Your bar prep days are probably looking long: listening to a lecture, reviewing notes, dedicating time to memorization, taking practice questions and reviewing the responses. You are probably yawning just thinking about it!
Losing focus can look like:
- Daydreaming or mind-wandering
- Making plans unrelated to the exam
- Trying to escape studying by scrolling through apps
- Feeling unmotivated to work
- Overwhelm and stress
If this sounds like you, and you are struggling with giving the bar exam your full attention, what are some things you can do to refocus?
Use Time Wisely
Time is limited. It is easy to let the day pass you by when you are distracted, unmotivated, or otherwise unfocused.
A time-keeping app or system such as a pomodoro timer can help you to commit to a set period of time and also considers much-needed breaks. The pomodoro method includes 25-minute study intervals with breaks built in and increasing in time as you progress.
Importance of Breaks
We have all heard of the typical law school “gunner.” They are known for never taking a break and staying at the library for study marathons. However, long hours without breaking up your time and taking a rest can be highly unproductive and unhealthy.
Instead, opt for a balanced schedule that considers your brain and body’s need for a break away from the studies. As a result, you will get so much accomplished for the day and get the help you need to stay on task!
Treat Studies as a Job
A great mental hack is to approach study time as an actual job. When you treat studies as a job, you will likely put your best foot forward. If you have a set amount of time such as a 9-5 schedule to turn assignments into your supervisor, you will have a reason to put in the work. For example, if your boss has an urgent research question for you, you may have to consider how to maximize the time and resources. I once heard that you will take as long to do something as the amount of time you have to complete it. This is why pretending you were hired to do this and have a deadline can really help to get moving!
Cramming can be a great way to crash and burn. Cramming does not help to focus on what you are doing in the moment. Instead, it encourages rushing past all of the important steps and lessons to be learned.
Here are some tips to pace yourself:
- Remember this is not a sprint, it is a marathon
- Make a study schedule that you can stick to that considers your other obligations
- Do not multitask. Multitasking is like interrupting yourself constantly. It does not work and can take you more time to get back onto the primary task at hand. In fact, there is research to back up that your brain cannot keep up. Imagine your brain as a browser with 500 tabs open.
Work in Progress
Improving your focus is an ongoing process and may take various approaches based on what you need. When you find yourself losing focus, try any of the following tips:
- Create a dedicated study space that you can equate with focus
- Stop yourself in your tracks and refocus. Notice when you become distracted and get yourself back on track
- Try mindfulness exercises such as focusing on your breath
- Eliminate distractions and understand how distractions hinder you from reaching your goals
- Create a deadline to increase your focus
- Turn off your phone before you head to bed as the temptation to constantly check your phone can lead to stress and not a good night’s sleep
- Say no: don’t sign up to do extra things, you need your energy and focus on prepping for the exam
- Exercise self-control from the major distractions or distractors in your life ranging from people, emails, social media, and the news
Find Your Purpose
When all else fails, ask yourself if your goal is meaningful. Trying tips when you are just not motivated will leave you more frustrated. Go back to why you are working so hard for this goal in the first place. Remember why you started and why you are committed to focusing. Ask yourself what you want out of bar prep and this can be the jumpstart you need to regain strength to hone in on your goals.
It has been a long journey to get to the bar exam. If you are a re-taker, then this road has been especially long. One of the quickest ways to show yourself some self-love is to acknowledge your progress, and all that you have achieved to get to this point. While you may not be thrilled with your daily focus, pat yourself on the back and celebrate the small victories even if it was just waking up early and putting your phone away for the study block of time.
Be patient with yourself, read up on ways to focus, and commit to self-improvement for the bar prep long run.