Top Tips for Effective Self Study
By Adam Balinski
Updated: June 20, 2020
Studying with friends is great. Students can help each other understand concepts, quiz each other, and generally make studying more fun.
However, it also takes more time. Sometimes, to really digest a topic, you need to study on your own. Or perhaps you prefer to study alone. Some people absorb information better in a classroom or group environment, while others do better on their own.
Regardless of why you want to study on your own, you need to learn to make effective use of your time. Law school is demanding and you don’t have time to waste. Check out our top tips here to self-study more effectively.
1. Set up a study space
Set up a comfortable place to study, but don’t make it too comfortable. For example, don’t try to study in bed. Your bed is for sleeping and that is what will happen if you try to study there. Alternatively, if you train your body to study in bed, you may find yourself lying awake at night recapping the finer points of real estate law.
To avoid either of these scenarios, set up a separate study space. You should have enough space to lay out your textbooks and have an ergonomic setup for your computer.
2. Set up a schedule
If you will be self-studying on a regular basis, set up a schedule and stick to it. For example, you may have a free hour in the afternoon or early in the morning. Set that as your study time and be disciplined about going to your study spot at this time.
Even if you don’t necessarily have something specific to study on a given day, there is always something you can review or look ahead to. Spacing out your studying will help eliminate cram sessions and you’ll retain information longer, facilitating that all-important bar prep.
3. Eliminate distractions
Distractions can easily whittle away the time you have to study. If you live with other people, it can be difficult to control what’s going on around you. Try to set up your study spot in an out-of-the-way location so you won’t be bothered. Some people find it helpful to listen to instrumental music to help block out distractions around them.
If all else fails and you can’t create a distraction-free environment at home, consider studying at the library.
Conversely, some people find eliminating all “distractions” is itself a distraction! They may need to turn the TV on in the background or even go to a busy coffee shop to feel less distracted. Not everyone is the same so feel free to try what works for you.
4. Choose attainable goals
Don’t bite off more than you can chew for each study session. This will make you feel defeated each time you don’t reach your goals. Ambitious goals are good to help push you to do your best, but if you set the bar too high, you’ll discover the opposite effect.
Set a schedule that you can realistically keep. Plan to cover an amount of material that you can realistically cover in the amount of time you have to study.
5. Take breaks
The human brain can only go at warp-speed for so long. Just as our muscles get tired when running, our brains get fatigued and don’t work as well.
Build a few short breaks into your schedule. Give yourself permission to get up, take the dog for a walk, do a few jumping jacks, or just run to the bathroom.
Many people swear by the Pomodoro technique. This involves setting a timer for 25 minutes. When it goes off, take a short 3-5 minute break, and set the timer again. On the fourth round, get up and take a longer 15-30 minute break.
You’ll be amazed at how much more productive you’ll be as opposed to studying for 2 or 3 hours straight.
6. Find your ‘zone’
Most importantly, you need to find what works for you. Take handwritten notes, read aloud, put the information to music, make flashcards, or whatever method works best to help you remember the information.
The nice thing about self-study is that no one will be there to look at you funny for doing it “wrong.” You do what works for you.
Preparing to pass the bar exam? There is a lot of information that you’ll have to put to memory. Crushendo offers a number of simple study packages that will help you crush your exam. These include outlines, flashcards, and mnemonics that will help you memorize large amounts of information in less time.
Set yourself on the path to success today!
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About the author
Adam Balinski is a former TV reporter turned attorney entrepreneur. He founded Crushendo after graduating summa cum laude from BYU Law and scoring in the top 5% nationally on the Uniform Bar Exam. Adam is currently writing a book called, “The Law School Cheat Code: Everything You Never Knew You Needed to Know about Crushing Law School.”