If you’re one of the many who received disappointing bar exam results last month and you plan to retake it in February, your bar prep is probably getting into full swing by now.  Or perhaps, like me, you graduated late in the year and will take the February exam for the first time.  Same thing – you’re probably delving deeper into bar prep by the day.  You may be thinking, “How can I possibly do all this studying through the holiday season??”  Or maybe you’re an optimist – I know I am.  But I’m also a realist and probably a lot of other -ists that aren’t important right now.   What I’m trying to say is, here’s some free advice on studying through the holidays from someone who’s been there, done that, and survived the February exam.

For most of us, Thanksgiving to New Years is a full-on frenzy of activity filled with holiday parties, special events, maybe some houseguests from out of town, and so on.  There’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday and a whole lot of Christmas shopping – don’t even get me started on the shopping. Plus, if you have school-age kids, they’ll be on vacation for half of December and buzzing around like bumblebees.  Don’t get me wrong – I love the holidays.  But how can you study for the bar exam during all of this??

I’m a planner.  So early on, probably August or September, I could already see what was on the horizon. I knew there would be tension when both the holidays and my bar prep plans were getting into full-swing at the same time.  I knew I’d be pressured (or at least feel pressured) to participate in the holiday season hoop-la, but I also knew that to be a contender on the bar exam I’d need to fully focus on bar prep.  More pressure.

Not wanting my head to explode during the process, I announced early to my husband and daughter that I would be taking a pass on the holidays that year.  After they processed the news, I got more specific about what that meant.  This is where the free advice comes in.

I made up my mind that I would attend exactly 2 holiday parties – one for my law firm and the other, my husband’s company party.  No others. December is always full of invites to various events and social gatherings, and  I simply did not have the time.  I didn’t send out holiday cards. And Christmas shopping? Please. I married into a large, wonderful, close-knit family with lots of kids.  Lots of shopping.  Even making the list would have boggled my mind.

So.  I announced these decisions to my husband and daughter, hoping they would get on board, and they did.  They knew how important it was to me (and to them) and offered to fill in for what I normally would do.  Of course, that didn’t prevent the other family and friends texting or calling me about this or that party, “Can’t you just come for the dinner part? You have to eat anyway.  You can leave before the dancing starts!”  LOL.  I knew that if I gave in I’d get caught up in the festivities, stay too long, and it would be hard to get back on track the next day.  My husband went to some of these things “solo”, and frankly I was glad for the uninterrupted study time.  “Have fun honey. Don’t worry about me – stay as long as you want!  NOOO problem.”  Just kidding….kinda.

I must tell you that had I not taken a pass on the holidays, I would have never realized what a wonderful Christmas shopper my husband is!  It was impressive – he did 100% of it, including the ornament exchanges at both our office parties. He even wrapped all the gifts, along with my daughter who helped out a lot as well.  They both did a lot for me, and they knew what I needed help with.  I had specifically told them.

My point is, people will rise to the occasion, so long as you make it clear that you won’t be able to do what you normally do, and specifically what that means.  And by doing this, YOU will rise to the occasion as well.  Your details might be different than mine, but I encourage you to carefully consider what you can and can’t do this month, decide what that looks like, and commit to your decision.  Pat yourself on the back and power through it, politely declining (deflecting) the invites, and do what you need to do to conquer the bar exam.  After all, your best Christmas gift will arrive in May: “The name above appears on the pass list for the February bar exam.”

The holidays will come around again before you know it.  Heck, they happen every year.

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