So, I want to let you into a little secret about getting the most done during bar prep days. I know what you may be thinking: energy drinks, early morning wake ups, or late-night cramming. But no, this isn’t the way to get through a monster bar prep to do list.
It’s pretty simple actually. Slot high energy tasks into high energy times, and slot lower energy tasks into lower energy times.
A Typical Bar Prep Task List
Let me break down what that really means. Now that you are prepping for the bar, you have a lot of items on your daily to do list. A typical bar prep day in the first six weeks or so of study might include these types of tasks:
- Watch lectures on an area of substantive law
- Complete a set of MBE practice questions
- Read an outline for an assigned topic
- Write and review the sample answer for an assigned essay
Many commercial bar review providers, like Themis, BARBRI, and Kaplan will provide a queue of items for you to do each day. Many students approach these queues thinking that they should proceed mechanically from the first item to the last item. But, when you take a closer look at the typical items on the task list, they vary greatly in how much energy they require to complete.
Lecture First Probably Isn’t the Best Game Plan!
Watching a substantive law lecture is a passive activity—you watch and absorb the information, but you are not actively engaged in producing legal analysis. The same goes for reading an outline for an assigned topic. Because these are passive study techniques, they take, relatively speaking, little energy. Contrast the more active study tasks. For example, completing MBEs and writing essays and performance test responses. Practice essays and performance tests probably rate the highest in terms of energy required. After all, you need to recall information, synthesize concepts, and draft actual legal analysis!
Many students who try the mechanical top to bottom approach for completing the daily queue of tasks find themselves completing the lectures but failing to complete the more active tasks like practice MBEs and essays. How can you avoid this trap?
Match the Task with Your Energy Level
Again, here’s the key: slot high energy tasks into your high energy times. This process really starts with awareness of your own rhythms. If I look at my own daily energy level, it’s probably the highest right when I sit down to work after breakfast. I can work pretty effectively for about 2-3 hours, and then I need to stop for a snack and break. When I return, I still can manage pretty difficult tasks for a few hours, but by early afternoon I am dragging! After lunch, I notice that I have a long period of low energy. Sometimes, after taking a break and refueling at dinner, I have a brief additional burst of energy before bed.
So, for me, the best time to slot in high energy tasks like practice tests is in the morning. Reviewing the law and listening to lectures would be a better afternoon task for me. I could probably slot in an additional practice test in the evening after dinner on days that I need to make it through several high energy tasks.
Unsure of what your high and low energy times are? Consider keeping a bar journal to track patterns and assess which study rhythms are most effective for you.
Make Use of Low-Energy Moments by Prepping for the High-Energy Task
If you are really having a hard time getting practice tests done, then consider using very low energy times for “administrative prep” for the practice test. For example, one student I coached recently had a special fear of the performance test. She would leave practice PTs undone day after day. She also knew she could not effectively retain information after 9 pm, so that time was not well used for reviewing substantive law. But she still managed to eke some value out of this otherwise dead time: she started using the last few minutes of the study day to prepare for the next morning’s practice test. She would prepare her desk so that as soon as she sat down in the morning she could take the dreaded performance test. She left her performance test book open to the needed page and made sure she had available her laptop and black pen.
There is probably a bar prep high energy task that you are having a hard time tackling too. Just remember: slot it in your high energy time. You’ve got this!
Looking for more advice on how to make the most of your commercial bar review course? Check out this podcast for helpful tips!