I've seen a number of questions recently about how to prepare for the LSAT if you're also a parent of small children. Or how to juggle working or going to school full time with studying. It's not easy. I prepped for the LSAT the first time while I was in graduate school. I now teach the LSAT full time while also being a mom to a very spirited 8 month old.
Here are the tips I've learned along the way, based on my own experience and the experiences of my students.
The examples that follow are mostly related to being a parent while preparing for the LSAT, but swap them out for something work or school-related if you don't have kids.
Carve out time and protect it
If you plan to study "when you get the chance" each day, let's face it. It's not going to happen. You'll always have other things that need to get done. Dishes and laundry. A crying baby to calm. A paper to write or an emergency that popped up at work. Three dinners to cook because your toddler decided she now hates chicken nuggets too...
So schedule your study time. Maybe that means waking up earlier so you can get an hour of study in before the kids are up. Or maybe it means sitting down with your books and a cup of tea an hour after they've gone to bed.
Do your best to protect this time. If you need to interrupt it occasionally to deal with a toddler meltdown or a true emergency at work, then of course, do what you need to do. But try to put systems in place that can prevent these interruptions.
Ask for help from a spouse or family member. Consider studying away from home, if your kids are distracting you. And as much as possible, teach your kids to respect your study time. Perhaps a "time to rise" clock will work for your toddler so that you can get that early morning study in.
Follow your own timeline
If you truly have a lot going on in your life, you're just not going to be able to study at the same pace as someone with absolutely no obligations. Sometimes that can be a good thing - you're not in danger of burning yourself out trying to study 8 hours a day.
But what it also means is that if you try to push yourself to follow a prescribed timeline that isn't realistic for your situation, you may be just setting yourself up for disappointment and self-blame.
So instead, give yourself grace. Follow the timeline that works best for you and your situation. Your mental health will thank you.
Find ways to make the rest of your day productive
Partly, you need to buy time for your LSAT studies by accomplishing the rest of your tasks more efficiently. Here are some ideas:
For household chores:
Meal plan to reduce the amount of time grocery shopping and cooking
Set a timer for 15 minutes and do a cleaning sprint. Just do the major things. The rest can wait.
Pick up after your kids at the end of the day rather than multiple times a day.
Keep on top of the dishes. Do as many of them as possible while you're still cooking. Don't let gross stuff dry onto the casserole dish or the plates. You KNOW it'll take a lot longer to clean if you wait.
Have your kids pack their own lunches/do their own laundry/etc as much as they are able to.
If you take public transportation, try studying on your commute. (Assuming you're not working/going to school virtually.)
Or try eliminating your commute altogether by doing more online classes and working from home. (On purpose. Not just because of the pandemic.)
Look for gaps of time you can squeeze in a bit of work on more discrete work or school tasks so you can get done earlier.
Set a top priority or two for the day and work on those first. That way, your day won't get too full of the minor things that don't really matter.
Use noise-canceling headphones or even just earphones. They'll help you focus better and will prevent others from interrupting you to talk.
Be aware of your energy level
We can't run on empty. And we certainly can't do an LSAT Reading Comprehension section when we're exhausted. Or at least we can't do it well.
If you are just wiped out when it comes time to sit down to study, you may need to adjust what you were planning to do.
Instead of that intensive session working on the thing you find most challenging:
Try doing some work on a question type you find easier/more enjoyable.
Take a 20-minute power nap before starting.
Do something that doesn't require as much brainpower, like organizing your notes.
Review your notes.
Reflect on your progress and set goals.
If you do decide to power through and take a timed practice test or section, be aware that it might not go as well as you hope. If you track your scores somewhere, make a note that you took this one while exhausted. Give yourself grace.
Shoot for consistency rather than intensity
Don't keep hoping for a 4-hour chunk of time to get some serious studying in. Even if you just have 10 minutes, drill a few questions.
The trick is to try your best to find some time every day. You may be able to get into a rhythm of 1-3 hours per day, spread across early morning and evening study sessions. If so, try to keep up this rhythm.
But give yourself grace here too. There will be days when you can't get any study in. That's ok. Forgive yourself, remind yourself that you aren't shooting for perfection, and try to get back to studying as soon as you realize you've slipped.
Remember your why
Studying for the LSAT with kids (and/or school and/or work) is tough. It's admirable.
When you feel frustrated, tired, or hopeless, take some time to write out your reasons for wanting to go to law school. What's in it for you on the other side? Why will this all be worth it someday?
And if it helps, remind yourself that by doing this incredibly hard thing, you're making yourself into even more of a role model for others. Not only for your children but also for all the other LSAT students (future lawyers!) out there who are in similar positions. So get it done, succeed, and then turn around and encourage those who come after you.
Resources I have for you this week
The content of this email isn't a blog post yet. It's exclusive for you. So please do forward it along to others if you think it would help them.