Can you believe it has been about six to eight weeks since you started studying for the bar exam? Everyday, including weekends, you start your day by reviewing some core subject and tweaking your attack plans. At some point during the day you take a practice essay exam or a set of practice MBE’s. As each week passes, you have gotten better at spotting the issues on a bar question. You’ve even gotten more and more MBE questions right with a better understanding of why certain answers were wrong.
Lately, you have started to think that because of your diligence, you deserve some kind of reward. Afterall, the actual bar exam is still two or three weeks away. A little break won’t hurt – you’ve been so disciplined, you can always get back on track. The problem is that the reward you are considering is never going to be something like going out with your significant other or family for an ice cream after dinner. Instead, your preferred reward will most likely be to go out with friends and enjoy more than a couple of cocktails. You may even want to take a whole day off. Here’s my advice – Don’t do it!
You’ve been so good for so long. You’ve made actual progress. That night out with friends could result in another day off just to recover – so maybe you should have gone with option two to begin with. However, before you are presented with this dilemma you should ask yourself, “why would I want to sabotage myself when I am so close to my goal?”
Consistency and Focus are the Keys to Success Right Now
Studying for the bar exam is like no other activity you will ever engage in again. So much is riding on this, and you should want to give it the best effort you can so that you don’t have to do it again. Avoiding distractions and keeping a consistent schedule are necessary to get you through this marathon of studying.
I remember watching an interview with Michael Phelps before the Summer Olympics in London, when he talked about his training schedule. He trained everyday in preparation for the Olympics. The person interviewing Phelps questioned, “not even a day off every now and then?” Phelps explained that if he took a day off, then it would require two days of training to get back to where he was before the day off. The goal was to get better and faster each day, not simply to maintain a certain level of fitness. If he took time off, he would wonder how much time he was sacrificing toward breaking a new record or getting another gold medal.
Okay, this admittedly is a bit extreme, after all, he is an elite athlete, but think about the underlying message. The goal is to get a little better every day. Ride that wave for as long as you can before the bar exam. Keep in mind that a few days before the bar exam your brain will want a rest and your ability to study for long periods of time will wane. That is actually normal. What you don’t want to do is get behind in your study schedule before that happens because you “deserve a day off” every now and then. What if this “deserved” day off leads to panic because you are suddenly off your schedule and a little behind. Now worry starts to seep in that you won’t get everything done before the bar exam. Rather than getting better a little bit every day, now you will be stressed and maybe taking a step back.
Save the Big Reward for the End
Go ahead, reward yourself a little. Go out for that ice cream, a movie, or dinner with a friend. Attend a house of worship, take a walk in the neighborhood, run on a treadmill, or watch one episode of something frivolous. But don’t do all these things at one time, and by all means, don’t start binge-watching anything – that would be a big mistake. You might instead consider a little meditation or some other activity that promotes mindfulness. For instance, there are apps available that can help you meditate for short periods of time. Your rewards should ultimately help you succeed, not cause you to take a step or two back.
You are only a couple of weeks away from your goal. If you have been diligent about your study schedule, now is not the time to self-sabotage. On the weekend after the bar exam you will be able to engage in all those activities that seem to suck time into a vortex. But for now, stay on track. Don’t blow it!