Lets face it, studying for the bar exam is incredibly monotonous and boring. You can’t be creative, there is no opportunity for self-expression, and there’s no need for research. Basically just the same mundane rules of law over and over again. So, how do you stay motivated and interested? Some will tell you that fear of failing is the motivating factor! Perhaps this works to some degree, but I found that to be the most productive and keep up the bar prep pace, I needed some inspiring techniques during this arduous process.
Here are the 6 best tips that helped me stay focused and productive.
1. Create a New Study Area – Or Update the Space You Have
If you have been studying in the same room at the same desk, perhaps you need to spice it up a bit. It’s amazing how a simple thing such as a new vase with fresh flowers on my desk can instantly make me feel better – and ready to tackle the next practice essay. If flowers are not your thing, try a new desk tray, pencil holder, or book stand (I love this bookstand from Amazon and it’s currently only $14.99). You can also frame an inspiring quote and hang or display it near your desk.
2. Minimize Clutter in Your Study Space
Clutter equals disorder and has been known to create stress for those who live with it regularly. Piles of books, papers and notes scattered about your desk do nothing to make you feel at ease and confident about your study habits. Take a moment to evaluate your clutter – then get the organizing tools you need (Target, Staples and Office Depot have great office organizing collections). When everything has its place, you won’t waste valuable time looking for things that are lost in the mess.
3. Use Two Monitors For An Instant Productivity Boost
Wow, once you set up a second monitor display, you will wonder how you ever worked without it! I found it particularly useful for practicing essay writing using BarIssues.com because with 2 monitors, I could easily compare my essay to one of the student essay answers to see where I may have missed some issues. To learn how to set up a second monitor, follow these steps from Microsoft.
I bought two large cork bulletin boards, each 2 x 3 feet, and hung them side by side on the wall in front of my desk. I tacked onto these boards each of my 1-page outlines for every subject. They all fit and as I wrote out my practice essays and did my issue spotting, it really helped to be able to just look up and refresh my memory. Then, during the last few weeks I took them all down so I would not be tempted to cheat!
5. Put Up a Sign On Your Door To Post Your Study Hours
One of the hardest things to manage if you’re studying for the bar exam at home is to separate yourself from the rest of the household while still feeling like you’re a part of things. I created a template that read: “I AM STUDYING FOR THE BAR EXAM FROM _______ TO _______.” I printed up a bunch of these so I could fill in the blanks for my study time. I taped one to my door for each study period so that if my kids or my husband wanted to ask me something, instead of knocking on my door, they knew what time I would be available for them.
6. If You Don’t Have Your Own Study Room, Use a Screen Divider
There was a period of time during my bar exam studies when the only place I could study at home was in the living room. I staked out a corner for myself, set up a mini desk that I picked up on sale at Office Depot, and surrounded myself with an Oriental-style room divider screen (similar to this one). Then when I wasn’t studying I just folded up the screen and leaned it against the wall so the living room didn’t look so closed in. It worked – “out of sight – out of mind!” (and you can still hang up your sign right on the screen).
An efficient study space will increase your overall productivity by allowing you to find things faster and work more comfortably. This in turn will give you a feeling of positive accomplishment and help you stay focused. Yes, studying for the bar exam is grueling and if you haven’t been there, you can’t really comprehend how it feels. But for the rest of us, making your surroundings as pleasant and functional as possible will equip you with the stamina to see it through to the end. Good luck with your own happy and organized study space!