How to Plan a Stellar Bar Exam Study Break for 4th of July
We know that bar exam studying can feel all-consuming! However, we also know (and science supports this!) that taking breaks from intense periods of study or brain power allows you to come back motivated and refreshed. In this blog post, we will discuss how to plan (and take) a stellar bar exam study break for the 4th of July so that you come back motivated and ready to finish strong!
How to Plan a Stellar Bar Exam Study Break for 4th of July
Our recommendations are split into three phases. Together, these phases allow you to create an amazing 4th of July break that does not feel haphazard or chaotic. These phases are intended to feel well-planned and intentional. They include the following:
1. Planning Phase
2. Mindset Shift Phase
3. Physical Phase
I. Planning Phase
Taking time off from studying for the bar exam may strike fear in you—but it shouldn’t! If you invest time in planning, you will be able to take breaks from studying without feeling guilty or nervous. What does this planning phase require? We discuss this in more detail below!
First, you need to decide when you will study and, equally important when you won’t study. Yes, you read that correctly—you need to decide when you will not study! Why? In JD Advising’s blog Ten Common Avoidable Bar Prep Mistakes, we emphasize the importance of having a defined study schedule for your bar exam preparation. Planning out your study schedule also implies that you should plan out when you will not be studying–whether it be one day a week or after seven in the evening most nights. When you have a definite plan, your mind is less likely to be anxious and worried about what you “should” be doing—because you’re doing what you scheduled yourself to do!
Will your break be the Fourth of July and the following day? Will it be the third of July and the Fourth of July? Planning your break will help to keep potential anxiety at bay. This will help you better enjoy your study break! You will be able to calm yourself and alleviate those “I shouldn’t be taking a bar prep exam study break!” energies by reminding yourself that you will resume studying in a day or two.
In terms of how you plan your break, think about the most successful study schedule you had in law school. While bar exam preparation and law school are not an apple-to-apple comparison, you can reframe the strategies you implemented successfully during law school to work equally as well during bar exam prep!
If you’re struggling to maintain your bar exam study schedule, or maybe you never prepared your own personal bar exam study schedule and are finding that your commercial bar exam course has a schedule that does not meet your needs, JD Advising has resources for that! There are resources for how to set up a two-month bar exam study schedule, a 45-day bar exam study schedule, a guide on how to create a daily plan for your bar exam studying, and how to break the model of a commercial bar preparation’s bar exam schedule and make your own to meet your specific needs!
Second, in addition to deciding your study and study break periods, we recommend that you plan what you will study once you come back from your Fourth of July study break. We recommend creating a thorough list of which topics you will focus on and how you will focus on them. Are you going to write essays? Are you going to answer multiple-choice questions? Will you be taking practice exams?
Because making a thorough list can sometimes be overwhelming, break it down into its respective pieces. For example, if you plan to study a particular set of topics the first two days back into your bar exam study routine, break down your days into half-hour blocks. Maybe you will study torts from 10 in the morning until noon, have lunch from noon to one in the afternoon, and then study contracts from one in the afternoon until three in the afternoon. Make sure to schedule time for fun outside or some other activity you enjoy, etc.!
II. Mindset Phase
You’ve planned your 4th of July bar exam study break and your return to studying. Now, take a moment to consider the importance of stepping into the mindset shift phase. What is a mindset shift? It is making an intentional effort to reframe your thoughts about taking and enjoying your break from studying. Of course, you had to work hard in law school. And you need to study meaningfully and seriously to succeed on the bar exam. However, this does not mean that you should not take any breaks!
This will be the mindset shift you need to make. To actually enjoy your 4th of July bar prep study break, you have to shift your mindset from emphasizing the need for constant, non-stop studying to emphasizing the need for serious study balanced with study breaks. You have worked hard and have certainly earned a study break from bar prep for the 4th of July!
Science suggests that there are several benefits to learning when you take regular breaks! Studies show that taking breaks can improve memory and information retention. Unsurprisingly, studies also show that taking a thoughtful break can reduce your stress levels and allow you to come back to studying feeling rejuvenated. Breaks can also increase productivity, as you will be able to focus more intently when you resume studying because you took a break to let off some stress or anxiety. Take advantage of the benefits of giving yourself a break! We wrote a blog encouraging bar exam prep students to incorporate breaks throughout their days of bar exam study. We encourage bar exam prep students to do the same during the 4th of July holiday!
You will feel less stressed and less tired when you commence bar exam prep again after taking a fruitful study break! When you sit and think about how hard you have worked throughout law school and so far during bar exam prep, you’ll likely realize that you have earned a break. This mindset shift from villainizing breaks to enjoying breaks will help you reap the most tangible benefits from that break.
JD Advising has addressed the question of the benefit, or need, for breaks during law school, before beginning to study for the bar exam, and during bar exam study. This blog post about how to get re-focused to study for the bar exam after a break can help you re-center your motivation and feel more ready to begin studying again. In fact, there are several recommended mini lunch breaks that students should make the most of during bar exam preparation, including exercising during a lunch break, taking a nap, mediation, and spending time with friends and family.
In the end, taking a 4th of July bar exam study break will put you in an advantageous situation. If you have been studying for the bar starting a few weeks after your law school graduation, you’ve likely been studying for five or six weeks by the time the 4th of July rolls around. There are so many benefits to your mind and wellbeing from study breaks, and such a break may end up being a net positive for your remaining bar study and performance.
III. Physical Phase
The 4th of July has finally arrived! You’ve made a strict schedule of when you will and will not study during the holiday and surrounding days. You’ve specifically planned what you will study and how you will resume studying after the 4th of July. You sat in thought and determined that, yes, you do deserve to take and enjoy a break. This leaves you at the last phase: the physical phase.
What do we mean by the physical phase? We mean what you physically do during your 4th of July study break to make the most of it! We have some tried and true recommendations:
Make sure to get adequate sleep, even if your normal schedule is off for a few days.
Remember, traveling to distant locations may make you more tired. We recommend that you listen to your body and try to get the sleep you need! Getting adequate sleep also helps you to study better, according to a Harvard University study, because it allows you to focus when you’re studying. Sleep also serves an essential function in consolidating your memory and what you have learned! Maintaining a steady sleep schedule is key to making sure you’re getting optimum sleep while you’re studying for the bar exam.
2. Enjoy yourself (healthfully!)
There will be plenty of delicious food and, often, alcoholic beverages at most traditional Fourth of July gatherings. And that’s okay! However, we do recommend that you enjoy any liquor you choose to consume in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol at one time or over a period of time can negatively impact your health. In the short term, alcohol can leave you with a hangover and feeling very dehydrated. If your plan for resuming your bar exam prep includes studying within a day or two of 4th of July celebrations, we recommend that you are very careful of your alcohol consumption.
Beyond that, much in the same way that JD Advising has a blog recommending staying fit and focused during your bar exam prep, it is to your benefit to maintain your self-care habits during the 4th of July and during your bar exam prep break. Go on your usual weekly runs, keep up with your online fitness classes, and maintain your meditation routine…all of these healthy habits will cumulate in helping you to return to your bar prep, studying refreshed, and feeling really good! This will give you that added boost to be focused, confident, and motivated to finish your bar prep!
3. Visit your family and friends (who are not studying for the bar exam!)
One of the best parts of the 4th of July is that you will likely see your family and friends! If this is true for you, it can have so many benefits to your mental health and wellbeing. Studies have shown that family relationships, and specifically, spending time with family or friends, can have a positive impact on an individual’s long-term wellbeing. Spending time with friends and combating social isolation has been shown in a plethora of studies to improve health outcomes.
And while we can all commiserate with our friends and colleagues who are also currently studying for the bar exam — it can be draining to spend a significant period of time with those folks when you are trying to turn your mind “off” and take a break from bar exam prep. This is because you will naturally divert to conversations about studying for the bar exam. To avoid this situation, try to protect your energy and your mood, which might require sequestering yourself from some friends who are preparing for the bar exam while you’re also preparing for the bar exam.
4. Make use of JD Advising’s free bar prep resources!
JD Advising has a full library of bar exam resources, including many free resources. Our free bar exam resources include an early bar exam preparation campaign, a monthly newsletter, a series on MBE strategies, free MEE resources, and so much more! Making the most of these free resources will help to cement your bar exam success. These resources are perfect to consult once you return from your 4th of July study break!
Ultimately, everyone knows themselves and what they need to succeed best. However, when scientific studies point to the many benefits of taking intentional study breaks, it is certainly worth a try! Best of luck with your bar exam studies, and be sure to check out JD Advising’s wide array of free resources, as well as our bar exam prep courses.
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