The 10ish weeks you spend preparing for the bar exam will go by faster than you can ever imagine. Once bar prep gets started, you won’t have the time to figure out how to best manage it. That is precisely why you need to plan now for how to best utilize your time. Use these tips to get you started.
Limit passive learning
There is only a finite amount of time to study for the bar exam. Every minute you waste on an activity that doesn’t actually help you pass the bar exam is a minute you can’t get back. That is why it is so important to limit the amount of time you spend on passive learning tasks, such as watching videos or reading outlines. Do not pause, slow down, or rewatch videos unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.
Engaging in too much passive studying is the number one reason students fail the bar exam. This is what I like to call the “too much time reading and watching and not enough time doing” problem. Bar review companies are great at assigning a bunch of videos to watch and giving you extremely long outlines to read. While these are valuable resources that can and should be utilized, they are not everything. Be careful to not let these activities eat up too much of your precious bar review time. Just implementing this one tip will go such a long way.
Protect your time
You can plan all day every day, but the thing that really makes time management work is actually executing the plan. In order to become a productivity machine, you must take two important steps to minimize distractions. The first is to set up boundaries with the people in your life. Let them know that you will be studying for the bar exam and that it is your number one priority for the next few months. Then, make sure you enforce those boundaries when they are tested. Because they will be tested.
The second is to set up boundaries for yourself. That means getting off the internet, turning off Netflix, and stepping away from your texts. Let’s face it, social media is the enemy of time management. I consider myself to be pretty good with managing my time. But, every so often, I find myself saying, “let me just check Facebook real fast,” and four hours later, I don’t even know what year it is.
However, technology is a double-edged sword, as there are also many apps available that can actually help keep you focused. For example, there are apps that completely block the internet from your phone or computer, block all social media, or allow you to set time limits on how long you can use certain apps or websites per day. Do some research to find the one that will best work with your phone, computer, and social media “needs.”
Mental and emotional burnout is a very real concern during bar prep. If you do not engage in proper self-care, you will eventually become so overwhelmed and exhausted that studying becomes ineffective. The best way to avoid burnout is to build free time into your schedule and to take regular breaks. Please note that this paragraph is not meant to give you permission to not work hard during bar prep. You’ve absolutely got to work hard and push yourself in order to pass the bar exam. Rather, this is a warning to know your limits, when to push them, and when to respect them in order to ensure that you cross the finish line victorious.
Set up an accountability system
The easiest person in the world to disappoint is yourself. So, if you are the only person who knows about your time management plan, you are far less likely to stick to it. I highly recommend sharing your goals and plan to reach them with an accountability partner. Ideally, the person you choose will be someone whose opinions and advice you respect as well as someone who will give you open and honest feedback if you are not working to your potential. You don’t want someone who will completely tear you down if you come up short, but you also don’t want someone who will accept all of your excuses and dismiss your lack of effort.
The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to bar exam time management is that time moves quickly. Make sure that you don’t get hung up on tasks that don’t serve your bar exam goals and to keep your eye on the prize.
Kerriann Stout is a millennial law school professor and founder of Vinco (a bar exam coaching company) who is generationally trapped between her students and colleagues. Kerriann has helped hundreds of students survive law school and the bar exam with less stress and more confidence. She lives, works, and writes in the northeast. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.