Time management is key for your bar prep studies. There are different systems you may need depending on your circumstances and depending on what you are working on. It is important to consider how you will manage your time in different scenarios. This kind of strategizing prepares you with a plan so that you can make the most of your time and see results.
Ideally, you would have the full 8–10-hour days to exclusively study, but in reality, you may be a parent, a full or part-time employee, or busy with other responsibilities. Solidifying a time management plan will help you work at the top of your game because you are planning ahead and staying organized.
Here are some ideas to get you started so you can make yourself a tailored time management game plan:
Know What to Make Time for
There will be different areas of focus that demand your time and attention including:
- Memorizing Black Letter Law: this is time you will need for drilling down your outlines into attack outlines, finalizing acronyms, condensing the information so that it is easily digestible and made simple and repeating for all of the testable material.
- Practicing and reviewing Essay Questions: each essay should take 30 minutes to both outline and write, and additional time for review. You can cut time down by only outlining and reviewing or rewriting a model answer.
- Taking multiple choice questions also known as MBE: you may start with a certain number of multiple-choice questions a day with review, and then slowly increase this number or take full length practice test days.
- Not leaving behind the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) in your practice: an MPT takes 90 minutes to complete and additional time to review.
- Exercise, healthy eating, and other important self-care activities
- Study breaks to power nap, do something enjoyable and get out of your bar exam world
Learn to say “no!” Embrace that you’re as fully devoted as you can be to conquer the bar exam. Being strong in your commitment makes it easier to get rid of anything unnecessary that is taking up too much time or mental energy. For example, if neighbors are asking for you to volunteer, if friends want more nights out with you—it may be time to be really clear about your priorities (at least with yourself) by saying no.
If you work, be sure to check your work policy on taking time off as the exam gets closer. If you can take one to two weeks completely off, that will really help you to get into the exam mindset, limit distractions and reduce work-related stress. If this is not an option, consider how you can reduce workload as the exam approaches. If you are months away, consider discussing time off with your supervisor and taking any administrative steps to ensure you get timely approval of any kind, if applicable.
Break up Your Time
Breaking up time into chunks can be more effective because marathon studying doesn’t work as well. It is not sustainable and not great for memory in the bar exam long haul.
You can treat this time like an appointment. For example, plan a 1- 2-hour study session before work, during your break and after work.
Focus on moving forward and not on being perfect. As much as it is important to be consistent, be sure that you are more focused on putting in the time and moving around these “appointment slots” even if that means the days look different. The reality is that when you are busy with work, family, and other things, you may have days that are super busy and days that are really slow.
As you saw above, bar prep entails a number of aspects so be sure to dedicate time to the various bar components so that you are always strengthening your skills.
Ramp Up on Slow Days
The best advice I received in a legal internship was to not sit on any work that comes my way, because I’ll likely wish I started it when the next big project suddenly comes my way. I interpreted this for bar studies to always try to get ahead of the day, and my preparation because I will regret it when I reach the last two weeks before it’s game time.
If you are a retaker, you may be deliberately starting early because you know what’s ahead, and this is smart! If you are a first-time taker, consider starting prep earlier than what is recommended. You may find that it takes you a little longer to get organized and started.
When it comes to the daily bar prep, you’re going to find your time management flow. Keep in mind, that when you get the gift of time, and your day opens up—be sure to get ahead of your bar prep to-do list. For example, free time gives you a chance to get started on a new subject, add additional MBE practice questions to your day, and rehearse black letter law.
When you plan for success, you can keep track of your goals and ensure that it happens! Stay consistent with your plans, make changes when needed, and focus on progress and not perfection. You got this!