At this point in the year, folks are getting good and bad news from the bar examiners. If you got bad news and you are getting ready to study again, I would encourage you to think critically about one thing: how to make the most of your study time.
Why is this so important?
First, most of us don’t have unlimited hours to study. You may be working and studying part time. You may have a family at home or other personal commitments. No matter what your situation, there are only so many quality hours one can study in a day or a week.
The mistake I see studiers make over and over again is not focusing and making the most of their study time when they have it. They are either trying to study with their kids running around or trying to study late at night when they are exhausted. Perhaps they are sneaking in a moment of study here or there between phone calls and emails. Sure, this study time may count some, but I don’t think it sets you up for success like dedicated study time. I would rather you study fewer high-quality hours than more distracted hours.
What can you do to make the most of your study time?
Set aside the number of hours you can dedicate to quality study.
Perhaps you have committed to yourself that you are going to study 15 hours a week until the February exam. That sounds great, but where are those 15 hours coming from? Are you studying in the evenings? On weekends? I would discourage you from just studying early in the morning or late at night. When you are stressed before or exhausted after a long day, your retention goes down and you aren’t going to get the most “study bang” for your buck.
Find a smart place to study.
Your kitchen table may not be the best place to study if your home is full of distractions (laundry, significant others, pets, you get my drift). You may need to study outside the home. Libraries are great, of course. Or if you work, perhaps you can use your office on the weekends for a quiet place to study. Coffee shops work for some, but I often find they are too full of distractions. Keep trying out different study locations until you find one that works for you.
Turn off electronic distractions.
Besides environmental distractions, there are the distractions we bring with us! Cell phones and computers, just to name a couple. I recommend that you turn off electronics as soon as you are ready to sit down and study. If you need the computer to study, turn off your Internet (if possible) or at least close down your email. We are trained to check our electronics frequently but doing so disrupts our thought process and makes us less productive.
Make adjustments as necessary.
Life happens! Commitments come up, work schedules change, someone gets sick, you get sick—the list goes on. You must be flexible with your study schedule. If something isn’t working, adjust your schedule. Trying to force yourself to study when you are physically distracted (sick) or emotionally distracted (someone else is sick or some “life thing” comes up) isn’t quality studying. If you can’t think clearly, your study time isn’t going to help you get where you need to be. And there is nothing more frustrating than studying but not getting anything out of it!
Be honest with family and friends.
Studying for the bar exam is a ton of work. It takes a lot of time and mental and emotional energy. Those close to a studier can get frustrated because of how much focus the bar exam takes. In order to prevent frustration from friends and family, it is a good idea to sit down and talk to those close to you before the bar exam study period and share with them a picture of what studying is going to look like. They will understand that although you might not be as available as you usually are, it is for an important cause! Setting expectations will help everyone understand what you are committing to and allow them to be more helpful and supportive.
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