Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Remember to Give Your Brain (and Body) a Rest

I suspect many of you followed your classmates and registered for Barbri or Kaplan. That means many of you have recently sat for a full-length practice MBE. That means many of you bombed that practice MBE. That means many of you are now freaking out, panicking, and attacking yourself with doubt and the fear of failing.

First of all - RELAX. (Seriously.) Go have a coke and a smile. You'll feel better.

No, seriously. . . Go have a coke and a smile. . . This post will still be here when you return. . .

(. . . .)

Okay. Feel a little better? Now, take a deep breath and have a heart-to-heart with yourself. That practice exam sucked. It was sobering, and the honeymoon is over. Now's the time to buckle down and focus. One month is plenty of time to continue studying and improve your practice scores. But unfortunately, one month is also a lot of time in which you can irreparably screw things up.

The most frequent shot-in-the-foot approaches moving forward will be over-studying, too many practice questions/essays, and carelessness for health and rest - usually a combination of all three.  If you continue down any of these paths, you are sealing your fate. I have seen it before: Two weeks before the exam and the bar examinee is strung out and teetering on the verge of a nervous breakdown. You will be exhausted and filled with doubt, and you will feel defeated. Ask yourself. . . Is that really how I want to walk into the bar exam?

Listen up, kids. As a tutor, some of the best advice I will give you has nothing to do with studying and everything to do with taking care of your mind and body. Preparing for the bar exam is incredibly taxing on your physical health, your psyche, mind, family life, and sense of worth. As much as you need to devote energy to studying, you also need to devote time these other parts. You won't be an efficient, effective studier without balancing your life.

I would not recommend following Barbri's Pace Program. It's unrealistic. I would not recommend studying 18 hours a day either. Nor would I recommend doing 100 practice MBEs a day, or shoveling down bird food for dinner. If you take care of yourself, you will take care of studying.

So how do you take care of yourself? Over the next month, incorporate these guidelines into your daily bar preparation.

  • Take off one day per week from studying. Do fun things with your family, friends, or significant other. Remember to laugh and tell yourself that, soon enough, the bar exam will be over. If you insist on not taking one day off, then at least take off a full afternoon. 
  • Get 8 solid hours of sleep per night. I'm serious. Your brain and body need rest from all that studying. If you don't give them what they need, they won't give you what you need. 
  • Eat well, and eat healthy. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Again, your body and brain need constant charging from all this studying. You don't hesitate to charge your phone when its battery is low. Do the same for yourself. Also, cut out the junk food as much as you can. Eat fresh things, things you love. Make real meals, not microwave. The extra half hour it requires will not make the difference between passing and failing. Not at all. 
  • If you did a regular activity before you began studying, don't stop! Go to the movies, play in your pick-up soccer games, go to the BBQ outing or church function. Have a drink with your friend.
  • Don't study for more 8-9 hours per day. But make them a solid 8-9 hours. If you take 14 hours to produce 8-9 solid hours, something's wrong. Reevaluate your approach. Your brain can only absorb so much in a day. After 8-9 solid hours, you're just throwing paper at a wall. Some will stick, but most will not. And in the process, as your mind and body grow tired, you'll begin to chip away at all the good work you did in those 8-9 hours earlier. Tired, inefficient studying is not good studying. 
  • Keep a schedule, and incorporate these bullets above into your schedule. Yes, you can afford to do them; you have the time. But seriously, keep a good schedule. Not a day-to-day one, but a week-to-week one. Know how your Friday will look on Monday.
Listen to your body. Listen to your brain. If they need something, drop your books and give it to them. You can afford the time, but you can't afford to fail them! Good luck, and hang in there. You're doing great!

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