The past few weeks have been hectic. Ever since COVID-19 started spreading throughout the world, nothing has been the same. People are scared, angry, and sometimes both. Most of us have either had to start working from home or lost jobs as a result. In the coming months, we will all be forced to make changes. They will be uncomfortable, and they will be disruptive.
As one of my professors told us when we began transitioning to an online class, nobody asked for this. And she’s right. None of us asked for our classes to be converted to an online format halfway through the semester. We didn’t ask to be legally mandated to stay home. We didn’t ask for our jobs to be lost or lessened as a result. But it doesn’t matter what we asked for. This is our reality. We will have to adapt in order to thrive in it. And that is exactly what we should plan to do.
Lawyers are not generally thought of as “innovative,” but we are. Our profession is built around solving problems and creating systems that endure. By taking this time to innovate, we can adapt to our current situation while preparing ourselves for the future.
As a law student, I have had to adapt along with my classmates. But I have one advantage: I have been working remotely since May. My classes are definitely different, but I have been communicating virtually for almost a year now. I have had to make my own schedules and avoid distractions at home. I have had to face unique challenges that are just part of life when working remotely.
Another advantage I have is that OU Law offers one of the best technology and innovation programs in the country through its Digital Initiative. Between online training and certifications such as the LTC4 program, several hours of lunch and learns, and a top of the line collaborative learning lab, OU Law gives me the tools and training I have needed to succeed.
Seeing as how we are all facing these challenges together, I wanted to share some of the things I have learned. My hope is that there is at least one thing that can help you, whether you are a student, professor, or practicing attorney, as you adjust to this new reality.
As I said before, working from home means that you will have to deal with distractions. Kids will want attention. Pets will want attention. Your phone will want attention. And it is easy to give in to those temptations. After all, you’re at home, you’re comfortable, and you’ve been working hard (even if you’ve only worked a few minutes).
What I do is write my schedule out. Actually, I write it out several times. For instance, I add priority events, meetings, or deadlines on my iCal. This way I can set alerts and reminders to ensure I stay on task throughout the week. Next, I roughly outline times of each day for certain tasks. Based on my productivity habits, studying and hard work is usually scheduled for mornings. Afternoons are reserved for work. Evenings are reserved for relaxation or preparation for the next day. Finally, I have a journal that allows me to schedule every hour of my day from 6 am to 9 pm from Best Self Co. Not only does my journal allow me to freely plan each day, but it is also structured for me to practice my affirmations and reflections at the beginning and end of the day.
You may not need to schedule everything as I do. You might be used to having onecalendar and being accountable to it. But, if you are like me, the more you repeat that promise to yourself that you will work on one thing at a specific time the more likely you are to follow through with it. And that makes all those little distractions just a little less tempting.
Obviously, we are almost all going to be keeping our distance from other people for a while. That means that emails, phone calls, and video calls just got a whole lot more important.
Emails should be reserved for formal and non-urgent matters. When you need to communicate something in detail, write an email. If you need to write something that the recipient needs to see soon, send a text. This way, your emails will not needlessly interrupt someone while they work and you won’t be sitting at your computer waiting on an urgent email response. If you are interested, here is an interesting article about how disruptive email can be and some suggestions on how to curb the impact.
I have found that it is helpful to have a reliable set of headphones or earbuds that you can conduct phone calls with. You don’t need AirPods, but even regular apple headphones have worked better for me than holding the phone to my ear. The biggest difference I have found is that it is easier for me to understand people when they speak. Even I get tired of me saying “what did you say?” so it is very important that I be able to hear and understand who I am talking to.
Finally, I think it is about time we all become familiar and comfortable with video calls. I’m not talking the ‘dressed from the waist up’ kind of comfortable though. No, what I mean is that we need to practice being on screen. For students, a lot of our classes are being held in these environments. For attorneys, video calls can be used to give clients a better way to communicate. While video calls are not the same as in-person meetings, they do allow us to interact more holistically while still preserving freedom and flexibility with our schedules.
Most of the challenges that you will face when working or studying remotely will be focus driven. A lot of things are going to pull your attention away from things you should be doing. Your children, spouses, pets, and thinking about our current situation will distract you. I don’t think it is possible to get rid of those distractions. But I do believe that we can structure our environments and routines to limit the impact of distractions.
By becoming familiar with the technology we have to embrace, we will be less frustrated with it when it eventually does mess something up. We will be able to troubleshoot more effectively and get back on track with our day. By having a detailed schedule and affirming our tasks to ourselves we can be more accountable even when nobody else is around. And by embracing our use of technology to communicate we can reduce the amount of confusion created by misunderstanding one another.
This adjustment will take time and collaboration. None of us will be able to adapt on our own. I wanted to share some of the tips or tricks that I have used over the past year for exactly that reason. I hope that there is even one thing in this post that you can implement and improve your study or work habits.
If you are an OU Law student (or any law student) and would like to share how you have adjusted to working and studying remotely, please reach out to us in the comments or contact us here. We want to hear from as many readers as we can so that we can tailor any future content to your requests and what you want to be covered.