There isn’t a more intense experience for a lawyer than studying for the bar. While there are no magic ways to make it easy per se, there are ways to manage your time so that you can most efficiently and effectively study for the bar. Here are my top tips:
1. Eliminate distractions
This tip applies to more than just the bar, but it’s worth repeating here. Studying for the bar is an intense time, and it calls for the removal of all distractions. Distractions are different for everyone, so whatever it is for you, be honest with yourself and cut it out of your life for the weeks you are studying.
Be ruthless with what you eliminate – maybe you need to cut out responding to text messages at all hours of the day or even studying with a law school friend whom you end up chatting with more than studying with.
2. Figure out when you study best to maximize your time
You probably already know from law school what is the best time of day or night for you to study. If you aren’t sure, experiment during the first week or two of bar studying with different schedules.
Do you work best in the early morning? If so, frontload your studying whenever possible and accept that you are not going to be a late-night studier. Ignore others who brag about studying until 2am. If that works for them, great, but unless it’s your prime study time, don’t try to copy them.
3. Spend more time on the areas that are harder for you, and less on the easy ones
Bar prep is all about maximizing the time that you have. Whether you have ten hours a day to study or four, don’t waste that precious time on material that you’ve already mastered.
Instead of following a schedule that allocates the same amount of time to every subject, spend the most time on the areas of law that are the hardest for you. Trust yourself that you know what you know and spend the most time on those subjects that are more difficult for you.
4. When you are studying, study; when you are relaxing, relax (Don’t multitask!)
There is such a thing as studying too much for the bar. What that usually looks like is less focused studying and more multitasking, which is an inefficient use of your time.
The best way to combat this and save yourself time? Clearly delineate between study time and the rest of your life. When you are studying, really focus on the task at hand. And when you are not studying, try your best to put the bar out of your mind. Sure, your study time is going to outweigh your non-study time, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you can efficiently study at all hours of the day. Your brain needs a break, and it’s best to give yourself a real, true one when you step away from the books.
5. Audit your days at the outset
Like the tip above, this one is all about making sure you are studying when you think you are studying. The best way to do this is to audit your days during the first week or so of studying.
Once you’ve set up your study calendar, take it a step further and track what you do during each block of time. It takes just a few minutes, but the results can be enlightening. Don’t beat yourself up over what you find out either.
Let’s say you really only got five hours of quality studying done, even though you spent eight hours of your day at your desk. That’s great information! Either you should allot five quality hours to studying going forward or work on being more focused during those eight hours (see the tip above about eliminating distractions).
6. Prep your friends and family for how intense bar studying is
If someone isn’t going through it, they probably don’t understand just how much of a time commitment studying for the bar is. Even if your friends and family are used to you being busy with law school, studying for the bar is on another level.
Make sure they understand this (as best as they can) so that they are prepared for you being less available. It’s helpful to let others know so they’re more respectful of your time and don’t pressure you into commitments you don’t have time for. Of course, you can (and should!) always say no if you don’t want to do something, but it’s easier to get through this period when your loved ones are on board with the bar being your number one priority.
7. Set yourself up for success
Lastly, the best way to manage your time is to set yourself up for success by streamlining the rest of your life as best you can. Before bar prep even begins, you can do so much to manage your time that will benefit you for the weeks to come.
What does setting yourself up for success look like? Well, it might mean scheduling a meal prep service or grocery delivery for the most intense weeks leading up to the bar so you don’t have to worry so much about cooking. Or, perhaps, asking a friend or family member to help you out with simple errands that feel overwhelming when you are so focused on studying. You might be surprised by how much help people are willing to give when you just reach out and ask!
Bar studiers, you got this!
There you have it, the best time management tips for bar prep. While they might sound simple, they are certainly effective, and will help set you up for success during bar prep and beyond.