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Aspiring lawyers: three foundations for a productive summer

updated on 04 August 2020

In these uncertain times, one thing is for sure – we haven’t quite had the summer we were expecting. Cancelled travel plans, postponed celebrations, online graduations… this year has brought a multitude of disruptions to the path we’d planned. But now, with the end of summer in sight, we can start to take back control. Here are three foundations that will help you achieve your 2020 goals – even in the midst of a global pandemic.

1. Organise your life

With less socialising and more hours at home, this is a perfect time to get organised. Start small – work with what you can see and take it in manageable steps. You could begin with your physical files and folders: figure out what a good organisation system looks like for you and work methodically to put things in the right place. Where possible, you want to set up processes that enable you to efficiently handle materials as they continue to come in, so organisation is integrated into your working life from the start.

Once you’ve figured out your files and folders, address your desk. What kind of working environment do you want? It sounds simple, but this is often where productivity starts – with your physical surroundings. One strategy is to clear your desk of everything and place back only what you need or want. You might be astounded by the amount of focus that comes from simply having a structured, intentional workspace.

Finally, consider organising your online materials. Check your desktop; file your emails; work through your LinkedIn messages. Again, you’re looking to establish systems that you’ll be able to carry through into your professional life. Does it work best for you to have a ‘zero-inbox’ policy, or for you to use a flagging or colour-coding system? Do you have relevant materials filed in easily-accessible places? Think ahead to the days when you’ll be receiving hundreds of work emails and set yourself up a method that works for filing and processing information with ease.

2. Plan out your time

Before diving into research, internships or applications, start with the foundations. One strategy is to plan your time as if you were scheduling in revision or coursework assignments. If it helps, give yourself a daily schedule and weekly goals. Make sure you check back in with yourself regularly and make adjustments where needed. Track your progress, if you find it useful. If you’re looking for accountability, seek out another aspiring lawyer and schedule a weekly check-in to discuss how you’re both working toward your ambitions.

The key is not to find the perfect timetable or allocate your hours in the perfect way, but instead to find something that works well for you. If you know you work best in the evenings or early mornings, structure your days around that. If you need productivity timers, apps or trackers, use them. Don’t feel like you need to adopt anyone else’s methods – this is your life, after all. You get to design the working environment that helps you achieve the best output and this summer is a great time to experiment.

3. Start to prepare for re-emergence

The ‘end’ might not be in sight yet and we may not return to our former ideas of normal life, but it might be helpful to start to introduce some normality back into your routine, step by step. This is more about energy management than anything else – you want to be able to transition smoothly back into the world without encountering exhaustion or burnout.  This might look different for everyone, but here are a few ideas:

  • setting yourself up for the year ahead by preparing materials, timetables or travel plans (if you’re heading back to university);
  • forming a daily routine that feels a little more like your pre-pandemic lifestyle;
  • building in wellness and self-care practices: yoga, meditation, outdoor walks, coffee breaks – whatever makes you feel grounded and settled; and
  • spending time revisiting your purpose and intentions for the year ahead. What do you want to achieve in the rest of 2020? How are you going to get there?  Which elements of your life now do you want to change when we return to normality? Are there any elements of your life now that you want to carry forwards into the year(s) ahead?

LawCareers.Net will be releasing a video hosted by Eloise Skinner on wellness tips – look out for this on LCN and on social media soon!

Eloise is an author and associate at Cleary, Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. She can be found on Instagram at @eloiseallexia.