Maintaining Studies During Uncertainty

[ Mara Masters, 1L at Emory Law ]

By now, none of us are strangers to uncertainty. Between grading shifts, bar exam postponements, the uncertainty of what the fall semester will look like, and summer internship cancelations it is totally reasonable for things to seem scary and a little out of control. Here are two things I am trying to do to make the most of this strange time.

Try to maintain your routines, both in the day-to-day and the big picture.

Full disclosure: this has been difficult for me. The first three weeks that I was house-bound due to having a fragile immune system in the age of Covid-19 were really productive. I was waking up at my favorite 5:30 am and getting more accomplished before 9:00 am than I often do the entire day if I sleep later. Around the fourth week of not leaving my house or really interacting with other humans though, I started to lose motivation and it has been difficult to get it back ever since.

I have realized in this time that I rely heavily on the anxious buzz of the classroom and the student commons to keep me focused and motivated. Even as a very introverted introvert, I need a lot of contact with my peers to remind me of the good in all of the mundane overload of case reading. One of my short-term goals is to research and brainstorm ways to cultivate that connection if classes remain online in the fall and how to leverage those connections if we are able to return to campus.

Be a good goal-setter.

As you take stock of this semester and think towards next semester, it might be helpful to have two sets of goals in mind: one for if classes return to on-campus face-to-face format, and one for if your school sticks with virtual classrooms for the fall. Depending on what classes you’ll be taking, these two sets of goals may require radically different mindsets and plans, or they may simply require a plan with a little bit more wiggle room. Either way now is the perfect time to start mapping out what those goals may look like. Here’s a very early draft of a life plan I have been working on lately. It is only half-filled out, and half of what is there has already changed, but that’s part of the fun.

If you, like me, are a natural dreamer but not a natural goal-setter, try to think in categories such as academic, social (including professional networking), health and wellness, spiritual, financial, family, and leisure. Start with your ten-year, blue skies, no obstacles dreams, and work backward down to five years, three years, one year, six months, one month, and one week. Ask yourself at each step what you need to learn and do in order to move towards those ten-year goals. Keep in mind that as you move forward those goals may change, especially in a moment as uncertain as this one. That’s ok! Flexibility is a key skill to develop to thrive in the legal profession.

Though it may seem counterintuitive to take this time of uncertainty to build your game plan, I think a time like this reminds us to make the most of the time that we have, whatever that looks like for each of us.