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How to track, then budget, your time

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How can you reduce distractions and make more time for bar prep? Begin by identifying what takes your time. Below, approximate how many hours per week you spend on each item. Remember, there are only 168 possible hours in any given week.

_____ Work (keep track of work you do at home or at school)

_____ Nonwork communication, such as with family and friends (include texts, emails, social media messaging, calls, video chats, and in-person visits)

_____ Extended-family commitments, including dinners, parties, celebrations, and helping relatives with errands or tasks they depend on you for; log these only once, so if you include these in another category below, leave this category blank

_____ Commute to work and school

_____ Exercise

_____ Religious observances, including holidays, weddings, bar mitzvahs, christenings, and so on (be sure to log time for home observance or prayer as well as time at a church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious establishment)

_____ Student organization work

_____ Resume writing, interviewing, looking for jobs, and time with career-placement programming

_____ Community, neighborhood, and other volunteer work

_____ Childcare, care of elderly or other relatives, pet care, including dog walking, trips to the vet, and so on

_____ Sleep, including winding down to get to sleep and time it takes to get out of bed

_____ Meal prep, including shopping and cooking

_____ Eating meals, including time you spend for basic sustenance and social meals that extend beyond the time it takes to actually eat

_____ Personal hygiene, such as showering, hair care, and dressing

_____ Health care, including your own and what you do for children or others who depend on you; include physical health and mental health, such as time spent with a counselor, therapist, or coach

_____ Personal finance and record keeping, including budgeting, paying bills, reading email, managing student loans, etc.

_____ Personal recreation and relaxation, such as TV, movies, social media time, and whatever else you do to unwind

_____ Other:

_____ Subtotal
_____ Study
_____ Total

Self-assessment

Do the entries in your list total more than 168 hours? Is your study time equal to 168 minus the time subtotal? In other words, are you actually studying for as much time as you think? I put “study” at the end because people tend to inflate study estimates.

As you approach crunch times, you’ll want to reorder this list and put study first. Then fit everything else in after your study time. If you’re over budget, try taking time from places other than study. For example, eat for shorter amounts of time, take shorter showers, buy healthy prepared foods instead of cooking (or cook once weekly), delegate student organization responsibilities, arrange for childcare, and so on.

Don’t skimp on sleep! Don’t skip exercise!

As you review your time budget, consider what you can eliminate and what you can defer until after finals or the bar. Put off travel and social plans until school breaks, handle nonemergency medical and personal care during vacations, etc.

And back to where we started—e-distractions. Put your phone in another room when you study. Don’t just turn it on silent. Studies show it distracts by even being near you. (If children or aging parents must be able to reach you, use do-not-disturb functions and emergency ring tones.)

Good luck! Your time is your greatest asset. Work to protect it.

Sara J. Berman Sara J. Berman is a legal education thought leader specializing in student success, teaching and learning, and bar exams. Her most recent book, Bar Exam Success: A Comprehensive Guide, was published in 2019. After decades in faculty and law school leadership positions, Berman is now leading student success research initiatives at the nonprofit AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence. The views expressed in this article are Berman’s own.