Should You Study for the Bar Exam or Take a Break During Holidays?

Every time the holidays roll around, a pang of GUILT flashes across the bar taker’s heart as they balance social obligations and the big day looming two months away.


There are pockets of cultures surrounding work, rest, and “self-care.” Let’s divide them into two extreme stereotypical categories. This false dichotomy will be a narrative device so I can make a point later:

1) A hustle culture focused on an uncertain future. Buzzword examples:

  • “Work while everyone else is sleeping”
  • “We all have the same 24 hours in a day”
  • “Lmao @ singing carols with your great aunt! Wh-why can’t I be happy like other people?”

2) An “anti-productivity” culture that prioritizes present comfort. Buzzword examples:

  • “Self-care”
  • “Mental health”
  • “Quiet quitting”
  • “We’re human beings, not human doings”

Where do you think you fall?

The world wants you to be vanilla.

Barbri would say to take the day off because that’s what the average student would do. Anyone who doesn’t want to be responsible for saying the “wrong” thing will say to “enjoy the holidays :)”

I want you to be extraordinary, not average. You have goals. You have dreams.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to lecture you about working hard. That kind of “motivation” decays really fast. You can’t force your brain to work harder.

The most insidious critic is yourself anyway, spinning worst-case scenarios in your head (like a lawyer would)…

  • They’re going to wonder why I’m studying!
  • They’re going to think I’m lame and not in the holiday spirit!
  • They’re going to be like, “Let’s go, kids. Apparently this nerd is too busy and doesn’t care about us.”

And maybe they will say passive-aggressive things like that to force you into festivities. Muggles don’t understand what you’re going through. Don’t let anyone pull you into their pace if you have a different priority.

Remember your ultimate goal:

You’re doing this now so you can enjoy every holiday every year to come, guilt-free.

Does it matter what day today happens to be? That’s like saying you can only give gifts on designated holidays and birthdays, instead of doing it when you’re inspired to. 

Don’t let a date on a calendar dictate your actions. JUST because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean you NEED to take a break. You can take a break from studying whenever you want, whether it’s Christmas or not.

And just because it’s popular to hate Mariah Carey’s Christmas songs doesn’t mean I can’t love this duet between Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Be ahead of the curve like people who prefer pineapple on pizza when it was the biggest controversy in 2019 (we won btw).

What is your top priority right now?

  • If you’re feeling guilty about not studying and want to make use of your free time, then study!
  • If you want to take a break or if family time is most important today, go enjoy the holidays!
  • If you want to have a lighter day than usual, go for it!

Me? I studied on Christmas Day. Doesn’t mean you need to.

This too is part of making independent choices for your bar prep. Will your action still get you closer to your dream and keep the momentum going?

Sometimes we confuse self-sabotage with self-care. It’s obviously important to take care of yourself, but at the same time, you know that you have to push yourself too. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it.

This is about doing what makes sense for yourself, whatever makes you feel least guilty. That’s self-care. That’s the way to tend to your mental health and sanity. 

I can only offer a different angle of looking at things that you may not have considered.

Once again, you’re the dean of your own studies. You’re parenting yourself.

In fact, you’re the dean of your own life. My wish is for you to train yourself to trust your own legs, make independent decisions for yourself, and have agency over your life—not just for bar preparation but for everything beyond that.

Negative emotions are the most distracting to people like us who need to use our mental capacities to their fullest.

That means you want to avoid guilt as much as possible and feel good about what you’re doing for your future, whether that’s enjoying the holidays, enjoying your ambitions, or finding a way to do both (the “yes and yes” technique from Mental Engines, which btw can help with organizing those negative emotions and reframing them to be more useful).

Passing the bar exam is the best gift you can give yourself this holiday season.

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