Tracking Your Goals During the #BarExam

TrackingToday we have some fantastic advice from Ariel Salzer of the Law School Toolbox and Bar Exam Toolbox team. She is an experienced law school and bar exam tutor, and is here to deliver excellent advice on setting goals (and creating accountability) when studying for the bar exam. 

When you’re studying for the bar exam, it’s easy to become consumed by all of the review, memorization and practice that you’re doing every day. It’s pretty common for things like drinking enough water, getting fresh air, and exercising to completely fall off of the priority list. Remaining a sane and functioning human is not overrated, though. The healthier and more well-adjusted you are physically and mentally (not to mention emotionally), the easier it will be to sit through this exhausting exam without falling apart.

As a bar exam tutor, I find that sometimes it’s hard to take my own advice. I tell my students, “Get out and take a walk every day,” and “Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.” But, it’s pretty common that I will stay holed up reviewing essays without seeing the light of day for sometimes days on end. And, especially if I’m working with foreign students who are taking the California bar, meetings can be at crazy hours!

This bar season, though, I’m trying something new. In an effort to stay more balanced and stick to the practices I know make for a healthier, more balanced life (for me at least), I’ve been trying out a couple of apps that I think you students may also find helpful as well: WayofLife and Rewire.

Goal tracking—what I like about it

What I like about both of these is, well, first of all, let’s be honest, I like that they’re free! Secondly, they show you in “streaks” how well you’re doing. It might sound silly, but if I can see an unbroken chain of my goals or a little green bar graph that tells me it’s been 5 days of  me “being good” then I am a lot more likely to take more “good” steps today as well.

What kinds of goals should you track?

Bar students can track study goals, things like “Write one essay every day,” or “Memorize for 30 minutes every night.” You could also work on building habits about things that you think will improve your health or general wellbeing like doing a yoga, Pilates or cardio podcast every morning (you can find some of my yoga favorites that I’ve been using this week here and here), meditating on for 10-15 minutes each day using an app like this one that I’ve been trying out, or even doing sets of squats, or other exercises you can work in without even leaving your desk area (there are some nifty squat counter apps out there as well if you want to get really crazy).

How do you make your goals more attainable?

If you’ve worked with me on exam-taking, you’ve probably heard me say it before, but “Be precise!” The same advice for essays holds true with goal setting. If you write things on your daily goal tracker app like, “Work out” or  “Do MBEs” or “Make healthy choices,” this isn’t going to be very beneficial or encouraging to you because it’s not precise enough to tell you what to do.

For example, watching this guy on youtube might be a nice way to take a quick break and even laugh a little bit, but does it count as “making healthy choices”? I don’t know, without more precise guidelines, that goal could mean a lot of things.

Goals are easier to manage when you know exactly what they involve. So, instead of being vague, write down things like, “Do one 60+ minute weight training podcast” or “Drink a protein smoothie every morning.” Same thing goes for study goals. Don’t just say “Memorize,” say “Drill rule elements for 45 minutes every morning.” Give yourself something specific to work on and add in a time frame if that helps you stay motivated. That way, you’ll have a harder time fudging the edges.

What if you get stuck? 

As with any goal tracking, the method is only going to be as effective as it is motivating to you. If you don’t give a damn about whether the little bar graph turns green or red for the day, then no matter how invested you are in your goals themselves, this system probably isn’t going to work very well.

You would likely benefit from a more reward-based or direct-encouragement type of goal setting. Maybe enlist a friend or significant other to help keep you on task and encourage you. Or, you could set aside one dollar for every day that you reach your goals, and use it to buy something nice for yourself. Or, maybe put your money where your mouth is in another way, and set up an automatic donation to an “anti-charity” or organization you hate in the event that you fall short of your goals.

How about you? Have you had any luck with staying on top of your schedule and living up to your goals while studying for the bar exam? Feel free to share in the comments below!

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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