What They Didn’t teach you at the Law School
Law School prepares you to think, write and research like a lawyer, but once you’re at the door of a law firm or a courtroom, there’s a whole new set of skills you need. The present series of articles aims to enrich a new lawyer with all these skills in order for him/her to excel.
It’s already 10:00 pm. Your case is listed in exactly twelve hours from now, and you still have to write some more pages, produce some more citations and above all, quickly proof-read whatever you’ve written. A feeling of panic is beginning to set in.
You’ve started to think, “How did I get myself into this situation again?” (Yes, this is not the first time that you have pushed a deadline!) Then you remember that in the past one month since the case has been assigned to you, you have done everything you could do to avoid working on the case in hand. And now even though you have just twelve hours left, you’re still not doing what you should be; instead you’re wondering whether a quick sandwich break would be a good idea.
Most of us have been guilty of procrastination on one occasion or another, especially when confronted with some task that causes anxiety, fear, embarrassment or discomfort. The end result of the procrastination may be a missed opportunity or a low quality work product.
Here are some of the tips to help you deal with the problem of procrastination:
Divide the Assignment into Parts
Whenever you get an assignment which seems too large or complicated to you, do not panic. Instead try to remember that you’ve enough time to complete the assignment. So, make a list of the various steps involved in the assignment such as researching, outlining, writing a first draft, etc. and then think of each step as an individual task. Then break each step further down; for example, you can break ‘researching’ down to ‘find ten relevant cases’. Once you’ve done this, your tasks will seem as simple as possible and then you’re more likely to sit down and complete them right away.
Make a To-Do List
Once you have broken down your assignment into small tasks, structure your to-do list around those specific tasks. For example, after completing your research, when you sit down to write your first draft, set a goal of writing a specified number of pages each day so that you can have the first draft ready on time. But remember to be realistic in your goal-setting because if you don’t meet all your goals, you’ll only be
Set a Deadline
Always set a deadline for your project and then work backward to set interim deadlines for defined tasks that need to be accomplished in order to meet the deadline. It is quite helpful to over-estimate the amount of work you have so that you give yourself plenty of time to finish everything. Finishing something early is hugely satisfying.
Concentrate on your work
To make sure you’re actually writing when you are ‘writing’, eliminate as many distractions as possible. Sign out of Whatsapp and Facebook; turn off the movie you’re watching in the background; and resist your urge to check your e-mails every two minutes. Even better, turn off your Internet altogether. If writing two hours at a stretch seems a daunting task, break that block down into smaller chunks of time, say, about fifteen minutes each, with a break of ten minutes in between. But tell yourself you’ll do nothing but write in those fifteen minutes. You will be amazed to see that you have actually achieved a solid, focused writing in that time period.
Prioritize the work
Our natural tendency is to work on the tasks that are easy and seem interesting to us, while putting off the ones that seem boring or difficult. Using small tasks to put off the big ones that really need to be done is a particularly deceptive form of procrastination; even though we pat ourselves on the backs for checking items off our to-do list. So, you should be able to prioritize more substantive work, especially if it has a deadline.
Stop being a Perfectionist
One of the most common reasons for procrastination is fear of failure. You want your assignments to be perfect from beginning to end, but this is almost never possible and usually creates far too much stress, which in turn, leads to procrastination. So, in order to overcome the procrastination, accept that it is perfectly okay to write a bad first draft (and second and third ….). Stop worrying about your thoughts not making sense or your sentences being incomplete – these are all problems that can be fixed further down the road. Remember, even a terrible first draft is better than no first draft at all.
So, just get started!