Staying sane while studying for the bar exam is a necessary skill. Try avoiding a nervous breakdown while comprehending the rule against perpetuities at three in the morning, knowing that there is another practice test tomorrow that Barbri will tell you you’ve failed in its sociopathic plot to force you to study harder.
Each of us copes with this hell in our own ways. We find distractions, little things to prevent ourselves from burning out. Over the two months studying for the bar exam, some of us find new hobbies, passions, and discover great TV shows on Netflix.
In case you have not selected your bar exam distraction yet, here are some suggestions for the remaining weeks.
Watch The West Wing or X-Files on Netflix
Yes, the West Wing and X-Files are old. But they also had a lot of seasons. This means you will have enough 44-minute study breaks to last you the two months of bar exam prep. The last thing you want to do is run out of a TV show while studying for the bar. Then your sanity will suddenly collapse. This is why people who tried watching Firefly as a bar exam distraction failed the bar at a higher rate than others (probably).
Remember, studying for the bar exam is a marathon, not a sprint. You do not need to watch every episode in a row, nor should you. One good thing about each episode of The West Wing and X-Files is they can be watched as a one-off — perfect for a study break. Originally, Breaking Bad was on this list, but no one can watch just one episode at a time.
Last point – at the end of the bar exam, you will probably be turned off forever from your study break TV show. Choose a show that has been off the air for awhile. Watching it a few months down the road will trigger your PTSD / war flashbacks.
Image Credit: Big Light
Buy What You Do Not Need on Amazon or eBay
If you derive satisfaction from buying stuff you kind of want, getting packages sent to your door, and opening boxes—knowing deep down that you probably will never touch it later—this one is for you.
It is an easy way to reward yourself. Just finished four hours of the practice MBE? Buy yourself that cool iPhone case. If it is your prerogative, research your purchase thoroughly to really stretch out the buying process. Spend at least three cumulative hours in analyzing your purchase of $150 headphones. eBay provides a more engaging alternative to Amazon because you get the thrill of bidding against others in an auction and tracking your bid along the way.
Featured image: “man shopping” from Shutterstock.
Plan your Bar Trip
Planning on taking a vacation after the bar? You earned it. After one year of hell, one year of work, and one year of boredom followed by a stressful two months, you should kick back and relax.
Instead of studying about personal jurisdiction and minimum contacts, plan on visiting another jurisdiction: Thailand, Istanbul, Iceland, a beach, a cruise, a road trip, wherever. You have two months to plan where you will end up eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. You have no excuse to pick a bad restaurant.
Featured image: “Longboat and rocks on Railay beach in Krabi, Thailand” from Shutterstock.
Learn to Code
If you are so burned out that you cannot fathom any more learning, skip this one.
If you can handle it, consider learning another language or learning how to program. In two months, you can probably be decent at HTML/CSS and be able to create your own website. It will be great for when you decide to start your bar exam blog. And it is another line to add to your resume. Bonus.
Featured image: “Silhouette of businessman who appears through the matrix background” from Shutterstock.
Learn to Cook
Halfway through June, your bedroom will probably be littered with takeout containers. Your credit card bill next month will be a stream of Seamless.com entries. Well, here you have the opportunity to take a mental break, save yourself some money, and save yourself some calories. Learn how to make gnocchi or risotto. It is easy, tasty, and impresses dinner guests.
The hard part will probably be finding time to go food shopping. But, that is why we have online delivery services like Fresh Direct and Peapod. And look at that – now you get to cook and shop online.
Featured image: “Delicious portion of fresh salmon filet with aromatic herbs, spices, and vegetables — healthy food, diet or cooking concept” from Shutterstock.
Learn a Random Skill
If you are going to watch TV shows or videos online, you should learn a life skill in the process.
One mate of mine watched YouTube videos on how to tie different knots . . . actually, that sounds like a really terrible idea. Learning how to tie knots while studying for the bar exam is a very bad idea.
While I studied for the bar exam, I learned card tricks. As I started studying for the bar, I had zero knowledge of sleight of hand. But, I figured this would be a good time to learn something new and be semi-productive away from studying. I went to YouTube, watched a bunch of poorly shot videos, kept a deck of cards in my backpack, and practiced when I was bored of trying to memorize all of the divorce issues about New York Domestic Relations Law. Now, I am solidly “not bad” at card tricks, and I am also a lawyer! Two birds with one stone.
Featured image: “A man showing a playing card trick” from Shutterstock.
Perfect your Martini Recipe
Good evening, Mr. Bond.
Many of us who study for the bar exam unwind after a long day with a glass of wine, cold beer, or some of the harder stuff. Step up your hosting game, become a classy lady or fella, and learn to make a great cocktail. In case this law thing does not work out, you can be a very educated bartender.
Featured image: “Bartender is making cocktail at a bar counter, toned image” from Shutterstock.
Exercising can help you study longer and be more mentally aware. A break from the books spent on the elliptical or in the weight room can do your body and your brain good.
Though you may be tempted, do not bring the books onto the elliptical with you. You need a mental break. Work out strong and then hit the books hard when you’re done.
Featured image: “Man running on a treadmill concept for exercising, fitness and healthy lifestyle” from Shutterstock.
Go Extreme and Learn to Surf
After weighing the pros and cons, you realized you could study for the bar from anywhere in the world, relatively inexpensively, thanks to Internet and online bar exam courses. Now you are in Thailand and living by the beach. Everyone is jealous of you. Since your friends already hate you, you should add photos of you surfing to your Facebook timeline to enrage them even more. You will come back to take the bar exam with a tan while your classmates are dealing with Vitamin D deficiencies.
Featured image: “Surfer on blue ocean wave getting barreled” from Shutterstock.
Play a Video Game
Time to plug in that old N64 and fire up Goldeneye.
Bar exam study breaks are best taken a half-hour or hour at a time to help you decompress . Video games are a great way to dive into something completely unrelated yet walk away from relatively easily to get back into studying.
That being said, certain types of games are better than others. For example, any long narrative-form game like an RPG or adventure game, you might skip, because this happens:
“I said I was only going to play twenty minutes of Tomb Raider and that turned into six hours.”
Instead, I would recommend sports games, even if you don’t love sports games. Sports games are easy to get into and out of. You play one match for your allotted study break and you’re done. Easy to get into. Easy to walk away from. That’s what is key.
Start a Blog
If you are starting a solo practice post-law school, a website and blog will go a long way to help you build your profile.
Since you won’t have a running law firm website for your practice until you are admitted, if you start out with a blog you can build up some web traffic in the meantime.
Consider these recommendations before you start:
- First research some people who are doing what you want to be doing
- Come up with a list of some blog posts you want to write (start with 6-12 to begin with)
- Start writing a few drafts
- Choose a theme/branding for your blog
- Set up a minimal, no-frills blog site, and start going!
If you like reading for leisure, do it. A classmate of mine used her study breaks to go through the Harry Potter novels for the fourth time.
Pick something lighter that’s easy to get through. I would not recommend Infinite Jest for a bar exam study break.
When I was in law school, this wasn’t even on my radar as something I could do that could do. No one talked about taking a meditation break, which is weird because meditation can be very de-stressing.
In hindsight, I wish there were a blog that would have recommended that I try meditating while studying for the bar exam. And now we have this blog!
Awesome—you have an advantage I didn’t have.
So, try meditating. Use a mobile app like Headspace to help ease you into it. Sessions start at only 10 minutes at a time, which is very easy to get into. It’s not like you need to block off a few hours out of your day.
At first, you might feel like you’re “not getting it” or that you are having a tough time “clearing your mind,” but getting into meditation is like exercise. Over time you’ll get better form, and it’ll come easier.
Read the next post in this series: "11 Tips for Reducing Stress and Studying Better in the Last Week Before the Bar Exam."