What’s the Problem?
It’s the perfect summer day. The sky is blue, a cool breeze is whipping through the warm sunlight, and by the looks of your weather app, it would be a crime not to spend the day at the beach. (No criminal law joke intended) You are almost ready to head out the door and meet up with some friends when it happens. You catch a glimpse of your desk, and a knot the size of Texas forms in the pit of your stomach. Deep down, you know you should pay attention to the bar prep glaring back at you. But instead, you decide to brush it off and tell yourself, “I’ll start studying tomorrow.”
Every law student has found him or herself in a similar situation. Simply put, studying for the bar exam is tedious. In order to pass, one needs constant commitment, perseverance, and reminders that the seemingly endless hours of hard work will soon pay off. With so much to study each day, who wouldn’t procrastinate a bit?
However, while putting off bar prep often seems like the easiest solution to ensure that you don’t miss out on enjoyable activities or become too overwhelmed, there is a 100% chance that procrastination will do more harm than good to your exam preparation. A day of recreation may not seem like it would make a significant impact on studying, but that one day can quickly become two, three, four, etc. until the bar exam is no more than a distant afterthought. Not to mention, the more time you spend away from your bar prep, the less information you will remember on exam day.
Why Do I Procrastinate?
No matter if you are currently struggling with procrastination or are seeking to prevent it, understanding why you do it in the first place is a critical first step. Many attribute procrastination to laziness. However, there is so much more to this action of avoidance than simply being unwilling to study!
According to Psychology Today, there are three primary reasons that people procrastinate, and anxiety is present at the core of all of them. Find the bolded number below that best describes you, then read its description to help identify the root of your procrastination habits. Once you have gathered this information, you can use it to help determine the best solution for your individual needs.
When I think of my bar prep I…
- mostly think of what would happen if I failed the bar exam. What if I study for hours and still don’t pass? I don’t want to let anyone down or disappoint my family. I would rather not study at all than to study and fail.
Your fear of failing the bar exam may be what’s causing your procrastination. The most common thought process is, ‘if I don’t try as hard, then it won’t hurt as much if I fail’. Perhaps you have failed the bar exam before, or are simply worried about disappointing those who support you. No matter the circumstance, it is the prospect of “what if” that keeps you from fully committing to your studies.
- become overwhelmed thinking about others’ expectations of me after I pass the exam. Finding a job is stressful enough. How will I balance the demands of being an entry-level lawyer with my family and social life? People will expect so much more from me.
Believe it or not, the fear of success may be what’s standing in the way of achieving your goals. You are completely aware of the hurdles that will arise after passing the bar exam, and most likely do not feel ready for them yet. By putting off your studying, therefore, you are also putting off the challenges of your future in the law field.
- feel burned out. I like things to go my way, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect. When I become discouraged with studying or have trouble learning a particular subtopic, I find it almost pointless to study at all.
You are a perfectionist, which means you hold yourself to an almost impossible standard. As a result, you would rather avoid working on a task if you know that it will not be completed perfectly at that time. So, you put it off. The bar exam is no exception. When your studying doesn’t go as planned, you become overwhelmed and quit because you are not meeting the high expectations you have already set for yourself.
So, How Do I Stop Procrastinating?
No matter the cause, all types of procrastination result in one primary outcome – unproductivity. The good news, however, is that even the worst case of procrastination can be reversed. The first step has already been accomplished – identifying why it is that you procrastinate! Knowing this, use the following tips to find the solution that you believe will work best for you. Keep in mind that positive habits of productivity are not formed overnight. It takes mindfulness, dedication, and patience to make a change!
- Just do it, as Nike would say. Find a day within the next week that you can wholeheartedly dedicate to catching up on your responsibilities, including your bar prep. Make a list the night before of everything you want to accomplish, then set your alarm clock for an earlier time than usual to start the day outside of your comfort zone. Forcing yourself to complete tasks that you have been avoiding may feel uncomfortable at first, but the relief you feel at the end of the day will make it all worth it.
- Find an accountability partner. Ask a close friend or family member that you trust to check up on your study progress throughout each week. If your primary cause of procrastination is the fear of failure, this step is especially effective since your natural desire is to meet the expectations of others.
- Start small. Science indicates that if you accomplish one or two small tasks when you first wake up, you are more likely to be productive that day. This step could include cleaning your room, paying a bill, or even making the bed. Regardless of the tasks you choose, you may be surprised how much you can accomplish just by starting the day off on the right note.
- Know your priorities. There are only 24 hours in a day – no more, no less. With the bar exam steadily approaching, now is the time to make sure that your actions properly align with your goals. What do you really want for your future? If the answer to that question is still to pass the bar exam, then it’s time to prioritize your studying without making excuses. You should also reinforce your long-term goals each day by adding a reminder on your phone or keeping a motivational note on your refrigerator.
It may not be easy to beat bar exam procrastination, but the end result will make every minute spent studying worth it. How will you beat procrastination before the bar exam?