Law students spend months preparing for the bar exam, dedicating 40 to 50 hours a week to studying. Bar prep is a full-time job for most. But, staying focused and engaged with the material for hours everyday stretching on for weeks and months is no easy task.
In the beginning, you may be motivated by the long to-do list or be inspired by how close you are to the finish line. But after 4, 6, then 8 weeks of studying, you may forget why you ever wanted to start this journey in the first place.
Unfortunately, the last month of bar prep is not a place where you can coast. You need to be just as fresh and engaged as ever. You need to use each of those days and each of those hours to ensure that you’re ready for one of the most difficult exams known to man.
So, how do you prevent the words from running together and your mind from going numb?
Here are 6 ways to actively avoid burnout in the final stretch of bar prep:
1. Set Yourself Up for Success
If you’re reading this article before beginning your bar prep, then you have the opportunity to set yourself up for success in the months to come. Purchase any prep materials, deep clean your home, and prepare a few meals that can be frozen and reheated on those days when you don’t have the energy to cook.
Include things that aren’t related to the bar or law school as well. Go to the dentist, get your eyes checked, make sure your license doesn’t expire any time soon. Try to take as much off your plate as possible now so that you don’t have to try and maintain these responsibilities during your bar prep time.
2. Create Routines and Boundaries
Create a routine before you begin and revisit it regularly. Establish time specifically for studying without distractions. Choose multiple study locations and cycle through them to add a little variety.
In this schedule, also include time to relax, get a good night’s sleep, take breaks, cook, and eat. If you are in a window of time for relaxation, don’t you dare pick up those study materials. It’s tempting to say, “My dinner has to be in the oven for half an hour, maybe I’ll use that time to do a bit more studying.” Don’t do it. Let your study time be your study time and your relaxation time be your relaxation time. This will help to maintain good mental and emotional health.
3. Make Time for Social Outings
It’s all too easy to isolate yourself and become obsessed with bar prep. If possible, tell friends and family about your bar prep schedule before you begin. Let them know when you will be free and when you should not be disturbed. Ask them to contact you every so often during your free time just to check-in.
Also, ask a friend or two to meet with you regularly during this prep period. Even something as little as coffee for an hour every other week or going to see a movie once a month will help you to enjoy your life during this stressful time and also get support from your loved ones. Otherwise, you may feel like you’ve locked yourself away and are losing touch.
4. Prioritize Your Health
One of the biggest keys to avoiding burnout is preventing tunnel vision. By tunnel vision, I mean focusing only on the bar and putting it above everything else. If your bar prep is your top priority, you may be neglecting your physical, mental, and/or emotional health. If this is the case, the time that you spend studying is likely not as effective as it could be.
Taking the time away from studying to do things like clean, eat a good, healthy meal, or get a full night’s rest is essential. Don’t let the fear of being unprepared take over your life. Take care of your health first so that you can bring your best self to your study sessions.
5. Work with a Tutor
In that last month of bar prep, a fresh pair of eyes can revitalize your entire study process. Consider bar exam tutoring so that you can get a new perspective. You may have blind spots when it comes to your preparedness. A tutor would be able to point those blind spots out to you and recommend study strategies. Doing this about a month out from the bar can show you what you need to focus on most for these last few weeks.
Adding a tutoring session into your schedule can also help to break up the monotony of the study schedule that you’ve been following for weeks. It offers an opportunity for a bit of social interaction while remaining focused on bar prep, too.
6. Reward Yourself
Set up a small reward system for yourself in those last few weeks. If you have productive study time all week, treat yourself. These rewards can be as big or as small as you like. Here are a few ideas:
- Treat yourself to take out at the end of the week instead of cooking
- Put away $20 a week for every week that you stick to your schedule and you buy yourself something nice at the end of it all
- Sleep in for an extra hour one day
- Get a massage or spa treatment
- Pay someone to clean your home this weekend so you have extra relaxation time
Pick something that’s just exciting enough to be enticing but no so big as to stress you out if things don’t work out.
Preparing for the bar exam is tedious. It’s mentally exhausting and it stretches on for weeks. Even the most dedicated and focused student could easily experience burnout throughout the process. Use these tips to avoid burnout so that you can perform at your best and walk in on exam day feeling confident and prepared.