In studying for finals during my 1L year, I learned an important lesson.

As I reviewed my class notes in preparation, much to my astonishment, I discovered that many of them made no sense. I had typed them in a frenzy during class and used shorthands that were nonsensical.

It was as if someone else had written my notes and dropped encrypted passages for me to decipher.

Face. Meet palm.

This, of course, was particularly problematic since final exams often focus on the material covered in class.

So, during my second semester, I took 5 minutes every day, for each class, to skim the notes I took in class earlier that day. I inevitably found language that didn’t make sense or gaps in coverage, but I could readily fix them with the material still fresh on my mind.

In reviewing my notes, I also discovered that I would sometimes transcribe the professor’s statements while my mind drifted to faraway places. Skimming through the notes helped me identify these spots and make sense of them before it was too late.

Meaningful repetition also aided my retention. If I re-engaged with the material on a daily basis, even for a brief amount time, I was more likely to recall it. I also got better at drawing connections, and spotting discrepancies, between the cases we read for class. That skill served me well on final exams.

This is a deceptively simple approach that requires little effort.

5 minutes per class every day.

But the payoff can be enormous.

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