Beat Your 2L Lull: Four Strategies for Success

Congratulations! You are over halfway finished with law school. You’ve made friends, are now fluent in legalese, and have thankfully avoided being crushed under your huge stack of textbooks. Still, you may also be feeling the 2L slump. The luster of 1L has worn off. Your classes are tough and substantive and post-grad life seems but a glimmer on the horizon. So, how can you push through the lull?

As a law student you are already familiar with hard work and discipline, but some of these tips might help you avoid getting stuck in a rut.

Listen to Your Body

Lack of sleep and constant screen-time can take a toll. If you are feeling run-down, take the time to get out of the law school bubble and work on your self-care. Socialize, go to bed early, get some exercise, drink water and maybe eat a vegetable or two.

Taking time to see friends, talk with family, or have some fun on the annual law school ski trip might seem to cut into study time, but time away from your books can allow you to refocus and reenergize your brain so you can attack your studies more efficiently. Our brains use willpower for complex thinking, but willpower is an energy that can be depleted.1 Furthermore, both overwork and fatigue can negatively impact productivity, as studies have linked fatigue with declines in recollection and creativity and increases in errors and procrastination.2 Therefore, it is essential to actually take time to recharge our minds.

Additionally, studies have correlated cognition with our physical regimen – diet and exercise.3 Today we often see diet and exercise as a method to control physical appearance, but social scientists have also suggested that regular exercise and proper nutrition positively impact the way we think.4 Balanced diets and exercise regimes don’t have to be as confusing or high maintenance as the media will have us believe. Even small additions like incorporating a few more nutrient-dense foods into your diet or taking a long walk around the library to get a drink of water might help you feel more balanced. However, if you want more information regarding nutrition and exercise, Boston College has nutritionists and personal trainers available to students (see links below).

Build Your Routine

I not only feel healthier and more productive by incorporating self-care into my daily routine, but I find that these actions have become habits. Habits are powerful productivity tools because they drastically reduce the time and effort we have to invest in routine tasks while freeing up energy for other responsibilities.5 Every day you battle your mind as you convince yourself to do something you might not want to do – like outlining for finals because “there’s plenty of time later” – which squanders both your time and energy. But by specifically incorporating less desirable tasks into your daily schedule, rewarding yourself for task completion, and by consciously sticking to your schedule initially, these tasks can become habits. Conscious awareness of your habits – good and bad – allows you to address and adjust your routine in order to boost your productivity and mental stamina.6 If you are interested in understanding and tailoring your habits for success, I highly recommend reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

Appreciate Little Successes

Law school can be a painful experience. We receive no gold stars or participation medals and high stress and hyper-competition can negatively impact student self-esteem and may increase risks of mental issues like depression and anxiety. Moreover, a hit to your self-confidence can severely decrease your motivation and productivity.7 After all, it is natural to continue doing something that garners a reward and cease something that feels unsuccessful. At the same time, we know that pushing through initial difficulties can produce even greater success.

Self-confidence is often considered advantageous because it improves motivation to take on projects and persevere in the pursuit of your goals, despite setbacks and temptations that occasionally test your willpower.8 In my opinion, self-confidence starts internally rather than from external gratification and you can build your own self-confidence. Take the time out of your day to thank yourself for little things – you made a mean cup of coffee today, you nailed that cold call, you got to class on time, and hey, you are attending a great law school. It may seem insignificant, but sustainable, positive changes in self-talk tend to build momentum toward greater self-confidence which, in turn, builds resilience to stressors that may set you back.9

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Finally, by setting clear goals and benchmarks you can avoid getting bogged down by the daily grind. Goal setting has been shown to significantly increase the level of production by an average of 20% and goals affect performance by “directing attention, mobilizing effort, increasing persistence, and motivating strategy development.”10 Still, there is more to staying motivated than just setting broad, sweeping goals. Studies have found that the more specific and explicit a goal is, the better performance is regulated, and the more you can assess your progress along the way, the more likely you are to reach your goal.11 I find it especially helpful to write out my short- and long-term goals including the steps I will take to achieve them.

I envision 2L as the part of the law school mountain where you, on hands and feet, ascend almost vertically. You might be exhausted, but you have come so far that you have to press on because you know the view at the peak is worth it.


2L student Erika Craven loves hearing from Impact readers. She can be reached at cravener@bc.edu.


BC Nutrition Resources: https://www.bc.edu/offices/dining/nutrition/nutritionCounseling.html
BC Fitness Resources: https://www.bc.edu/offices/rec/programs/fitness/personal.html

Sources:

  1. Lino, Catarina, The Psychology of Willpower: Training the Brain for Better Decisions, Positive Psychology Program, October 2016, <https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/psychology-of-willpower/>.
  2. Selig, Meg, How Do Work Breaks Help Your Brain? 5 Surprising Answers, Psychology Today, April 2017, < https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201704/how-do-work-breaks-help-your-brain-5-surprising-answers>; Rosekind, Mark R., et. al., The Cost of Poor Sleep: Workplace Productivity Loss and Associated Costs, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Vol. 52(1), January 2010, pp. 91-98.
  3. Department of Neurosurgery Brain Injury Research Center UCLA School of Medicine, The impact of diet and exercise on brain plasticity and disease, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, Nutr. Health, Vol. 18(3), pp. 277-84, 2006, < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17180873>.
  4. Department of Neurosurgery Brain Injury Research Center UCLA School of Medicine, The impact of diet and exercise on brain plasticity and disease, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, Nutr. Health, Vol. 18(3), pp. 277-84, 2006, < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17180873>.
  5. Schwartz, Tony; McCarthy, Catherine, Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time, Harvard Business Review, October 2007, < https://hbr.org/2007/10/manage-your-energy-not-your-time>.
  6. Duhigg, Charles, The Power of Habit: What We Do in Life and Business, Random House Trade, 2014.
  7. Bénabou, Roland; Tirole, Jean, Self-Confidence and Personal Motivation, June 2001, <http://www.princeton.edu/~rbenabou/papers/CONFQJE2.pdf&gt;.
  8. Bénabou, Roland; Tirole, Jean, Self-Confidence and Personal Motivation, June 2001, <http://www.princeton.edu/~rbenabou/papers/CONFQJE2.pdf&gt;.
  9. Naidu, David; Naidu, Daniela, How to Believe in Yourself and Build Self-Confidence, Skilled at Life, 2018, < http://www.skilledatlife.com/how-to-believe-in-yourself-and-build-self-confidence/>.
  10. Locke, Edward; et. all, Goal Setting and Task Performance: 1969-1980, Psychological Bulletin 1981, Vol. 90(1), pp. 125-152, 1981, < https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8008/47819f1663e1d7eff388c8e89168955074b4.pdf>.
  11. Locke, Edward; et. all, Goal Setting and Task Performance: 1969-1980, Psychological Bulletin 1981, Vol. 90(1), pp. 125-152, 1981, < https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8008/47819f1663e1d7eff388c8e89168955074b4.pdf>.

One thought on “Beat Your 2L Lull: Four Strategies for Success

  1. Pingback: Celebrate Mental Wellness with BC Law | BC Law: Impact

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