here.

PART II: Starting an outline (1 hour)

  1. Open a new Word file.
  2. Open up Notebook for Mac file, or whatever program you use for note-taking.
  3. Open all the other sources, ie. other people’s outlines.
  4. Decide between Pandora and iTunes. (This involves an analysis about how good the wi-fi connection is).
  5. Open a Lexis and wikipedia tab in Firefox (WP, sadly, is key to confirming my understanding of “important” cases).
  6. Post a facebook status about how I’m really going to start an outline now.
  7. Organize all the stuff open so that I can easily jump between all the information sources.
  8. Back to the new Word file.
  9. Look through fonts and pick one that will look pretty for 20-50 pages.
  10. Pick an outline format. Usually numbers or interesting-looking bullets.
  11. Check FB.
  12. Oh my! A friend commented “good luck” on my status.
  13. Comment back.
  14. Open book.
  15. Start actual outline.
  16. Feel productive.

PART III: Intermediary distractions (any amount of time one chooses)

  1. Watch the weird baristas dance around and apparently flirt with eachother. This is better when you have headphones and music on, since you have no clue whether some actual conversation accompanies the odd behavior.
  2. Take a moment to look at photos of cute babies your friends just posted on FB.
  3. Write a blog post about wasting time. (Doesn’t take long in this case since you’ve already been thinking about how much time you’ve wasted and why).
  4. Read about how the plastic-looking water cup I’m drinking from is in fact “green,” – made from corn!
  5. Consider what to eat for dinner (I am, after all, eating for two).
  6. Wonder in amazement that people come to coffee shops just to play video games for hours at a time.
  7. Keep checking and responding to new comments on FB.
  8. Think about what a loser you are for being 30 and still unable to avoid FB.
  9. Think about how sad it is that you are 30 and have not even remotely outgrown procrastination.

contracts contracts contracts

December 12, 2008

Tomorrow morning is my contracts final. With the exception of the LSAT, I can’t say I’ve spent this much time studying for anything in my life. I started the week before Thanksgiving, struggling to put my massive amounts of notes into outline form. I finished my outline last weekend, after not working on it for a while, and have since been reviewing, taking practice exams, and talking through topics with classmates.

Examples of how this has taken over my life: I rode back to hometown last night with an old friend who commutes to college town while working on her Ph.D. I shared examples of contract law for 75% of the car ride. Luckily, she’s an enormously curious, intelligent and patient person, so she was neither bored nor annoyed (Bonus!). This morning, I was typing a post on (aka the online immigration forum I obsessively participate in) and had to use the word “contract” and typed “K” (which is the legal-world shorthand for “contract”) and it took a few seconds to realize why that was unacceptable.

I’m amazingly not very stressed right now, perhaps because I feel I’ve really done as much as I reasonably could to get ready for this final. I’m even a little sad to bode this surprisingly interesting class farewell, but tomorrow around 12:30 will nonetheless be a wonderful relief.


November 28, 2008

Last night I got home from a long day of feasting, first with my dad’s side of the family, then with my mom’s, and discovered that despite my plans to stay away from any sort of shopping today, I couldn’t pawn getting a much-needed new washer onto my housemate/brother-in-law and had to get up at the crack of hell myself and go to Sears.

I picked out what I wanted from the ads and arrived right around 5 am. I got into a long line in the appliance department, waiting less than ten minutes before two salespeople walked up to our end of the line and said, “we can help some people over here in stoves.” I bolted, and ended up in and out of Sears in about 20 total minutes. It was effing AMAZING. We do, unfortunately, have to deal with our loud, rattling and sometimes not spinning washer for another month, since the one I ordered is not available for delivery until Jan. 1, but eh… that’s what laundromats are for!

I got home just after 5:30 and went back to sleep. Then F took my car to work (his are not exactly fully functional at the moment) and I’ve been home all day. I thought about walking to Starbucks for a late-afternoon pick-me-up, but then decided that idea was more a procrastination technique than anything else. I made a lot of tea, watched a little bad television, and got on with pre-exam study.

Strangely, since it’s my last exam, I’ve been motivated to work on my torts mini-outline today. I’m nearly done with the first draft, and then I need to work on writing my oral argument for civil procedure and practice-examing for crim. I got a really nice e-mail from Professor Civ Pro about my memo just now. I’m feeling totally better about that, for the record, after talking to my writing instructor and now this communication with him.

Well, the sun is down, it’s dinner time and no one is home at casa de mi. I should make use of the quiet and work…

words from a wise man

October 10, 2008

Yesterday my contract professor took ten minutes to give us his so-called “fatherly” lecture. Having taught for 40 or so years, he said he knows six weeks in is the time in the semester students start to hit the peak anxiety level. I guess 40 years has really allowed him to nail this one down, because I’m definitely feeling the pressure, and I think that is the truth with a lot of my classmates. So, for the benefit of other 1Ls or prospective law students who may read this, I will pass on the advice. I found it helpful.

1) Keep in mind that law school is like learning a new language. First, you just learn some vocabulary and grammar. Most people do pretty well with reading and writing when they study language in a classroom setting. Then one day you encounter someone who speaks this foreign language, and you realize, you don’t understand anything, it doesn’t make any sense, and you feel like a failure, a let-down, an idiot, etc. And you panic. (That’s where we are now, in the analogy). But at some time during the process of learning a language, you realize you do understand, and it’s usually like a light bulb turning on. According to Prof. Contracts, that light bulb tends to flip on sometime in the month of November. So, depending on the person, you’ve got 3-7 more weeks of utter mental struggle ahead.

As an aside, I really like this analogy. I lived in China for a year, and during that year I totally had the increasing struggle, followed by the light bulb moment when I started to understand conversations in regular society. Once the light bulb came on my learning was significantly faster and much less stressful.

2) When studying, focus on quality, not quantity. Sacrificing adequate sleep for studying is not helpful. Spending 12 hours in the library, reading and reading and reading, hoping to understand – probably not going to work. At some point, you aren’t absorbing anything you are reading. If you are confused, talk through it with some classmates.

3) When outlining, don’t make a list. Prof. Contracts is really big on the outline process. He believes it is the most important learning tool for the semester. But he cautions against having a huge (like 100-page) outline for an exam. The best outlines are much, much shorter. They show how the rules work together with the principles, but they are not a restating of a semester’s worth of notes.