Most people offering advice about how to pass the bar exam tell you to follow a study schedule. I am no exception to this, and I believe that following a schedule — whether it is given to you by a bar review program or you create it yourself — is essential to bar exam success.
But, I am not sure I have ever seen anyone discuss the value of establishing a routine during your studies.
Routine vs. Schedule
Isn’t a routine the same thing as a schedule? No.
A schedule is a timetable that you follow so that you will complete certain tasks within a given time limit.
For instance, if you follow the study schedule given to you by your bar prep course, you will complete studying and practicing all bar exam subjects a week or two before the bar exam. Then, you will use the remaining time to continue to practice and to review your weaker subjects.
A routine, on the other hand, is the rhythm of your life.
For example, my weekday routine is that I wake up around 6:00 am each morning, take a shower, eat breakfast, get my kids ready for school, then get to work around 8:00 am. I work until 5:00 or 6:00 pm, then I come home, eat dinner, relax, and then go to sleep by 10:00pm each day.
Within that routine, I fit my schedule. The schedule varies each day of the week, but my routine rarely varies.
Why Establish a Routine?
A routine provides stability. It gets your mind and body into an expected rhythm.
Any source of stability is important while you study for the bar exam because you are placing heavy demands on your brain to memorize voluminous material. The stability means that your brain has one less uncertainty to worry about as you continue on your bar exam journey.
Assuming you do not have to work, one possible bar exam routine could be: Wake up at 6:00 am; shower, get dressed, eat; commute to bar exam study location; attend lecture or study topic “x” per study schedule; lunch; practice topic “y” per study schedule; commute home; dinner; nighttime activities; in bed by 10:00 pm.
In addition to the daily routine, you should establish a weekly routine. In the weekly routine, I highly recommend you take a minimum of one day off from studying.
With a strong, well-planned routine, you fit bar exam studying into your life, but the studying does not take over your life.
Breaks in the Routine
It is inevitable that you will have some breaks in your routine. Maybe you have a sleepless night; maybe the water heater at your house breaks in the middle of the night and you have to stay up waiting for the plumber.
But these breaks should be rare. If your routine is well-established, you should be able to get back into your routine quickly.
Let me know how it goes!
Thanks Matt! These are great tips for not only bar study, but law school and life as a whole.
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