Although the time that you spend studying for the bar exam is not that long when compared to many other things you have done as a law student, it is an intensive, stressful, and often monotonous process. In the first days and weeks of bar prep, it can be relatively easy to stay focused on what you need to accomplish, but, as time goes on, it may be harder and harder to motivate yourself to spend the amount of time studying that is really required for success on the bar exam. At this point in the summer, it may be time to add some motivational techniques to your study plan.
One way to motivate yourself as you study is to create a reward system. For example, some law students have already developed a reward system that is easily adapted to studying for the bar. In this system, the student chooses some type of snack system—it could be M&Ms, gummy bears, pistachios, blueberries, or something else that is small and appealing to you. One item is placed next to each paragraph, page, section, etc. of the study materials, depending upon how often you want to reward yourself. As you finish that part of your reading, you then get to eat your snack reward.
Another way to approach the reward system is to think of something that you really enjoy doing. Some examples might include: going to a movie; playing a video game; getting a pedicure; or going to the zoo or a museum. Set a “price” for that experience, in the form of points. Then determine how many points you can earn for various study activities. Study away and start racking up the points! Once you have earned enough points, you can “cash” them in for a little study break.
Giving yourself something to look forward to, however small, can be a great way of infusing new purpose into your studies.
Improved Study Environment
Another way to motivate yourself is to figure out a way to improve your study environment. Once again, this is a technique that gives you something to look forward to as you study. Maybe you love coffee—you might get yourself a gourmet bean that you only allow yourself to brew when you are studying for the bar exam. If tea is your thing, you might splurge on a special loose leaf tea and even make the brewing process part of your de-stress routine. It might be a special snack, or a lunch item that you look forward to. Or maybe it is a particular pen that is more expensive, but the smooth flow of the ink, or maybe its color, satisfies something inside of you. (Some people adopt inexpensive fountain pens, for example.)
Whatever it is, knowing that you have something special that you like but only get when you are studying can provide additional motivation for bar studies.
Finally, as we’ve discussed previously, creating accountability can be a great way of motivating yourself as you study for the bar. Approach a friend who is also in the midst of bar prep, and create a system with that person so that you check in each day and see how things are going. It’s amazing how, when you set goals and articulate them to someone else, you are inspired to accomplish what you’ve set out to do.
Whatever approach you decide to take, focus on motivating yourself to work hard at your bar studies. I’ve never heard bar takers say that they regretted studying hard for the bar, but I have heard those who failed the bar exam say that they wished they’d pushed harder.