Sometimes it’s easy to stay focused and motivated in your LSAT prep, but sometimes… it’s just not. And sometimes that’s ok. Sometimes we need to give ourselves grace when faced with distractions to our LSAT prep.
Today, I want to give you permission to take a breather if you need it. To let yourself rest, and to be aware of what you need -- not just as an LSAT student but also as a human.
A process for managing LSAT distractions
Today’s message is inspired by a student I have been working with who shared with me that she has been struggling with distraction during her LSAT prep this week due to a death of a close family friend. Her thought process about her study sessions in this situation seemed spot on to me, so I wanted to share it with you.
Your own situation may not be quite the same as hers, but you may find yourself distracted by a painful break-up, an illness, major life events like a move or an upcoming wedding, or any number of other things. Life gets stressful and pulls our attention away. We can’t expect ourselves to be LSAT robots during these times.
On days when it was hard to focus, my student gave herself five minutes to try to settle into studying. She got a drink of water, wrote out goals for the study session, looked over her notes, etc.
At the end of the five minutes, if she was still too distracted to work, she postponed the study session until later in the day and tried again.
Did she finish everything on her study plan for the week? No, she didn’t. But she also gave herself permission not to and forgave herself for the things she didn’t get to.
The benefits of this process
Here’s what I like about the "5 minutes to focus" system my student developed for herself:
She didn't settle for low-quality study sessions or just going through the motions of studying.
But she also didn't let herself get completely derailed. To the extent she could, she kept up with her plan.
And most of all, she gave herself grace and permission to grieve. She was a human first and an LSAT student second.
Being a human first
I think we all need the reminder sometimes that there is more to life than just the LSAT. More even than law school.
So if, after five minutes of trying to settle into focus, you find that you need to postpone a study session, do so. Come back to the LSAT when some of the distractions aren't affecting you as much.
Check in with yourself to see if you’re ready to study a few hours from now, or tomorrow, or in a couple of days. Don’t go too long without this check in, because you don’t want to lose momentum or stop studying altogether. But also don’t be afraid of taking a break.
If you need to stop reading here, go for it. The rest of this message reiterates and expands on the benefits above. But it’s totally fine to take a breather now and not read the rest. Or jump down to the resources at the bottom of the email.
Don't settle for low-quality study
When we try to push through the distractions and study LSAT anyway, we don’t do our best work. That’s kind of a given.
You might be able to force yourself to do 20 flaw questions, or you might be able to set the timer and go through the motions of a logic games section, but that’s all it would be. Going through the motions.
Are you really in the mental state to be able to learn from what you are doing? Or do you know in advance that you are going to bomb the section? When that happens, you’re really just adding frustration, stress, and the loss of confidence to your already distracted state. Definitely not ideal.
What makes study high-quality?
Before you sit down to study, ask yourself whether you are able to do the following:
Take careful notes and internalize what you are learning if you are working through a chapter of a prep book or a video lesson.
Give each question your undivided attention so that if you miss it, you know it’s not due to a loss of focus.
Devote enough attention to your review process so that you’ll be able to figure out where you went wrong and what you need to do differently next time.
If now is just not the right time for you to be able to do these things, that’s ok. Be kind to yourself. You’ll be doing yourself a favor by saving the hardcore studying for when you are actually able to do it effectively. And maybe that’s just a couple of hours later when you’ve had the chance to clear your head.
Don't let LSAT distractions derail you
For some, the danger is going through the motions and getting in some very low-quality study. For others, the danger is the opposite: taking so much time off that it’s hard to get back into the swing of studying.
Some personality types, perfectionists in particular, can be especially susceptible to this. You may have set yourself a goal of studying 2 hours a day. But then you miss one day because the events in your life made it too hard to focus. And then you miss the next day. And then the perfectionist side of your personality starts thinking that if you’ve already broken your habit, what’s the point? So your studying becomes more and more sporadic.
What we need in these times is moderation. We need to be kind to ourselves when we need that break, but we also need to make sure we’re not giving ourselves more of a break than we need.
How to prevent getting derailed
In order to prevent this downward spiral, it can help to shift your target, at least temporarily. You may have originally wanted to study for 2 hours a day. But during these difficult periods of life, you know that will be too much to ask some days.
So shift your target. Set a goal to just sit down, open your book, and check your focus level at least once per day. If the study session happens, great! If not, you still accomplished your goal of sitting down and opening the book.
For more advice on creating sustainable habits, I highly recommend James Clear's book Atomic Habits.
It may help to have the accountability of a study partner, a study group, or a tutor. Not to hold you to an unrealistic study schedule, but just to make sure you’re not falling off completely. Just note that you may need to find a new accountability person if your current study partner or tutor tries to push you too hard during this time.
Giving yourself grace
I am ALL for giving yourself the same respect and kindness you would give to someone else in your same situation. But unfortunately we’re usually our own worst critics. Especially when it comes to something like LSAT distractions, it’s easy to push too hard. You may find yourself worried that if you can’t push through this, then how are you going to handle law school? Or bar prep? Or actually being a lawyer?
But when we give ourselves grace, we’re actually able to do more in the long-term.
Suppressing our feelings because we believe we can’t take a break usually doesn’t work. But when we give ourselves the space to grieve, to process, or to deal with whatever life event is consuming our attention, we’re able to get through it more easily. We can then slowly start to return to a sense of normal -- perhaps a new normal, but a normal nonetheless. And that normal can include the degree of LSAT prep we were able to sustain before.
A good guiding question to ask yourself during this time would be this:
If a close friend of mine was going through this, what would I tell them? I care about their goals, but I also care about them as a person. How can I encourage them to not lose sight of their goals, but also not lose sight of their own personal needs?
Resources I have for you this week
The contents of this email aren't a blog post yet, so if you feel it would help someone who is going through distractions in their life, I would love it if you could forward it along to them.