Note: This post is relevant to everyone studying. Whether you are in high school, college, law school or any other graduate study, if you are giving it your all, you will burn out from time to time. Here’s how to re-charge!
You are perfectly normal if you are thinking, “Not another day of this stuff! I cannot handle any more studying. Not another lecture, paper, or practice test. I need to sleep. I need a day off. I need my life back!” You will have your life back when exams are over. But, for now, “Another day of this” is precisely what you must do. Another, and another, and another –all in high gear. You must remain totally motivated, batteries fully charged, util the last “time” is called on the last day of your last exam. For the upcoming bar exam, that is a full month away still. So you have lots of time. But you must make the most of it.
How to re-charge? How does one maintain that kind of persistent motivation? It’s not easy. I remember the first week of July when one of my classmates said, “Just bring it on already. I am so [expletive] sick of studying. I just want the test now. I’m tired.” I have to confess at the time I felt so un-ready for the Exam that I could not relate at all. I wanted every single day that remained to practice. I wanted every minute to get ready. I was happy to wait. But, I can relate now. Thousands of students later, I see how some people have just had it even by this time. Others want even more time to pull it all together. (They wish the exam were two more months later.) Wherever you fall on this spectrum, give yourself a break if you are feeling stressed and burned out. Stress and burnout are normal
Bottom line, you have no choice. You are taking this exam at the end of this month, are you better believe with all your heart, soul, and might that you going to pass! Done deal. No options. (To quote Apollo 13: “Failure is not an option.”)
What will you do on actual bar exam days? You will go in and do your very best. That is what you owe yourself. That is what must be done. So, how do you get through from now until then?
Here are 7 Tips to Prevent Bar Exam Burnout:
Most people are stressed, quite normally so. The best way to burn off the excess stress is to burn it out, with exercise.
Do something active every single day. Walking, yoga, biking, swimming, weight lifting, jogging, spinning, skating. Whatever you do, don’t skip a day. You must think of time exercising as an investment in your own success. It is never a waste of time. (If you simply cannot justify taking “time off” to exercise, then study while you are on a treadmill, or walk while playing a bar review lecture in headphones (or listening to a recording of yourself reading rule statements, see below.)
2) Pace yourself.
Take breaks. Remember even during the bar, you get close to a 2 hour lunch break between the morning and afternoon sessions. So, feel free to take long lunches now, each day. Stop fully and relax. Then get back into it. And, when you’ve put in a full day of studying, take off at night to relax before you get a good night’s sleep. And, make sure to get a good night’s sleep, each and every night.
3) Reward Yourself –daily and weekly.
Give yourself some daily reward. At the end of each evening, do something before you go to sleep that acknowledges a hard day’s work. (For some, that’s a mindless TV show. For others, a glass of wine. For others, a few minutes on social media.) And, give yourself a bigger treat to mark the end of each week of hard work. Every Sunday night, for example, go out to a really nice dinner, or watch a movie.
4) Plan (and book) an after-bar vacation. For those in college or graduate school, plan something fun for Spring break and summer!
Schedule something as soon as possible after the exam, something you really look forward to. Just thinking about that and knowing that you have something definite in August will help alleviate some of the burnout today. It can also be a great way to reward family and a significant other for letting you have time and space to study this June and July.
5) Shake up your study routine.
If you are tired of reading quietly, read aloud to yourself. One of my students found the way to keep motivated (and better retain the material) was to read aloud in a funny accent and record her voice reading rules. She played them back to herself while driving and laughed while learning.
Try charting, try flashcards, try re-typing sample answers.
Study in a different location one day. Explain the rules/theories you are most afraid will be tested on the bar exam to a lay person. (If you can explain something correctly to someone else, likely that means you have mastered it.)
Variety can go a long way to helping stop burnout before it drags you down.
6) Get comfortable with “practice test days.”
Practice days are critical. They will help you train the skills to pass. And, if your practice work has simulated the intensity of the real thing, you will be able to walk in to the actual exam with power and strength. You will have a ”been there, done that” attitude and confidence.
7) Above all, be kind to yourself.
This IS one of the hardest times in your life, one of the steepest mountains you will ever have to climb. The good news is, once you get through, it’s a lifetime license. You never have to do it again. Just pay your yearly dues and remain ethical, and you’ll keep your license for life.
PS. Be sure to eat lots of chocolate, and ice cream! It won’t add brain cells, but it should put a smile on your face!!!!!