So it’s September and we’re at the start of a new Academic year. I feel a like I have a slight head start for reasons that I won’t go too deeply into but basically this is the second time I’ve started my first year.
I like to think of myself as an organised person, and I love to get a plan straight in my head however I can to ease some of the stress that comes with any kind of studying.
On top of that, a few friends of mine who are also on the course with me were feeling stressed about how to manage the workload so I thought I would take a few minutes to share some of the ideas I’ve implemented that seem to be working for me.
First of all, I took some time to arrange a space to work!
I’m a bit of a nerd, my desk used to be in the living room, with my PC rigged up to it – but I found that it was just too distracting. I’d sit down and start playing video games, or start working on new projects, figure out whose birthday it was next – anything but study!
So I moved my desk into my bedroom and took only what I needed to study. During the holidays I took time to reformat my MacBook, to minimise distractions as so that it could function as a ‘University’ laptop.
I love books, and can get so carried away buying things that interest me, so I made sure to keep it to the bare minimum. I’m aware that I have far more books than I actually need. This is partly because I started the course last year and some of this years texts are different – but also because someone was selling a batch of previous editions last year that I decided to get as an extra reference tool. Sometimes it’s helpful to look in another book because authors have different styles of writing.
I also brought along only the essentials. A pot full of pens, my hole punch and a stapler!
Because I’m obsessed with keeping things organised I decided very early on that I needed a colour scheme. By associating a module with a colour I found that I could better differentiate between the modules. (Although now I am slightly worried that I’m going to be very confused when I go into my second year, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there – also, if anyone knows of a place where I can buy lever-arch folders in different colours than these I would love to hear from you!)
Anyone who is starting, or has done a Law degree will know there is a LOT of reading to be done. A lot. It can be incredibly overwhelming to look through your handbooks and see just how many cases, journals and text books are on the list that week but it really is best to NOT PANIC. Panicking leads to stress, stress leads to headaches, headaches lead to time off studying, time off studying leads to hate, hate leads to the dar– (shut up, Ollie.)
I’m sure you get my point. I decided to try and combat my fear of such huge reading lists by writing down what I had to read. As I’m compiling this list I’ll make sure that I have access to each journal, textbook etc.
(This is when I realised that organising yourself digitally is important too.)
That’s a folder for each module,
Folders for different purposes (and copies of each handbook in there too! Very handy.)
Then as I collected together different sources for reading I made sure to label them with a number corresponding to the Seminar that the reading is required for.
Now I can access the reading ANYWHERE. On my phone, my tablet, laptop, computer, at home or at uni. No excuses not to be reading something!
As a very visual learner, and something of a completionist – I came up with a way of representing the work I had to do using *marbles*. Genius, right? At the beginning of each week I count up how much reading there is to do, and make sure to include the Seminar preparation required as a ‘task’ too – and then put that many marbles in one glass.
It’s strange how satisfying it is to be able to move a marble from one glass to another, and I know it’s simple, and a bit weird – but there you go. I even get to tick that I’ve done tasks in my book of tasks and it just helps to manage my own expectations and encourage me to keep on going.
The reading itself can be pretty full on, and I know that you can spent hours and hours reading about the most effective ways to read for study. If I had more time (and the inclination) I would love to be able to read things at least twice, but we don’t really get the time for that.
Instead, I came up with a way of using my stationery as optimally as possible. Since I’ve started Law I’ve come across a lot of terms and expressions that I refuse to be embarrassed to say I don’t understand. I make a point of highlighting them, then checking the meaning of the word (because it’s so important to understand what was being said). I also highlight key passages, usually ones where a specific point or idea is being made or argued as well as any key statutes or cases that have been mentioned.
There’s nothing worse than knowing you read about a case or a statute in an article and having to trawl through it because it doesn’t jump out at you.
Finally, the most recent and most ambitious thing that I do is to write down any further reading that I think I could benefit from looking at or reading – or just being aware of. Again, there is already SO MUCH READING in this degree that I am not prepared to make myself feel that I need to read everything that someone suggests, but I do know from previous experience that reading around a topic is incredibly valuable.
You’ll notice I’ve written my list on blue paper – that’s because Contract is BLUE! I wanted to have a log of other things I might take time to look into. Some of these look more interesting than others, some I have a feeling will come up in later lectures and seminars but you get the main point.
If you’ve read this far, thank you – and I hope that I haven’t frightened you off studying Law. There are a lot of books out there with a lot of tips and tricks to help you manage the work load, as well as going into the reasons why you might choose law as a degree. Everyone studies in different ways, and I hope that maybe reading this post has helped! (Even if it’s only a little.)
If you have any of your own tips and tricks please don’t hesitate to leave a comment!