When you are engaged in intense, repeated and prolonged mental efforts toward a goal (e.g., studying for the bar exam), your mind gets tired.

It is similar to what your body goes through during intense exercise, and everyone knows you cannot punish your body day-in and day-out without giving your body rest and recovery periods.

Likewise, you need to make sure you give your mind to relax, recover, and prepare for the next study session.

Here are eight ways to ensure that your mind gets enough rest to enable it to continue to perform at a high level during your bar exam preparations.

1.  Put yourself on a low information diet

When you are studying for the bar exam, you will be forcing huge amounts of information into your mind.  It takes a lot of mental effort to learn and retain this information.  So, try to keep all other information inputs to a minimum.

Here are some suggestions:  Stop reading all non-fiction except for bar prep materials.  Cut back or eliminate altogether reading newspapers or online news sources.  Avoid social media or limit its use to a maximum of 30 minutes per day. Generally avoid the internet and television except as a source of entertainment for a few minutes a day.

You can catch up with the news and your favorite shows and blogs after you pass the bar.

2.  Maintain a study schedule

Establish a start and stop time for your studies and enforce them rigorously.  Your mind needs to know that it should perform at a high-level from, say, 8am to 5pm, but after that it can relax.

There is a reason labor laws require overtime pay after 40 hours of work in a week:  It sucks to work more than that, and your mind knows it too.  Avoid unscheduled overtime work as much as possible.

3.  Avoid mission creep

Do not study before or after your start and stop times.  You will need to stop studying a few hours before your sleep time so that your mind can process all the new bar exam information and then calm down to allow you to sleep.

4.  Check email once per day

Email is a huge time waster.  99.8% of emails simply are non-urgent, so check your email after you have finished studying for the day.  Don’t check it before or during your studies as it will distract your attention.  Distracted studying is normally ineffective studying.

If you are someone who normally replies to email right away, consider sending out an email to everyone in your address book telling them you are studying for the bar and that from now until after the bar exam, you will only be checking your email once per day in the evenings.

5.  Listen to music

Except for when you are studying, feel free to listen to as much music as you like.  Music tends to be calming, and it does not turn your mind into an intellectual wasteland the way television does.

6.  Read fiction before bedtime

This is an exception to the rule against reading much other than your study materials.  Reading fiction tends to relax the mind and often makes people fall asleep.  This really works well for some people, so try it out.  Just make sure that you are reading something light, fun and enjoyable — reading Joyce’s Ulysses is probably not the best choice.

7.  Hang out with friends

Make time to hang out with some friends at least once a week.  These should be friends who are not taking the bar exam.  That way, your conversations cannot degrade into neurotic whining about the bar exam.

8.  Take a long walk

Take a walk anywhere.  Do not bring your iPod.  Walk.  Look.  Listen.  Lose track of time.

Your mind needs to work hard when you are studying for the bar exam.  Reward it by letting it relax as much as possible when you are not studying.


[Photos: Sean MacEntee, Athena, dawnzy58]

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