It’s exam time, and I feel like I should say something about that. It would be easy to repeat all the good advice I’ve heard over the years, and simply pass it off as wisdom, but the truth is that a lot of it is plainly unrealistic. I have many bad study habits and I’ve done pretty well so far, in spite of them. So in the interest of honesty I’ll admit my flaws upfront. I procrastinate horribly. I frequently claim I’m studying when I’m not – even when the people I’m lying to have no authority over me and probably wouldn’t care if I just said I was playing video games. I do play video games when I should be studying. I also write this Blog when I should be studying. When I know I have a lot of work to do, I inevitably let my diet go to hell, I get no exercise, I neglect my other commitments and relationships, and my sleep pattern is irregular. This has been happening for years and it’s still going on in law school. So maybe I’m the last person who should be giving advice. But then, if the usual advice is mostly hypocrisy (I know no one who really follows it) then maybe I’m just typical.
So here’s what I recommend. If your study habits suck and they are going to lead to periods of misery at certain times in your life then just accept it and make peace with it. That seems to be the prevailing attitude at law school. Everyone makes jokes about it but mostly seems to accept it as a normal facet of study, for better or worse. I’m sure this is true about most things in life. Jobs have their busy times. Relationships have their rough spots. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and promise that things will be better in the morning, or in a week. The only thing you want to avoid, if you can, is when you catch yourself thinking that things will be better in four years when you graduate. That’s a little too long to wait for relief.
So one mistake is to accept misery as a normal state rather than a short-term and temporary one. Another mistake, however, is to think it’s so unusual that you end up feeling there’s something wrong with you. That feeling can become self-perpetuating, and sometimes becomes larger than the original problem. Then you spend the whole year beating yourself up about how you aren’t doing this, that, or the other thing right. And when it comes time for the sprint you’ve got nothing to give, because you used all your energy worrying about things. The fact is we all back ourselves into corners. We all screw around. Even the people who are full of good advice about planning all your affairs months in advance – most of them are hypocrites when it comes to their own affairs, and the ones who aren’t are so damn boring that I’d never want to emulate them.
Enjoy the times you can, and accept that crunch time is going to come once in a while. If you need to huddle at your desk with a big sack of m&ms and a cheesecake to get through it then give yourself that right. Learning to manage your own habits and needs, to produce the bursts of productivity when you need them, is key not only to school but also to many things. You may not be thrilled about the experience, but you’ll get it done. And then get back to a healthier, saner, and more enjoyable lifestyle.