February 11, 2022
Dean's Fellow Digest Issue #44: Practical Ways to Minimize Distractions and Maximize Productivity
Dean's Fellows consistently strive to support students in realizing their full academic potential, leading ultimately to success on the bar exam and in the workplace. To support all Southwestern students in this goal, the Dean's Fellows created this Digest as a way to check-in at critical times throughout the semester with helpful tips, strategies, and encouragement.
IN THIS ISSUE:
Practical Ways to Minimize Distractions and Maximize Productivity
This world is certainly not lacking in distractions, and whether they positively or negatively impact our lives, the reality is certain. Unfortunately, law school and distractions do not mix well. If you are looking to quell your distracted life and maximize your productivity in law school, here are three easy and practical steps.
Self-control, when it comes to social media and cell phone use, is an art I have yet to master without some helpful hacks. Tools that have benefited me in this area are the “screen limit” features on the iPhone. The iPhone has settings that allow you to set time limits on app usage each day. For example, I set my limits for my social networking apps to one hour a day. After the hour is used, my app is automatically locked until the following day. When I am feeling unfocused while reading or studying, and tempted to check my phone or aimlessly scroll through Instagram, this feature sets a healthy boundary for me and reminds me to finish my work first.
Now that the phone is under control and some distractions are minimized, it is important to focus on ways to make your study time productive. As law students, our to-do lists are seldom complete. To increase my productivity and ensure I am healthily chipping away my daily tasks, I like to use the Pomodoro method.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that uses a timer to break work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. (Fun fact: Pomodoro is Italian for tomato, named after the tomato-shaped cooking timer the inventor of the Pomodoro method used while he was a university student).
This method is used widely among professional fields and educational settings and is proven effective for increasing productivity levels.
Last year, Professor Rodriguez made me aware of the app Forest, which is a Pomodoro timer that encourages you to stay off your device by “gamifying” the experience, in Professor Rodriguez’s words. If you stay on the app for the full 25-minute session, a tree grows, which is then added to your expanding forest. If you leave the app, for any reason, the tree dies. An added bonus: The Forest team partners with a real-tree-planting organization, Trees for the Future, to plant real trees on Earth.
In my experience, routine is crucial to avoid burnout and maximize productivity and efficiency when it comes to studying. If this is something you know about yourself, as well, I strongly recommend planning a sleep schedule, and following through with it. The screen limit feature mentioned above allows the user to set “downtimes” when your phone goes into “Do not Disturb” mode, limiting notifications. I have my downtime set from 11:00pm to 7:00am every night. Though easier said than done, and even though I sometimes end up breaking my own rules, I try my best to treat these hours as sacred and get a restful night of sleep to recharge my brain and feel energized in the morning.
I understand from experience that these suggestions are harder to master amid busy semesters. However, with practice, discipline, and a little bit of planning, good habits will develop. Start now (they say it takes 21 days to develop a new habit). You’ve got this!
*About the Author:
CHLOE GRAHAM, SUPERVISING DEAN'S FELLOW
Chloe Graham is a 3L in the Traditional Day program and graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Political Science. Upon graduation, she took a year off to work in politics both in her home district in Bakersfield, California, and Washington D.C. She is also a Court Appointed Special Advocate and is certified through Kern County to appear in court beside children who need representation in the juvenile dependency system.
Chloe is serving as this year's Supervising Dean’s Fellow for the Traditional Day program and is excited to lead fellow mentors and mentees in a program that played a huge role in her first year of law school. Chloe also serves on the Executive Board of Southwestern’s International Law Journal and is a Teaching Assistant. Throughout her time at Southwestern, Chloe has volunteered with the Children’s Rights Clinic as a student advocate. She has spent her summers working in various defense firms in California and is interested in many different areas of litigation.
Chloe is looking forward to meeting you all and is available for any questions you might have!
Dean’s Fellows are upper-division students with strong academic skills who go through a rigorous application and training process. They are an integral part of the Academic Success and Bar Preparation Department. They are carefully selected based on their academic excellence and ability to teach other students best-practice study methods that will help them become acclimated to the study of law. Dean’s Fellows meet with students as academic mentors.
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