It’s easy to get discouraged when studying. Mountains of materials make it all overwhelming. But please remember that education is a treasure; it is an endless gift to be able to spend time learning. Confront challenges and problem solve to dissipate road blocks. And, try hard to put a smile on your face when you are working. It is amazing how inner positivity can have a productive ripple effect.
Many students share that as midterms and finals approach, and during bar prep, they find themselves unusually eager to clean their homes, review and delete old emails, clip their toenails. You get the idea – anything other than studying!
Here are tips if this is your situation:
- Know that procrastination is normal. Lose the self-criticism.
- See some procrastinating as a positive. Sometimes, it does serve a useful purpose – helping re-charge your batteries so that you are all-in when you are studying.
- If your procrastination is paralyzing, rather than positive, seek help from reliable, expert resources.
- Think of an academic goal as a series of finite projects. It is more tempting to avoid something that feels like a huge challenge. Identifying tasks as doable parts of a project makes them more approachable.
- Once you identify the various tasks, ask yourself if any of them feel overwhelming, and see if you can get some help with those pieces of the puzzle.
- List what you tend to do when you procrastinate and schedule specific, limited time slots for those things. Don’t make them guilty pleasures. Make them a controlled part of your day. For example, if you procrastinate with social media, you may find yourself losing many hours. If you know that every day, you have social media “office hours,” you will be less apt to use that as an escape.
- Study first, then take your time “off.”
- Adopt a routine. Being on a schedule will help your body and brain “accept” that you just do particular tasks at certain times. You just do.
- Talk to yourself about how good you feel when you accomplish what you set out to do. And, if it’s helpful, remind yourself how icky it feels when you don’t. Simple example: many people have a habit of never going to sleep with dirty dishes in the sink. No matter how tired they are, they just don’t procrastinate on that one. Why? They find it pleasant to wake to a clean sink and very unpleasant to wake to dirt. They also realize that the task gets more difficult the longer food sticks to dishes. And, they know that a sink for of dirty dishes attracts bugs.
- Articulate why your big goals are important and valuable. And give yourself props for all the hard work you are doing.
#studysuccess, #academicsuccess, #lawschool, #lawstudent, #ASP, #barsuccess
It is easy to feel stuck in pandemania, but there will be a future, and the time is now to prepare yourself for it. The time is now to push through the challenges, to seek and receive assistance if you need it, and to follow your vision – one step at a time.
All posts on this blog are my own; they do not represent any institution.
The present state of the world, in pandemic, reminds us that we are all connected, and we are all in this together. For that reason, my current playlist includes a set of recordings by many different artists the world over called, “Playing for Change” –songs around the world. Here are just some of many Playing for Change songs:
- One Love/Playing for Change
- A Change is Gonna Come/Playing for Change
- The Weight/Playing for Change
- La Bamba/Playing for Change
- Clandestino/Playing for Change
- Redemption Song/Playing for Change
- Lean on Me/Playing for Change
- What’s Going On/Playing for Change
- Ripple/Playing for Change
- Down By the Riverside/Playing for Change
- Sitting on the Dock of the Bay/Playing for Change
- Higher Ground/Playing for Change
- Imagine/Playing for Change
- Gimme Shelter/Playing for Change
- Take me Home Country Roads/Playing for Change
- Stand By Me/Playing for Change
- Words of Wonder/Get Up Stand Up/Playing for Change
- Rivers of Babylon/Playing for Change
- Pata Pata/Playing for Change
- Listen to the Music/Playing for Chane
- Everyday People/Playing for Change
For more info, from Wikipedia: “Playing For Change was founded in 2002 by Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke. Producers Johnson and Enzo Buono traveled around the world to places including New Orleans, Barcelona, South Africa, India, Nepal, the Middle East and Ireland. Using mobile recording equipment, the duo recorded local musicians performing the same song, interpreted in their own style. Among the artists participating or openly involved in the project are Vusi Mahlasela, Louis Mhlanga,Clarence Bekker, David Guido Pietroni, Tal Ben Ari (Tula), Bono, Keb’ Mo’, David Broza, Manu Chao, Grandpa Elliott, Keith Richards, Toots Hibbert from Toots & the Maytals, Taj Mahal and Stephen Marley. This resulted in the documentary A Cinematic Discovery of Street Musicians that won the Audience Award at theWoodstock Film Festival in September 2008.Mark Johnson was walking in Santa Monica, California, when he heard the voice of Roger Ridley (deceased in 2005)singing “Stand By Me“; it was this experience that sent Playing For Change on its mission to connect the world through music. The founders of Playing For Change created the Playing For Change Foundation, a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.”
So proud of all my students. It’s hard to dig in, after graduation, and get ready for yet another exam. But, this is the last one. And, it’s so worth all the effort.
You CAN do this. You can pass the bar exam. Dig in and embrace bar review. It is an opportunity to get to do this kind of intense learning.
Don’t view it as torture or hazing. Throw yourself in. Think of the bar exam as a photo that right now is blurry and out of focus. But each week as you get closer to the exam, you learn more and more, you refine your knowledge and your command of each subject, and that blurry photo comes more and more into focus. By July it will be crystal clear.
July is your exam to pass!
PS. I know I wrote about this days ago, but I just learned of a dear friend — a beautiful, vibrant, smart, and talented college grad whose life was taken from her at age 22. If there is a lesson in this loss it is to make the most of every moment we have. Don’t view study as torture. Don’t waste a moment feeling bitter, or angry, or sad. Embrace the studies. Learn all that you can. And, know that you are on a road to not only do well but do good. Your future is bright. Embrace it!
Many college and graduate school students must work while studying. A couple of thoughts.
- When you get your syllabus, calendar midterms and finals, and ask your employer if it’s possible to work fewer hours (or take off entirely) during the weeks prior to those exams in exchange for working additional hours once exams are over.
- Don’t wait until after work when you might be too tired to study. If you have to work while in intense study mode, put in an hour or two in the morning before work, an hour at a lunch break, and an hour or two after work. You will get 5 hours a day in this way, without having them all crunched in when you are perhaps too burned out to focus.
- Use “work” as time off from studying and studying as time off from work –at least during finals. During those high gear weeks before finals (or months if studying for the bar, boards, or a big standardized test), eliminate or reduce if possible any responsibilities other than work and studying. Obviously if you are the sole caretaker of young children or elderly parents you cannot “eliminate” those responsibilities –but try if possible to get someone or hire someone to help out or act as your “relief pitcher.”
- Though work and studying will (and should) take nearly all your focus, continue if at all possible to exercise, sleep, and eat well. Brain work takes a great deal of energy. Your focus, your ability to learn and retain information and to think clearly will all be enhanced by effective self care.
These simple few suggestions in no way imply that juggling work and studies is easy, especially if you also have familial responsibilities. But hopefully these tips will help make the trying task a bit easier. Keep up the good work and hard work, and draw on your internal motivations to rise to this admittedly very tough challenge.
Being nice pays off. (Maslin Nir, NY Times 4/17/2017) . When we disagree profoundly with others, especially about existential or deeply personal issues, it can be hard to be nice. With college campus issues surrounding free speech swirling, complex issues albeit, how about we start by encouraging students (and all of us) to learn to disagree, politely and respectfully? It is not easy or always intuitive to disagree politely, especially when issues run to the core of one’s values. So we have to practice, in and outside of the classroom.
I have been thinking about this lately because I am considering adopting ground rules for classroom dialogue –wanting to encourage students to critique each other but at the same time insisting they do so thoughtfully and in a civil manner. Can we all practice that? Can we train ourselves and, professors, can we train our students, to re-phrase our words to “respectfully dispute” the other’s points? The key is this –dispute the other’s points, while remaining respectful of the other him or herself.
Sometimes, having a stock phrase in our heads that we can call up in tense situations helps us to pause, take a breather from the temptation to overreact, and instead to choose a thoughtful reaction –in some instances, choosing to remain silent and just letting the other air his or her views without reply. (Note: I was reminded of the importance of civil discourse and of sometimes just remaining silent in a recent and most thoughtful sermon given by Rabbi Andrew Jacobs.)
What do I mean by stock phrases? Here are examples. I know, they are a silly, but they are catchy on purpose, for easy recall. And, remember, you can say them, or they can serve as internal tools to keep them in your own head to remind yourself to pause before reacting.
- “You engage, you enrage.” A wise lawyer gave this advice to certain clients involved in terribly tense litigation: “Keep this phrase in your back pocket so that we can work together to diffuse and resolve the situation.” Essentially, she was saying “don’t add fuel to the fire.” She urged her clients to simply say to themselves, “You engage you enrage” every time they were tempted to even speak directly to the opposing party, and thus to help them hold their tongues. [Note: most litigants can still sit together to work out settlements, even in tense litigation, but occasionally, things have just gone too far and parties must let all “oxygen” out of the situation for the fire to subside.]
- “I respectfully disagree.” Just using that phrase as a preface, especially if you follow it with a deliberate pause, can disarm the person you are disagreeing with, and buy you a moment to reflect and choose your next words more carefully than had you simply blurted back a retort.
- “That is a very interesting point.” We all know this as the hedging comment that often means “You are way off.” But it doesn’t have to be dismissive or rude. And, remember, this post is about phrases you can say or keep in your own head. If you say it aloud, mean it genuinely. (Even blatantly offensive comments can be interesting. ‘Why did this person just say that? What is behind the remark?’) Think about how just that one line can diffuse a situation. You can shorten this to simply nodding to acknowledge you have heard the other, saying nothing aloud, and murmuring “Interesting, interesting” to yourself in your own head while you decide what if anything to say in response.
- “I need to think about that for a bit.” This is a stock phrase to say aloud to buy yourself time. (Of course this is not an appropriate apply to a blatantly immoral comment. But in many situations that could otherwise escalate because of a reaction, it can be entirely appropriate and useful.)
- “People are for hugging, not for hitting.” OK, this last one is ridiculous right? Let me put it in context. This phrase was given to parents of toddlers who were in a stage where they hit, pulled hair, bit, etc. To avoid getting angry and yelling at the child, or worse, parents who mechanically but calmly recited this refrain bought themselves a moment to gather their thoughts and decide upon an appropriate response or consequence.
The bottom line, respectful discourse as we see on a daily basis is not intuitive and perhaps it has ceased to be the norm. All the more reason to train ourselves, our students, and our children to engage in thoughtful, civil dialogue, and to know how to disagree with someone’s views without attacking the person we disagree with. Stock phrases can be useful tools in this endeavor to encourage civil discourse.
If you have “stock phrases” you use to create a “thought pause” in tense situations, please comment so I can share them with readers.
Many students who are parents say they feel guilty that law school is taking them “away” from their kids. If your children are in elementary, middle or high-school, know that your studying is positive role modeling. You are teaching them discipline and the value of hard work through your actions. (Teaching is much more effective than preaching!) Do not be surprised if your children do better in school when you too are studying.
The following are a few practical pointers:
- If you have dependent children or aging parents who must be able to reach you in an emergency, give them a code or special ring tone for an emergency call or text. You’ll know if it’s something you need to read or listen right away or if it can wait until when you decide to take the study break you have earned by completing whatever tasks were on your schedule.
- Keep “office hours” so your family knows when you are studying and not to be interrupted, and when you are available. Even if it’s an hour a day at dinner every night, keep your commitment to them. It is even more important when you are gone a lot to be consistent and reliable. If they know when they can depend on you to give them your full attention, (and you truly follow through on that, at one certain time each day), they may be better able to leave you alone the rest of the day.
- Be sure to include your family (children, significant other, parents) where you can productively do so. When you take “breaks,” ask them to test you with flashcards. (Just be prepared, your kids may have memorized the rules before you do!)
- Play audio versions of your lectures while you are driving, cooking, cleaning, or playing with kids.
- Bring flashcards (or better still have them on your smart phone) to test yourself if you are at the park or waiting in line at the market.
- If you have young children, read your outlines or cases aloud. Infants and toddlers mostly just want to hear your voice and be close to you. Whether you are reading Dr. Seuss, Shakespeare or Farnsworth on Contracts may not matter so much!
Excerpted from Pass the Bar Exam –a must-read for all law students.
Today I blogged for readers who just found out that they failed the bar exam. The same sad, angry, and frustrated feelings occur when we experience other kinds of “set back” and the same opportunities to learn from the past and succeed going forward present themselves. Seize them!
- Did you get lower grades than you wanted this year? Get on a mission to figure out how to get better grades going forward. Talk to professors, classmates who did well, review your old exams. Figure out what you did and did not do and how to change your patterns to achieve better results next time.
- Did you not get a job or internship you wanted? Ask people on the hiring committee very politely if you could have just a few minutes of their time to find out how you can improve your resume, cover letter, or interviewing presence. Find out what they were looking for and see how that differs from what you gave them. Talk with experts in your career services center. Show them your resume. And, begin applying for other jobs implementing some of the new strategies you are learning.
- Did not get on that fitness routine you promised yourself? Problem solve. Figure out what stopped you. Did you just not make time? Calendar time to exercise as if it were a date with the person you want to see more than anyone on the planet, or as if it were an appointment with a specialist that you waited months to see. Or did you expect too much, do too much at first and feel sore and defeated? Start slowly. Just find time for a short walk today. Then, build up to a longer more robust routine.
- Did not get to dabble in online learning tools. Perhaps you are a professor and just finished a great semester where you taught many wonderful things but did not get to the learning you had been wanting to do about online tools you have heard might supplement your teaching in new and innovative ways. Make this summer your time to learn a bit about distance learning, and how today’s students learn best.
So, if you are a law student, read this post as is. But if you are not a law student, substitute the words “failed bar exam” for any other “set back” you recently experienced and problem solve about turning that into a powerful step forward in the future. The same sorts of struggles and potential triumphs will most likely apply in some important ways to you.
Failed the bar exam? Re-frame this “set back” as an empowering opportunity to learn to succeed going forward.)
Bottom line, we all know the phrase turning “lemons into lemonade,” let’s try today to turn last year’s “set backs” into leaps forward for next year!
In Chapter 2 of PASS The Bar Exam: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals, I wrote about developing your Plan for Success. That plan for success, I said, starts with looking at the timeline of what must happen between where you are now and your goal in order to achieve what you desire.
I wrote about how to get the most out of every step on your way to achieving your goal –sorting out what is critical and what may be distracting. The choices you make along the way can make achieving your goal much easier or much more difficult.
Then, after looking at that big-picture timeline, I recommend drilling down and looking at two months prior to achieving your goal, and taking a week-by-week snapshot. Often times where people get derailed or give up is just prior to achieving success. Those last few weeks are critical.
A mentor of mine once suggested that at all times, one should have a one-year plan (with one or more goals), and a five-year plan. I have taken this advice to heart myself and talked with many of my students about the same.
As a college student, law student or graduate student, it’s fairly easy to develop these plans around your curriculum while you are in school. At the beginning of school, when you start in your first year, your longer term plan may be to graduate from the program of study doing your very best. But, do you stop and look at each year, one year at a time?
If not, I urge you to give it a try. What do you want to accomplish each year of school? (If you are having difficulties setting these goals, picture yourself one year from now talking with someone who asks you how last year when and what you accomplished. What will make you happy to look back on and describe for that person?) Do you want to be able to say:
- You got good grades,
- You were accepted for a certain internship,
- You volunteered for a cause you believe in,
- You networked (made lifelong friends with classmates, got to know professors, met professionals in the field you intend to pursue).
Then, consider a five-year plan. Where would you like to be working? What work environment would you like to be in? What would you like your personal life to be like? Do you have health or fitness goals? Do you have community service goals?
A well-known driving safety tip is to keep your eye both on the immediate road ahead and at the same time on what is in the distance and surroundings ahead. The same principle applies in goal-setting and achieving success. Focus on today. Knock off as much as you can on today’s To Do list. But develop both a one-year and a five-year plan. Even if they change radically (which is fine as unforeseen opportunities may come into your path at any moment!) it will still help you steer the vehicle that is you safely and successfully toward your destination.