My Law School Morning Routine

My Law School Morning RoutineThis week we welcome back guest writer Cathlyn Melvin to talk about her morning routine to get ready for law school.

My earliest class this semester is 9am. Hallelujah. I like to have time to myself in the mornings: I’m happiest when I can accomplish a few things before I get started with my work or school obligations.

Oh, and also: before I look at my phone (gasp!).

That’s right: when I go to bed at night I plug my phone in and put it face-down on my nightstand. And in the morning, I try not to touch it until my “morning routine” is complete, and I’m ready to work.

So here’s what I do instead.

Make my Bed

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up making my bed. I lived in a chaotic household, and I only learned the tranquility of a tidily made bed when I moved out on my own. And, oh, my goodness. What a difference it makes.

It takes five minutes, so it’s not a big thing, but making my bed makes me feel so much more organized as I begin my day.

Journal

In his book The Happiness Advantage, former Harvard researcher and “happiness expert” Shawn Achor explains the positive psychology we can use to improve our daily happiness, and gratitude is a major tool.

In my daily gratitude journal, I record four things:

  • Three things I’m grateful for (they can be simple, like my green bean sprouts that popped up out of my little potted garden yesterday!)
  • A description of one positive part of the previous day (I’ve written about productive meetings, creative ideas, social interactions—anything that brings me joy or fulfillment)

I’m not gonna lie. Writing about gratitude is hard for me sometimes. Sometimes, honestly, I just don’t feel like there’s much to be grateful for. And sometimes I take a break from this daily exercise. But most of the time, gratitude journaling helps me pay attention to the good that’s in my life and the world.

And law school can be a negative place. So maybe you could use a little bit of that positivity, too.

Affirmations

This might feel a little woo-woo (it did for me at first), but I’ve found that daily affirmations help with my mindset and approach.

Once a month, I revisit my affirmations and make adjustments based on the fears and apprehensions I’m feeling. I write affirmations that help me grow past those fears. For instance, when I chose to attend law school online this semester, I added this one:

I have worked on huge solo projects before. I know what it’s like to work in a vacuum, work hard, and succeed by making it work.

I have a handwritten list in a notebook that sits on my nightstand. In the morning I sit on the edge of my bed and read the list. I don’t say mine into the mirror like this little girl, but I do say them out loud, slowly, calmly, focusing on each word, and breathing deeply as I go.

Exercise

Daily exercise makes a huge difference for me. When I’m feeling couch potato-y for a couple of days, it takes an emotional toll. Which makes me feel even less like moving my body. Which obviously creates a not-so-healthy cycle.

So unless I’m sick, I do some form of movement every day. Most days, that’s a formal workout. I used to be a gym-everyday kind of person, but about a year ago I switch to working out at home. I got myself a pull-up bar and a subscription to Beachbody.com, and I started doing P90X.

To get the benefits of morning exercise, you don’t need any sort of equipment or subscription. There are plenty of ways to fit exercise into your law school morning routine —even if it means taking a 10-minute walk around the block, climbing some stairs a few times, or doing a bit of yoga.

Shower

Mmm, a shower. Showering helps reset my mind and begin to transition into my day. And there’s nothing like hot water and soap suds to give me a fresh start from any negativity I might be feeling.

Breakfast

If you haven’t given breakfast a real shot, I recommend eating a balanced meal every morning for thirty days. See how it feels.

Breakfast is good for you, as long as it’s a healthy one (Lucky Charms and a cappuccino just won’t cut it, unfortunately). And when you’re in school, your nutrition is going to impact your study habits, information absorption, and overall health and happiness.

Most days my breakfast takes 5-10 minutes to prep, and then I’ll sit for another 5-10 minutes to eat it. Another little habit with a big impact.

Calm, Productive Free Time

To avoid the stress of rushing and of overwhelm, I try to reserve 30+ minutes each morning to do something that’s going to make me feel a little less pressure during the day. Maybe that’s a few pages of reading I’m behind on, or calling the dentist about that weird unexpected bill I got in the mail the other day, or cleaning out my email inbox.

Other days, I might use this time for meditation or snuggling my cat. Now and then, this is a time for a 20-minute nap.

It just depends. The whole point is to leave it open to whatever I’m needing on that day.

The Schedule

Right now, my mornings look like this:

5:30

My alarm goes off. I turn on my tea kettle and make my bed.

5:35 – 6:00

Journal, drink tea, and read affirmations.

6:00 – 7:00

Work out.

7:00 – 7:15

Shower.

7:15 – 7:30

Breakfast.

7:30 – 8:45

Calm, productive free time.

Whether it’s a day when my classes begin at 9am or not—three days a week they begin even later—I sit at my desk at 8:45. If my classes don’t start until later, I read or brief cases. It just helps me to begin working at the same time each day. I’m a creature of habit!

The Takeaway

If you’re not a morning person, it might seem like overkill to wake up three and a half hours before your first class. In fact, it might actually be overkill. My point isn’t that everyone should wake up at 5:30. Or at any particular time.

But I do think it’s important to be intentional about your mornings. Prioritize your activities. What can you take care of in the morning that will make you feel accomplished, healthy, and help the rest of your day go more smoothly?

If you haven’t created a morning routine yet, plan one out. Try it for a few days. Then adjust it.

If you already have a morning routine, what’s working for you? What could you do differently? Experiment until you feel great about your routine.

It’ll be worth the effort.


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About Cathlyn Melvin

Before beginning law school in Fall 2020, Cathlyn worked as an actor, educator, and writer in Chicago and around the US. Now freelancing her way through school, Cathlyn loves reading memoirs, editing essays, baking cheesecakes, and petting cats.

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