I see this all the time. A student prepares for months for the LSAT, then suddenly sees their scores nosedive, or they start skipping study sessions. They get discouraged. Nothing seems to help. When they study, it doesn’t come as easily as it did before, and they have to force themselves to open their books. If this sounds familiar, you may be dealing with LSAT burnout. The good news is that there are a few easy steps you can take to get back into your study groove.
Why LSAT burnout happens
A lot of the research on burnout deals with job burnout rather than test prep burnout, but the principles are the same. Here are some of the key factors behind burnout, and how they might play out in your LSAT prep:
- Extremes of activity – This is the main contributor to LSAT burnout for most students. If you have been trying to study 8 hours a day, or trying to do 3 practice tests a week, you’re setting yourself up for burnout.
- Lack of social support – Do you feel like your family doesn’t really understand how important this test is?
- Work-life imbalance – The extreme study plans that many LSAT students hold themselves to often result in an imbalance between study time and the rest of life.
- Loss of control – This might resonate with you if you feel like the LSAT, LSAC, or the admissions process in general has more control over your life than you do.
- Unclear expectations – You might not be sure what your next steps in your LSAT prep should be. (If you’re just getting started, check out my advice.)
- Dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics – Most of your LSAT prep is likely done alone, but if you are in a study group, taking a course, or working with a tutor, you may feel uncomfortable in that situation.
Why you need to know how to deal with LSAT burnout
Burnout in your LSAT prep can have major consequences. You may find that even though you’re studying a lot, your score plateaus or even dips. Or perhaps your burnout is causing you to lose interest in studying.
But the impact of your burnout can extend beyond just your LSAT score. In extreme cases, burnout can result in a host of health and psychological issues.
It’s therefore important to develop the skills of addressing and preventing burnout now. You’ll likely need those skills later.
How to deal with your LSAT burnout
In the rest of this article, we’ll discuss 7 ways to deal with your LSAT burnout.
Take a much-deserved break
Since most LSAT burnout comes from working too hard over a long period of time (see my post on how NOT to study for the LSAT), the first step in combating the burnout is to simply take a break. Rest. Don’t study for an entire weekend.
A side benefit of this is that it actually helps your brain consolidate the neural connections you’ve been making while studying. Our brains need downtime to do this work, and when we push ourselves too hard, we often don’t give our brains the chance to catch up.
When you take a break you’ll also gain a renewed perspective. You may start to feel like you are in control of your life again, rather than the test controlling you.
Journal about your “why”
When we lose sight of our purpose, we can start to feel like we’re not in control or that our actions are meaningless. Take some time to journal about why you want to go to law school. Why do you want to be a lawyer? What motivates you and makes all of this worthwhile?
(Bonus: This journalling can also be food for thought later when you sit down to draft your personal statement.)
Reflect on your study process
Look over your study schedule. Is it too ambitious to be reasonable? Are you trying to brute force your way to a higher score by sheer number of hours, or do you have a plan that a sane person can realistically handle?
(Hint: Some pre-made or computer-made study plans out there are way too aggressive and are basically recipes for burnout. If your study plan ever involves more than 3 full-length tests in a week, it’s likely not a good plan.)
Consider your process too. Are you barrelling through test after test? Or are you taking the time to review thoroughly so that you are actually learning from each question. Efficient study involves thorough review.
Switch up your study
Once you’ve determined what isn’t working for you, it’s time to fix it. Rework your schedule. If a toxic study group, a bad course, or a tutor who just doesn’t mesh with you was contributing to your burnout, figure out what would be a better fit for you.
Sometimes you just need a different perspective, so consider getting a new prep book.
And don’t forget about the small changes you can make. Maybe move your study to a different time of day. Or fix yourself a relaxing cup of tea before opening your book. Check out a new cute coffee shop (covid permitting, of course).
Find an accountability partner who gets it
Since the lack of social support is one driver of burnout, your solution to LSAT burnout should involve finding someone supportive. An accountability partner can be just that.
But make sure you don’t use your accountability partner to hold yourself to an extreme study schedule that will just push you right back into burnout. Instead, your accountability partner should help you troubleshoot ways to meet your goals while still keeping a schedule that protects your mental health. (Here’s a blog post on goal setting, which gives even more information about the role of an accountability partner.)
Make your study pleasant
If your LSAT burnout was partly driven by a sense that studying was drudgery, look for ways to make the process enjoyable. I don’t mean you have to find complicated LR stimuli or tricky game setups entertaining. (Although I can’t help but laugh at LSAT PT 38, Game 1.)
But see if you can find a way to make your studying into a part of your day that you look forward to. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Reflect regularly on your progress and what you are learning. Note that progress isn’t always linear and isn’t always reflected yet in your score. If you used to have no idea how to do assumption questions, and now you can usually get them down to two answers, that’s progress.
- Create a study space that is inviting and pleasant. Clear out the clutter, try to find a time when the toddler won’t be distracting you, and get yourself a cup of your favorite tea.
- If you need to, reward yourself for certain accomplishments. Don’t use this technique too much, since you don’t want it to morph into extrinsic motivation, but feel free to reward yourself with a cookie after a boring reading comp passage if you need to.
Develop a system to prevent future LSAT burnout
This tip is probably the most important but is also the hardest to implement. Once you’ve diagnosed what caused your burnout, you can figure out ways to prevent it in the future.
- Extreme study schedule → Create and follow a more reasonable study plan.
- Lack of social support → Find a supportive group of people or a supportive accountability partner.
- Work-life imbalance → Carve out time each day and each week for non-LSAT activities, whether that be spending time with family and friends, pursuing your favorite hobby, or even just doing nothing important at all.
- Loss of control → Develop a habit of reflecting on your progress and your study plan so that you can retain a sense of control over your prep.
- Unclear expectations → If you’re unsure how to proceed with your LSAT study, get help from an expert. My guided self-study program may be a good fit for you.
- Dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics → If your current study group, class, or tutor isn’t a good fit, take the time to think carefully about what you need in a study partner or a teacher/tutor. Then make sure you find a better fit. (If you want to see if I would be a good fit for you, check out my philosophy of tutoring or sign up for a free consultation call.)
If you are proactive about it, your LSAT burnout does not need to last long. In no time, you’ll be feeling reenergized and ready to hit the books again.
If this post resonated with you, I’d love to stay in touch. About once a week, in the form of an email newsletter, I share useful strategies and insights I’ve picked up during my years teaching the LSAT. “LSAT Notes” you can use to study more effectively and raise your score.
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