When you are studying for the bar exam full time, building a routine that makes the most of your bar prep period is vital. Keeping to your bar prep schedule and continually reinforcing your study through repetition takes discipline, especially as bar prep drags on. If you are like me, you may find your daily activities like brushing your teeth and walking the dog begin to take longer as you subconsciously know that a day full of bar prep outlines and practice tests awaits you. Passive learning techniques are by no means a replacement for nose-to-the-grindstone study and practice, but at least I found them to help me reinforce my other prep work and build confidence that I was doing all I could to immerse myself in the material. Here are five tips to build in some bar prep around your daily routine so you can keep yourself honest and make the most of your precious few bar prep days:
1. Your Dog as Study Buddy
If you have a four-legged friend to see you through bar prep, find a way to mix in some bar prep with your canine (or feline) study buddy. If you have lectures or any other such audio bar prep materials, download or stream it through your smart phone and listen while you walk your dog. It will help you get some exercise, it will wear out your dog so you can study better later on, and you will be getting one more listen to some useful substantive bar prep material. Enjoy your walk, but if you infuse some bar prep into it, you won’t feel guilty about taking Fido on a little bit longer walk than usual.
2. Essays Before Breakfast
Getting started can be rough. You can find a million reasons to delay your bar prep. One way to get your day off on the right foot is to force yourself to do a set of practice essays before you have breakfast. Why before breakfast? Because you want to eat breakfast, but you may not be that eager to start bar prep. If you need a carrot to motivate yourself, nothing is better than breakfast. Why essays? Because you likely don’t like doing essays. You could do MBEs, but knocking out some of your more daunting tasks for the day first is a way to ensure a successful bar prep day.
3. Flashcards during Commercials (or between episodes)
If you take a TV break, build in some flashcard or outline review. If you are watching something live on old fashioned TV, mute it during commercials and get through some review. If you are binge watching something, take 15 minutes out between episodes. Whether you are pro- or anti- flashcard, find some way to review that can reinforce your day’s study. Again, this will never replace actual studying, but it could build some extra review.
4. Study for Snacks
It may seem beneath a law-school educated adult, but set yourself a reward schedule for the little things—like you would for a child. What study snack do you indulge in to keep yourself going? Is it Oreos? Potato chips? Starbucks Frappuccinos? When you set out your bar prep schedule, bracket off what you need to accomplish before you earn study snacks. Setting objective, pre-defined standards will make you accountable. It may seem silly, but most everyone has some tasty treat they would gladly do an extra set of essays to earn. Make your rewards obtainable, don’t cheat the system, and your study snacks will taste all the better because you earned them with hard bar prep work.
5. Before Bed, Write in your Daily Diary – Bar-Exam Style
Before bedtime, write a bar exam diary entry (or journal entry, if you prefer). Keep notes during the day if you need to, but before you close out the day, write out all the work you did. If you want to review the substance, that is all the better, but the main value of the exercise is taking account of your progress. If your list is a healthy list that neatly tracks your bar prep plan, you will be encouraged and go off to sleep with confidence that you are on your way to being well prepared. If your list is embarrassingly short, you can take stock of how your bar prep is going. Assessing your progress daily will help you stay on track and allow you to course correct more quickly. Aside from that, many keep a diary or journal because it is therapeutic to write about stressful or emotional moments in life. Bar prep is always stressful and sometimes emotional.
If all goes well, you only have to make it through bar exam prep once in a lifetime. Make the most of the time and immerse yourself in the material. If you live, eat, and sleep bar prep (or at least build some bar prep into your daily routine), you can go into the exam bar exam prepared and confident.