You’re still focused on law school exams and graduation so the bar exam is the last thing on your mind. But it’s there. Looming in front of you. Waiting…
You don’t have to start bar prep but you do have to get into the right mindset for it. Ten weeks is a long time to do only one thing so to go into it without some sort of mental preparation is a bad idea. You will get tired, overwhelmed, discouraged. It’s going to happen and you will have to push through and keep going. Ignoring it makes things worse because then you are in denial and you’ll have to spend time accepting you’re a bit of a mess. Then you have to figure how to get yourself back on track and in control.
Lawyers plan for the worst and hope for the best.
You want to be a lawyer and lawyers plan for the worst and hope for the best. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of material you have to learn and feel like there is no way you can learn it all? Regain control of your thoughts by making a list (but not of things you need to do):
- things that inspire you
- things you are grateful for
- things you love about yourself
- your happiest memories
- your favorite people and why
- a meal plan, a shopping list
Feeling discouraged because you can’t seem to make any progress? Identify and address the roadblocks in your way:
- Perfectionism: stop waiting until something is perfect and just do it. You have to learn from your mistakes so go ahead and make them and then move forward.
- Comparing yourself to what everyone else is doing: this is unproductive because it leaves you bitter, jealous, and insecure. Focus on yourself and what you can do.
- Complaining about the amount of work: this rarely changes anything. You still have to do the work and the more you complain, the longer you have to work.
Feeling stressed because you aren’t getting anything done? Identify the time sucks and what you can to do boost productivity:
- Focus: silence your phone (and hide it from yourself); black out background browser tabs/notifications; write distractions down for later; go for a short walk.
- Increase efficiency: use a productivity tool like the Pomodoro Technique; quit multitasking (it doesn’t work); step away from social media during study hours.
- Prioritize: don’t check email first thing in the morning (or every five minutes); make a to-do list each evening; sort your to-dos by “musts,” “shoulds,” and “wants.”
- Get motivated: bribe yourself with a reward; keep a “done” list; strike a power pose; make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
The bottom line is that you are going to do this. You are going to study, prepare, and pass the bar exam. Pretending that it won’t be hard is unrealistic and frankly, it’s immature. It’s time to develop the right mindset and start acting like the lawyer you want to be.
Some of you start commercial bar prep this week and some of you are still taking law school exams. Everyone needs to create a study schedule. Time is a limited resource so don’t waste it. There are 168 hours in a week and approximately 50 of them go to bar prep. This leaves 118 hours for everything else and you’d be surprised (or not) at how quickly it can get away from you when you factor in things like: sleep, personal hygiene, family/child care, commute time, food (shopping, preparation, eating), housekeeping, exercise, religious observance, personal time…
Time management is about consciously knowing how much time you spend on specific activities. Time management is about making good decisions ahead of time instead of having to do something because you have no other option. Time management is about making decisions instead of excuses. Don’t use life as an excuse not to study but don’t use studying as an excuse not to do life.
Either you run the day, or the day runs you.
– Jim Rohn
Making a schedule is one thing but sticking to it is another. A good place to start is to assess your time management skills. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses will help you set goals, prioritize tasks, and track how you actually spend your time. Take advantage of the great time management tools available. Whether you prefer a planner or an app, there is something for everyone.
The bar exam tests many subjects and skills so simply putting in 40-60 hours a week is not enough. You need to make progress every day and every week. There is no playing catch up so before you begin full-time bar study, take some time to plan ahead. Start with the commercial bar prep schedule and develop a study plan that is both comprehensive and realistic. As you do this, keep in mind the following:
- Personalize your schedule. Write out your schedule and chart what you want to do each day. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. You know what you are capable of doing and that’s what matters. Use the schedule to motivate you- a visual reminder of everything you’ve done. You should never wake up and think, “What am I going to do today?”
- Protect your productive time. Avoid time sucks. You know what I’m talking about- email, social media, texting. You intend to spend 5 minutes on Snapchat but 30 minutes later you are still there. One text or tweet might take a few seconds but they add up to a lot of wasted time. Disconnect when you are studying and don’t re-connect until you are finished doing what you need to do. Tell family and friends you are not available. If they insist on being able to contact you, put your phone in another room and tell them they may call if it is an absolute emergency (FYI- a celebrity having a baby does not fall into this category).
- Educate your friends and family: Friends and family love and support you but they might not understand why you are studying so much. When someone helpfully says, “you’re smart, you’ll pass,” don’t scream at them or roll your eyes. Thank them for their support and respectfully and nicely educate them on the process. You want these folks around after the bar exam so don’t push them away now.
Time management is about being accountable for your time. No commercial bar prep schedule can make you do the work. If you want to pass the bar exam, commit to the process. It might be hard at times, but you have to push through and keep moving forward. One step is better than none.