law schoolThis post is helpful for all students – law students, medical school students, college students, high school students, etc. . . We are posting it now because law school orientation starts this week at many law schools. We have plenty of helpful law school orientation tips here, but this blog post focuses exclusively on building good study habits. It is especially helpful for law students who took a break between undergrad and law school or law students who never really developed good study habits in undergrad.

In this post, we will tell you a few basics about how to build good study habits.Before we do so, it is important to note that you will not build good study habits in a day. You will not even build them in a week. . .

To build good study habits you should do the following:

  • Be determined to change at least one or two things about how you study each week. This might be increasing the amount of hours you study or changing, when, where, or how you study (more about this below!). Either way, change just one or two habits at a time. If you try to move from studying five hours a week to studying eighty hours a week, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you make small, productive changes each week, you are setting yourself up for success.
  • Reflect on how these minor changes affect your study habits. If you decide to wake up earlier to study, is it helping or not? If it is helping, is it worth it to try waking up even earlier? If it is not helping, try making a different change the next week. Taking a minute or two to reflect each week on how changes affect your productivity is crucial.
  • Remember that your study habits and your lifestyle are intimately related. It is hard to change one without the other. If you do not get enough sleep or exercise or if you have a bad diet, all of these lifestyle choices will likely negatively affect your study habits. To build good study habits it is worth it to make lifestyle changes as well.

Here are some changes you could make in your study routine.

The Who, What, Where, When and How
of Building Good Study Habits:

When you study:

When do you do your best work? In the morning, afternoon, or at night? If you are a morning person, make it a goal to study then. Wake up an hour earlier than you are used to waking up. If you are a night person, stay up an hour later than you are used to staying up. Make it a priority to study during your best hours. Not only should you study during your best time, you should also complete whatever you believe your hardest task is during that time. If legal writing is your hardest class and you are a morning person, complete your legal writing assignments in the morning when you are at your best – rather than at night when you probably do not care as much anymore.

Where you study:

What is the best environment for you to be in? Some students love the quiet library. Others, however, are distracted by silence and would much prefer to be in a loud coffee shop. Some prefer to study at home whereas others find it too distracting to be around family members, household tasks, etc.

Consider where you study best. If you are not sure, try out different study environments. Sometimes it may be helpful to mix up your study environment, too (study at home in the morning and in the library at night, for example).

What you study:

  • Figure out what your ultimate aim is and work backwards. This is very important in helping you to avoid wasting valuable time when you study. If you are in law school, for example, your ultimate aim is probably to do well on the final exam. Working backwards, how do you do this? You have to know the law well and you have to know how to apply it to difficult fact patterns. So focus on the activities that will help you achieve these two goals rather than the myriad activities that do not directly help you achieve these goals. Law students can waste a lot of time studying material that will not ultimately help them on the exam!

How you study:

How do you spend your time when you study? A few tips to help you be productive:

  • Study actively and intensely. Studies show that students retain very little when they passively read or simply look at material. Instead, actively study. Underline. Highlight. Draw pictures. Draw diagrams. Make up mnemonics. Find ways to remember difficult concepts. Quiz yourself. If you are wondering which study techniques will work best for you, it is worth it to figure out your learning style.
  • Take frequent breaks. Do not try to study for four hours in a row without taking a break. The human brain is part of the human body – it needs a break! This is especially the case if you are truly studying actively and learning the material you need to know. It is important to make breaks part of your schedule. (Read this post to see how I took one full day off every week in law school and why I recommend scheduling breaks.
  • Lastly, sometimes you may simply need to increase how long you study for each day. It is hard to ace an exam when you are not putting in the hours that you need to learn the material. If you have a full time job or other time-consuming obligations, you may have to think outside of the box regarding when and where you can study to increase the amount of time you study each week.

Who you study with:

Do not feel as though you need a study partner or study group.  Some people truly benefit from study groups. These students typically tend to be auditory learners that really learn well from and with others.  Others (more visual, solitary learners) do not benefit at all from study partners or study groups. In fact, they find it to be frustrating. (Read this post if you are wondering if a law school study group is right for you.