By Dennis Hung • October 10, 2018•Law School, Other Law School Issues
We’ve worked hard to get to where we are now: law students at a prestigious university. We knew it would be difficult, but we never imagined the toll law school would take on our mental and physical health; we never knew the sacrifices we would make in our personal life and social life in order to succeed in our academic life. And yet, here we sit, contemplating if it is even worth the effort to give up so much.
What if we didn’t have to choose one aspect of our lives over another? What if we could find ways to balance our academic lives and our personal lives, and even have a social life? What if we could actually enjoy your law school journey?
Here are some tips for balancing both aspects of our lives during law school:
We’re in law school, so that needs to be a major focus in our lives. We want good grades. We want to learn, we want to be prepared to take the world of law by storm. But that doesn’t mean we need to spend every waking hour glued to our law books. It doesn’t mean we need to study 24/7.
Generally, full-time students should spend 50-55 hours per week studying; part-time students should spend 35-40 hours per week studying. This is very manageable if we develop a routine and schedule specific times each day for each individual class. We plan out what we’ll study, always looking ahead to stay on top of things. When we make a routine and stick to it, we are more prepared for class, we are less stressed from cramming, and we find we need to do less all-nighters.
If we don't take the time to make a schedule or don’t make it a priority to follow a schedule, our school-life balance will surely suffer as we scramble to complete assignments or find we forgot write a paper or read a brief. Being organized is the key to academic success in law school.
Keeping your personal life a top priority is essential to your mental and physical well-being. When we’re stressed and overworked we often ignore the important relationships in our lives and we often ignore our basic physical needs, we jeopardize much more than we gain by studying those few extra hours for a few extra points in a class. Our psyche needs human connection and the chance to unwind and recharge; our bodies need rest, proper nutrition ,and exercise.
Think about the non-academic things in your life that you have always cherished: family, friends, your religion, etc. Think about the non-academic things you love to do: spending time on your hobbies, exercising, reading, going out with friends, serving others, volunteering, etc. All of these things make us who we are. All of these things shape our values and viewpoints and will make us better lawyers. So instead of neglecting this all-important aspect of who we are, we need to find ways to embrace our personal life and learn to multitask and become more efficient in how we approach daily tasks so we have the needed time to nurture important relationships and do the things we love as well as complete our studies.
Here are some things we can do keep our personal lives in balance:
Make time for our spouses/significant others and other important people in our lives. Out of all of the things we can do to balance our personal lives, this is most important. Our spouses and other loved ones know the huge commitment law school is, and since we’ve made it this far, they are most likely supportive. They realize the amount of time together will be less, yet they are willing to help us achieve our dreams.
We can show them daily how important they are to us through the little things we do: a note of thanks now and then, frequent daily texts and phone calls to stay connected, a FaceTime from time to time when studying late at the law library. They know we can’t give much, but they appreciate knowing they are in our thoughts when we can’t be together.
Whenever possible, especially when children are involved, it’s important to maintain family routines; mealtime, bath time, and bedtime may take an hour and a half out of our days, but it’s valuable time when we can just talk and laugh and enjoy being a family. And part of that time is time we would be eating anyhow, so why not make the extra effort to add a little normalcy to our lives.
Keep our bodies strong and our mental health intact. Take time to exercise and eat right. We’ll be a lot healthier and be able to accomplish so much more if our bodies are taken care of. It’s recommended that we spend 150 minutes a week exercising. That’s not really very long. There are lots of easy ways to get good workouts in law school without spending hours at the gym.
There are also ways to eat healthy on the go. Whatever healthy diet we choose to follow, we must make sure we are aware of all of the healthy options available to us. If we prefer a low carb diet such as the ketogenic diet, we should make sure we have a list of low carb fast food items to make food decisions easier. If we consistently make poor food choices, we’ll feel sluggish and our studying will suffer.
To maintain our mental health, it’s important to keep up with our hobbies, maintain our friendships from before law school--take time to see a movie or go to a concert, volunteer when possible, go to church, and give ourselves a chance to separate ourselves from everything law related. A couple of hours a week will go a long way toward staying mentally strong.
Schedule tasks and multitask when possible. Scheduling out when and where and even how we are going to accomplish everything will help us see there is a time to do what’s most important. A schedule will help us know when we can consolidate errands or multitask with household duties. This is the best way to manage time and make sure nothing is neglected and that no important tasks are forgotten. And if there isn’t enough time to schedule everything, we need to prioritize. If we need to have someone come in to clean our home, then that’s ok. We can let go, and let others step up.
Law school is a huge commitment. We knew that going in. But luckily, we don’t have to choose between our academic success and our personal lives. If we invest a little time up front in scheduling our academic lives and the the important aspects of our personal lives, making our family and our physical and mental health our priorities, we’ll find that we can do what’s necessary to be successful in law school without sacrificing those things that make us who we are.