It may be tempting to just throw yourself right into studying: but first, take some time to prepare yourself for the weeks ahead.
Start From The End
The goal is to pass the bar exam. But it should also be to pass the bar exam while taking care of your mental and physical health along the way. Take a moment to close your eyes and picture how you want to feel on test-taking days. Calm, clear-headed, well-rested, hydrated—what else?
Once you have a mental picture, write it down. Then, work backward. Brainstorm all the ways you can help yourself feel that way on test day. Things like meditation, exercise, winding down before bed. These ideas will help you make a schedule for test prep that also factors in your wellbeing.
Make a Schedule
Your schedule should fit you. Don’t create an ideal plan. Create a realistic one. If you have children, your schedule will (and should!) look different than a peer who does not.
Also, consider that people naturally don’t sustain the same amount of energy throughout the day. In an article published in the Harvard Business Review, Professor Christopher M. Barnes examined circadian rhythms and the ideal work schedule.
He found that multiple studies showed a peak in the morning and a dip a few hours after lunch—with a low at approximately 3 PM. People tend to get another peak around 6 PM. Make a schedule that saves your high-energy times for studying—perhaps save chores or meditation for the afternoon.
Keep your schedule specific enough to be helpful but loose enough to be flexible. For example:
- 7:30-9 AM Wake-up, make and eat breakfast
- 9 AM-1 PM 1st Study Session (4 hours)
- 1-1:30 PM Make and eat lunch
- 1:30-3 PM Exercise and Shower
- 3-3:30 PM Meditate and stretch
- 3:30-7:30 PM 2nd Study Session (4 hours)
- 7:30-11 PM Dinner, wind-down
- 11 PM Sleep
You can adjust your schedule throughout the process, so don’t worry about it being perfect. It’s simply a tool to help you stay on track, set expectations with loved ones, and take care of yourself.
Set Expectations with Family and Friends
The people you love want to support you, but they may not understand the amount of effort (and time) bar prep can take. Help them, help you.
Sit them down or send them a message outlining how you may be less available to them throughout your study period. Share your schedule to help them understand when you may not want to be disturbed.
And suggest tips or compromises that may help you both feel supported during this time, such as: if they do the dishes during the week, you can do the dishes during the weekend, and you can switch roles after you take the bar.
Set Expectations at Work
If you’re working during bar prep, it may be harder to manage expectations with your employer or clients than with family and friends, but don’t be afraid of having an open conversation. Consider what may be helpful adjustments to your current arrangement. If you’re more alert in the mornings, perhaps ask if it would be possible to come in an hour later and leave an hour later, even if it’s just a few days a week.
Not everyone has the luxury of having a relationship with their employer where a conversation like that feels appropriate. Still, you may be surprised how your management or clients are willing or excited to help.
Create a Study Space
Having a dedicated study area can put you in the right mindset every time you set out to work. Whether this is at your local library or your home, take steps to make it what you need it to be! Consider: do you like quiet, music, or white noise? Do you like to be by yourself or with others? Is a direct line to caffeine (like a coffee shop) a must?
Also, keep ergonomics in mind! You don’t want to be a week-in and suddenly have a sore wrist, elbow, shoulder, or back. For best results when sitting:
- Maintain a relaxed but upright posture, with your thighs parallel with the floor and feet on the ground (consider adding padding to your chair or under your feet if needed)
- When using a computer, keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle close to your body. Support your forearms and wrists with either your desk surface or your chair’s armrests.
- To reduce eye strain, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends taking a break every 20 minutes for 20 seconds to look 20 feet away—and while you’re at it, stand up and stretch!
Last but not at all least: plan some rewards for along the way! Think about something special you can treat yourself to. It can be as simple as taking a few hours off to indulge in something you love, whether it’s a local hike, watching a favorite show, hanging with friends—or something bigger like a massage, dinner out, a concert—
whatever feels like you’re recognizing your efforts and dedication.
Up Next: Checking in at the End of Week 1.