Time is the Holy Grail in law school. There is never enough time to do everything and everything feels like a priority. Work, play, sleep, study, exercise, planning for the future, even eating a meal can feel like it is a task to be scheduled. It may not sound like good news to hear that most professionals feel like this on a regular basis. Life just doesn’t slow down appreciably.
This does not mean there is no hope for improvement in this area. There is hope, but it doesn’t come in trying to control every minute of your time so that you can get it all squeezed in. Instead, I encourage you to let go of the idea of time management and look instead to managing your energy.
Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. But those same 24 hours don’t all have the same quality. Here are some ideas for improving the quality of your hours.
- Do an energy inventory. No one knows you better than you. When are you freshest and most creative? When do you do your best work? Whatever that time of day is for you, schedule the tasks that need the most brain power for those time frames. You waste your most valuable natural resource by doing routine tasks at your high energy times.
- Get enough sleep. The Stanford researcher Cheri D. Mah found that when male basketball players slept 10 hours a night, their performances in practice dramatically improved: free-throw and three-point shooting each increased by an average of 9 percent. One of the best ways to improve your performance on your tasks is to approach them well rested.
- Exercise just enough but not too much. I know – a collective sigh was just uttered. But doing even a small bit of exercise will give your day a shot of energy. It is possible to overdo it where exercise is concerned. If you find that you are spending significant portions of your day at the Rec Center instead of doing the important work you came here to do, you might consider what you are trying to avoid.
- Take a break. Research shows that our brains are only able to work effectively on a task for a limited period of time, though researchers don’t agree on the length of time. They can agree that the time frame doesn’t exceed 90 minutes. After that, we can switch tasks as a refresher or take a true break for a few minutes to refresh. So, set a timer, work diligently until time is up, then step away for a moment.
Not convinced that these tools will work for you? Fair enough. Don’t take my word for it. But maybe you can treat it as a life experiment. Try one of these tools, and see how it works for you. You’ll have lots of time to investigate, because this issue isn’t going away any time soon.