Answering the Call of Nature (Listening to Yourself When Studying for the Bar)

What? Not potty humor again!

Lol no, this is different, although I can probably try to come up with something if you want… or you can just log out if you don’t want to hear it.

You’re pacing around the bathroom avoiding eye contact with yourself and thinking, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if the bar is coming up in just X weeks, but I’m just drained physically, emotionally and spiritually and I don’t want to think about this anymore?”

Or maybe you got into a routine by now and are feeling complacent with how things are going. Either way, your body is trying to tell you something—nature is calling! We weren’t meant to slave over shitty exams for months.

Answering the call of nature

I could tell you to FOCUS! IT’S ONLY X WEEKS STRAIGHT! as your pupils struggle to focus on my words hammering on your conscience.

And yeah, I do think you should maintain an iron grip on your focus and willpower for a limited time when you’re taking the bar for real. Imagine Mario’s star power during the 12 hours of sitting in the exam hall and crushing everything. A moment of strength for the lifetime privilege of calling yourself a lawyer.

But before that happens, there’s something to be said about doing things how your body is designed to (including when studying for the bar).

There’s no need to force yourself to follow the one-size-fits-all-average-students schedule dictated by your bar company, or listen to lectures, or follow a magical diet (that works for some people for some time). EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT!

I submit that the reason the pass rate is dismal in many cases is because people go the “safe” route of doing whatever Barbri, Kaplan, and Themis tell them to do, instead of thinking about it and doing what makes sense for them.

And if your reasoned will, after thinking about it, is to simply follow Barbri’s program, I support your path 100%. Ultimately, this is your bar exam. Realistically, you’re the most invested in it, not Barbri, not even me.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you don’t just want the easy way out. You’re willing to do the hard work and the smart work. I believe that includes listening to yourself, which may involve trying different things and seeing what works for you.

I was at an alumni networking event the other day. Since I’m self-conscious about sounding routine, I like to test different phrases to see if they stick.

You can’t avoid them asking you the same old “what do you do, and where do you live” routine, but you can still steer the conversation. When it was my turn to ask where they lived (even though I’d rather avoid those questions) and got an answer, I asked, “Where is that? I learn about the geography around here by talking to people instead of actually going out myself!”

Dry humor takes time, I guess. So I’m probably not going to use that line again. Will you use a similar approach to observe what is working for you or not?

What happens if you think you’re a chronic procrastinator and lacking discipline? Are you screwed?

You know, I’m actually quite prone to indulging in distractions and taking frequent breaks. Last time, I put my head down and took a break in the exam hall in the middle of a PT (and a classmate noticed me “taking a nap” in the middle of our engineering final). Hey, I need a few minutes to relax after going through the file and library!

If our guilty pleasure is to give into brain fart once in a while, it doesn’t mean we’re “lazy people.” However, one way to deal with your pesky tendencies is to accept that you are prone to distractions and lack of discipline, and work around it. Here’s how I did it:
– Do something bar-related every day and make it a habit. You’ll likely find yourself actually getting into it once you start, and this requires less willpower.
– Use the 20/10 cycle.
– Get more done in the short time that you are focused (when you decide to focus, e.g., during the 20 in the 20/10 cycle, really focus).

Still don’t want to think about what to study when?

“Wait a minute. What do you mean everyone is different… You mean… I have to think up what to do, on my own?! Brian pls”

I’ve been getting questions about how to structure their remaining time. I mentioned some scheduling considerations in section 2 of 3 Myths to Discard and 3 Systems to Adopt, but people wanted an exact step-by-step schedule.

Unless you’re content with relying on a one-size-fits-all Barbri sequence and hoping it should be enough, what’s needed is different for each person.

I’ll explain what I mean in detail below, but first, don’t listen to me and don’t listen to them. That said, here’s my exact schedule from 2014 February. It will be the basis of my explanation (click on the image to see full size):

February schedule

I’ll describe the rationale behind my schedule, which you CAN use for ideas (but as suggested, don’t just copy day for day just because it worked for me). In the above schedule, Jan. 19 was when I started focusing on each subject at a time.

For essays, there were two cycles:

In the 1st cycle (1/19 – 2/13), I gave 2 days to subjects that (i) I wasn’t as comfortable with and/or (ii) were longer like Contracts or Property, 1 day for subjects that (i) I was more confident with and/or (ii) were shorter.

For 2-day subjects, I dedicated (i) one day for review and learning and (ii) the other day for practice. For 1-day subjects, I did both review and practice within the day. Open-note practice is acceptable, but this needs to be weaned out ASAP.

I allocated one day (on 2/14) as a buffer to catch up to any falling behind or get ahead of the 2nd cycle. (This is also my birthday just for your reference, which I’m sure will come in handy.)

In the 2nd cycle (2/15 – 2/23), I dedicated each remaining day for practicing multiple subjects. Turns out practicing (using the rules in context of problems) helps you see how to raise issues, memorize rules, and remember them.

Closed-note practice is a must here, at least to force you to frequently recall the issues and rules. Use notes to verify your issues and rules and to cross-reference with answers, of course. Keep in mind:
– Frequent recall is the basis for memorization.
– Essay cooking will come in most handy here since you (probably) have a good handle on the subjects and how to apply the rules.
Don’t be afraid to redo questions.

In both cycles, I ordered the subjects such that my toughest subjects were later so that I had a better chance of remembering them.

(I admit I took into consideration online predictions, hence Community Property being so early on despite my subpar understanding because I decided incorrectly that it wouldn’t appear on the bar.

I recommend against this because all subjects are fair game, as proposed last week. Imagine my disappointment when a shaky subject that I last studied 10 days ago came up.)

MBE practice was mostly daily (the shaded bar across all days).

Remember to monitor which subjects or areas you’re weakest (such as the worst 3 subjects) and place emphasis on them.

A full, 200-question mock MBE was near the beginning of February (2/5, Wednesday). This is a good place to identify your weak areas. Emanuel’s Strats and Tacts Vol. 1 is perfect for this because it has a full exam of real questions plus explanations, as well as categorization of each question in the full exam.

PT was almost weekly because I clearly needed to improve on it. I set them to Tuesday afternoons because that’s when PTs are on the bar.

PT days were inevitably shorter, so I scheduled 1.5 essay days for subjects (i) where my confidence level wasn’t the best but still high and/or (ii) that were shorter.

With that, you have a schedule that follows the call of nature, one that works for you by catering to your wants and needs!

If you want more on how to craft your own flexible schedule based on your needs to give yourself a roadmap to follow every day, check out Passer’s Playbook 2.0. It includes sample study schedules for whether you’re 10 weeks away or just 2 weeks away from the bar, along with actual student schedules used to study for the CA bar and the UBE.

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