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lawstudent025

Completely unable to focus on readings/studying - what should I do?

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Since high school I have had an extremely difficult time forcing myself to study and complete homework assignments. Throughout high school and my undergraduate education I didn't do readings, and usually did assignments and exam prep very last minute. I know I'm interested in the course material - I attend every lecture and am very engaged in most of my classes.

I've never had a huge issue with my work ethic preventing me from succeeding academically, but as someone who "coasted" in the past I predicted that I would struggle in law school. Since starting school in September, I've found that my inability to focus has made life extremely stressful and much more difficult than it should be. The course material is obviously more challenging and standards are higher. 

When I sit down to study or do readings I usually just end up staring at the wall, getting up and pacing around, etc. Once I start my work I get distracted very easily and usually can't work for more than a few minutes. I don't feel like my inability to focus is laziness or disinterest. It's also not for lack of trying because I spend most of my free time outside of class attempting to get work done. I feel motivated to do well and genuinely try to work hard but feel like there's a barrier preventing me from working as efficiently as I want to. I'm sure the bad study habits I developed in previous years play a big role in my current work ethic. 

Does anyone have have advice for developing better study habits in law school? I know I'm passionate about law and don't want to fail because I can't make myself do readings. If anyone has felt this way I would really appreciate hearing how you handled things. Any advice would be a big help. 

 

Edited by lawstudent025
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You may have undiagnosed ADD. Getting tested can't hurt.

 

In the meantime, try setting smaller goals. I want to finish x pages and have notes down for it 20 minutes from now. Split it into blocks like that and it can help you focus by paying attention to smaller page totals (or let's say the different subheadings In a case) as opposed to a big task of walls of text that isn't often "fun" to read.

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22 minutes ago, lawstudent025 said:

Since high school I have had an extremely difficult time forcing myself to study and complete homework assignments. Throughout high school and my undergraduate education I didn't do readings, and usually did assignments and exam prep very last minute. I know I'm interested in the course material - I attend every lecture and am very engaged in most of my classes.

I've never had a huge issue with my work ethic preventing me from succeeding academically, but as someone who "coasted" in the past I predicted that I would struggle in law school. Since starting school in September, I've found that my inability to focus has made life extremely stressful and much more difficult than it should be. The course material is obviously more challenging and standards are higher. 

When I sit down to study or do readings I usually just end up staring at the wall, getting up and pacing around, etc. Once I start my work I get distracted very easily and usually can't work for more than a few minutes. I don't feel like my inability to focus is laziness or disinterest. It's also not for lack of trying because I spend most of my free time outside of class attempting to get work done. I feel motivated to do well and genuinely try to work hard but feel like there's a barrier preventing me from working as efficiently as I want to. I'm sure the bad study habits I developed in previous years play a big role in my current work ethic. 

Does anyone have have advice for developing better study habits in law school? I know I'm passionate about law and don't want to fail because I can't make myself do readings. If anyone has felt this way I would really appreciate hearing how you handled things. Any advice would be a big help. 

 

I had a friend in law school who was like this. As @pzabbythesecond suggested, she had undiagnosed ADHD and it got a bit better once she got that treated. 

You need to see a doctor ASAP. She only did so after failing a bunch of exams. You want to take care of it before that happens.

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A few ideas in addition to what's been said above:

You mentioned getting up, pacing, etc - have you tried working in a library or cafe setting where you can't do that? I'll also turn my wifi off (laptop and phone) when I'm really having trouble staying on task so that I have one less distraction.

Studying with friends, depending on who they are and your dynamic, can be helpful (or very unhelpful). My friends and I will sometimes just book a study room and all work together silently. Other times, we'll do our readings independently and then meet at a designated time to talk it over. (As you can see, I am highly motivated by judgment from my peers lol).

Tell yourself that you're studying until whatever time (20 min, 40 min, 1 hour in the future, whatever). Set an alarm. Once you get to that time, you're done. Move on to a different class, take a walk, or do something else. I find this helpful when I'm not giving my work the full attention I want to - knowing that there's an end point helps me focus for the time that I'm doing it. You can also try one of various methods for breaking up work (e.g. study 50 min, take a 10 min break, repeat).

Make use of the resources at your law school! I don't know where you are, but at UofT, we have a tutoring program for 1Ls, a learning strategist, and a wellness counsellor who I know has given students studying suggestions in addition to mental health support. I would imagine that other schools have similar programs. Law school, especially in 1L, can feel really stressful and isolating, but all of your classmates are going through the same thing. Don't be afraid to talk to them or to make use of the resources that you have available to you.

Good luck! :)

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Definitely see a doctor to see if you have ADHD. That said, even if you do, medication isn't an total, instant fix. It helps, but it can be tricky to find the right dose and even still, it's unlikely you can get the dosing perfect so that it's effective all your waking hours and you may need to get some work done when it isn't working. 

I find that for me focus does improve with practice. I also find setting timers very helpful, so agree with myself that I will sit and focus for x minutes. It helps to put my phone on airplane mode during that time, and close down anything not related to the work I want to do. I keep a list of things I want to do when I'm done focused work too. 

If it's really bad, just start with 5 minutes, seriously, then increase your chunks of focused time. A lot of people find 25 minute chunks manageable a good length. 

I also find setting up my environment to be as distraction-free as possible helps.

Some days my attention span is better than other days anyway, and I try to be compassionate with myself where possible. It often means I need more time off to relax. 

With that in mind, make sure you're taking enough breaks. If you get home from class and try to focus all evening, but keep getting distracted, you might find it better to allow yourself a real break to refresh before trying to focus on readings/studying/assignments. 

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You know the only way to eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

 

I am guessing that right now the volume of work is overwhelming and feels insurmountable. You are probably trying to figure out a plan of attack and every week that goes by you feel more and more paralyzed. 

Here is the only way forward: start doing the work. Take one bite. Start with what you learned today and today’s readings. Don’t go back yet - you need to stop feeling like you are catching up. You need some momentum first. Do today’s work. Just today’s.

And make an appointment to see a doctor. They may be able to help you if there’s more to this.

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2 hours ago, theycancallyouhoju said:

Meditate. Go take a tai chi class and learn how. If it works - and it helps lots of people with these issues - it’s a much better solution than drugs. 

Mindfulness, which is really a form of meditation, can also be incredibly helpful and is generally more accessible. I’m a bad practitioner of it, but when I’m good about practicing mindfulness daily I find my life is significantly better in essentially every respect. 

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Just my thought but I really think this should be spliced into the off topic discussion. I appreciate this kind of proves Hoju's point, but I don't think OP needs to hear this later part of the discussion. @Hegdis

@lawstudent025 you've received sound advice on how to cope in the mean time. Whether or not you see a professional or not, for what can be a medical problem, is your judgement call. I advise you to not just chalk this off to "being a millenial" or anything like that and really consider if this is something worth getting help with, either through traditional medicine and or the other mechanisms provided here.

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How much sleep are you getting? Inadequate sleep can bring similar symptoms to ADHD.

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OP, 

For myself I found that I learned in much the same way as you are describing. I never really did readings in law school. Instead I attended lectures, participated in discussion and made very thorough summaries and frame-works. 

Here's the thing, I truly believe that, depending on how you learn, doing readings in law school is unnecessary. However once you start practicing (or even before that, once you start summering) you absolutely have to figure out a way to read and summarize a large volume of documents in a short amount of time. 

So, in the interim - perhaps a good strategy for you would be to join law discussion groups. Pick 2-3 friends of yours who are down for spending some time discussing the course material/cases. I find that I learn a lot more when I'm discussing issues and cases with colleagues than when I'm reading the decision. 

I also suggest that you start reformatting your notes into summaries and frameworks. Ask upper years for their summaries to get you started (In practice you always use a precedent if you have one and then you build on it - in my experience this strategy also worked well for me in law school). 

Best of luck. 

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