A Procrastinator’s Guide to Surviving 1L

GUEST BLOG Stephanie Baldwin,
1L at University of Arizona

Procrastination… what Psychology Today calls a serious problem… I call inspiration. I am a procrastinator that thrives under the pressure of a looming deadline. “Diamonds are made under pressure” or “You underestimate my power” are my go-to comebacks when someone questions my procrastination tendencies. So at first, I was comforted to discover that many of my fellow 1L classmates share my procrastinating tendencies.

Like many advanced procrastinators, I do not procrastinate out of laziness. Rather, time and again, I have found my best ideas often come in the final moments before a deadline. To be clear, I never miss a deadline but have I submitted an assignment due at 11:59 pm at 11:58 pm after adding a page worth of edits to a paper I finished the day before?  Absolutely.

Although I have become accustomed to my methods, I knew this was not going to be ideal in law school, especially with so many tasks that have unchecked deadlines like outlining and hypos. So what does a procrastinator, like myself do, when there is no looming deadline to spur me into action? I effectively create them of course! If you find yourself in a similar position, I hope these three tactics work for you too!

1 – Establish Deadlines With Others (Mentors/Study Group/Fellows)

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Real deadlines are the key to my success. Merely setting a goal doesn’t cut it, it must be an actual deadline. Arranging meetings with others has allowed me to stay on task, and still thrive creatively under a set deadline. My school has 2L Fellows assigned to most of my classes, and they all host office hours. I set a deadline to meet with them before a project is due to get feedback (as permitted by our honor code). This new deadline forces me to complete the assignment in its entirety, so I have something to discuss or review during these meetings. We also have a writing center, that can assist students with a variety of assignments and provide advice when needed. I am sure you have at least one of these at your school too, and you can use these meetings to override actual assignment deadlines to motivate you into action.

2 – Be Creative with Your Schedule

You might remember my blog about setting up my schedule with built-in reminders and alerts for all of my deadlines. Because I set this up the first week school and often moved UP deadlines, I have to adhere to all of the deadlines in my calendar, because at this point, I do not have time to go back and check the syllabi. So this means I find myself completing tasks early, even when I procrastinate on starting them. This extra time, them allows me to revisit the assignment and add any additional points right before its due, without risking submitting something subpar.

3 – Let Progressive Learning Spur You into Action

Let be real; procrastination hampers progressive learning in law school. It doesn’t matter how creative I become in the last minute if I don’t have the proper foundation to make my argument. Law school is all about progressive learning. All of the tasks build upon each other, and we cannot effectively move onto the next topic if we are still catching up on the old one. I know that if I wait to the last minute, I’m always going to be playing catch-up rather than building upon my recently learned knowledge. Thinking of my assignments, in a progressive manner has helped me to turn the corner on my procrastination ways. Essentially, progressive learning is the panic monster that motivates me into action.

I am still a procrastinator. These tools have allowed me to retain that spark I have right before a deadline. I also stay ahead of actual deadlines. What tips and tools have you used to help stay on task?