By Joanna Nakamoto • July 08, 2017•Careers, Law School, Other Law School Issues, Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life
When I began law school as a single mother of two small children, I did not fully appreciate how much hard work it was going to take to be both a successful law student and a good mother at the same time. It has been extremely hard. At times, I have been very overwhelmed, stretched far too thin, and daydreamed about how nice it would be to have a personal assistant, babysitter and secretary at my disposal.
Since law school consumes a lot of brainpower and time on an everyday basis, it’s important to learn how to master your minutes to get the most out of everyday. I often find myself with only half of the time it takes for other students to complete the same tasks. For example, this summer I’m completing the last of my classes to graduate, preparing to take the bar exam in July, and held an internship at a federal courthouse for the first half of the summer. Busy, busy, busy.
Although I am no time management guru, I have found the advice of others to be very helpful in planning my day and making the most of the limited time that I do have. With that said, here are some personal tips I have to master you’re my minutes better as a busy law student and mommy:
1. Lists for Me
I keep several lists in my phone. I have a list for groceries that I add to when I run out of something, and a to-do list of things I have to get done. I always carry my phone with me, so it’s always at my fingertips to look at when I need to. I think the problem with this system is that sometimes I forget to check the list for things that I could do while I am out and about. So for things that have deadlines, I have a calendar on my laptop with alerts that pop up to remind me. The lists I have on my phone are things that don’t require immediate attention, but are available when I get around to it. More importantly, when I sat down to study in law school, I made a list with paper and pen of the chapters or reading assignments that I needed to get done. There was something extremely satisfying about crossing it off the paper with a pen when I was finished. Whatever your list method may be, whether on a device or paper, it is crucial to mastering your minutes!
2. Chores for Them
I don’t know about you, but when I was young I had to take out the trash, wash the dishes, and even cut the grass. I have met so many mothers who have not given their children any chores and wonder why they are so exhausted! My children are eight and five years old…and they have a list of four chores each that they do on the weekends. My five-year-old daughter dusts the t.v. stand, organizes the shoes, cleans up her room completely and even vacuums it! My eight-year-old son does his and his sister’s laundry (yes, you read that correctly), sweeps the kitchen floor, vacuums the living room and picks up his room as well. I can’t tell you how much more improved my life has gotten since I gave these tasks to them because it frees up my own time so I can focus on something else or just give myself a moment to relax. When I did chores as a child, I received no compensation for it because it was the cost of living there and was viewed as a way to contribute to the household in the same way mom and dad worked to contribute to paying the bills for the benefit of everyone else. I do compensate my children, but I do so with these small Chinese golden tokens that I got through Amazon (something like 100 of them for $10.00). For each chore they do they get one token, and after they save up 50 tokens they get a trip to Toys-R-Us to spend $25.00 on whatever they want. This averages for about a new toy every three months. I know there are children who probably make that in a month in allowance, but considering their ages and the fact that I still believe it is their contribution to running our collective household. It’s a great bargain and they have no complaints. So encourage your child to be self-sufficient and help out around the house. I promise, you won’t regret it and it will teach them responsibility and family values while giving you a much-needed break!
3. Squeeze That Clock
As a law student whose time is stretched super thin, I don’t have as much time to dedicate to learning activities with my children, as I would have if I didn’t have homework every night. With that being said, I have found small ways to still encourage learning with the limited time we do have. One of the best things I did was put both books and a pack of flashcards in the car for my kids. The drive to their school every morning is about 20 minutes. In those 20 minutes, my daughter can run through more than 20 sight cards. To figure out if she’s right, I have her show me the card through using the rearview mirror. Meanwhile, my son can get a lot of good reading in with books about whatever has piqued his interest at the time. For early learners, there’s always the classic game of “I spy” in the car, which gets children used to phonetics. Sometimes we will listen to a children’s audiobooks in the car in order to get their brains to listen and digest information from audio better. These are just some simple things I am able to do with them in the 40 minutes (20 minutes each way) we spend in the car, five days a week; it adds up. They could spend that time attached to a television in the car or some device, but I find it is some minutes that I get to squeeze some quality time learning something while on the move. I have no doubt that there are plenty of other places this could be incorporated as well: in waiting lines, potty time, in the grocery store cart, etc.
Perhaps it’s the society we live in where we are constantly rushed and there are not enough hours in the day, but it is especially difficult when you have children and are in grad school. These are just some of the ways I have learned to deal with having half the time to do things as my law school peers. I hope you found some great ideas or were inspired to do similar things for yourself or your children. If you do, please share!