Distraction Management

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One of the friends I contacted about my pursuits said that one of the hardest parts of the LSAT was the mental endurance. It’s hard to sustain that kind of focus and intensity for hours, especially when the weight of the outcome is so significant.

I haven’t even gotten to that problem yet. I’m finding that I can barely focus on reading the logical reasoning text or doing a game for more than a few minutes or sentences at a time. This is not good, not just for LSAT purposes, but in general, so I’ve decided to fix it.

Now I use a timer, a free app on my phone (see picture above). I set a timer for 20-30 minutes and read nonstop during that time. I fight all urges to look around, skip ahead in the book, check the time, look at my phone, or think about anything else at all. These 20-30 minutes have already been set aside for this one thing and nothing else matters during this time; nothing else is as important or allowed to intrude. After some reading or studying time I give myself time to do something else, usually read whatever book I’m reading (currently Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir), facebook, pinterest, or lawschoolnumbers.com. I get these breaks and indulgences for exactly 20 minutes, and then it’s time to study some more.

I’m planning to increase the time on work and decrease the treats as time passes, slowly working toward full, timed preptests by the end of summer. For now, I only time the logical reasoning reading and my “free” time, but not the practice logic “games,” which I still try to do daily. I’m not ready for those to be under time constraint yet; I need to be good at doing them period before I try to get good at doing them fast. Hopefully I’ll be ready in time.

I’ve been doing it for about a week and it seems to be working. At first I had a hard time ceding control to the timer and trusting it, but I’m slowly giving over to it. I think I was afraid that I’d get too involved in studying and too much time would pass. The library would close and I’d be stranded in the middle of a difficult section, forcing me to start the whole section over again next time because there’s no way I’d adequately remember or understand the section doing it piecemeal. But I always make sure that I have plenty of time, so I’m learning to let go.

So that’s my new strategy, my new discipline. I hope it works not just for the LSAT, but for school, work, and other things in general.

 

 

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A good blog

One of the reasons I do this site is so others can find it when they’re headed down the same or similar path. I’ve found that the few other law student blogs I’ve found, even if they’re rarely updated or abandoned quickly, have been very helpful. I’ve mentioned before that the conversations I’ve had with other lawyers have been very helpful, but I’m looking for more. Not more quality, as the people I’ve talked to have been wonderful, but more quantity. Law school and the process of getting there are a huge investment of nearly every resource (time, money, energy, patience, and so much more) for me and my family, so I want to be as informed as possible. I want to make sure that this is really something I want to do and that I can do. So far, I am confident enough on both counts to continue full steam ahead. But I still keep looking for writings (blogs, books, columns) and asking (friends, classmates, relatives). Recently I was fortunate to discover Jordan at The Second Sunflower.

I read through most of her blog in a few days (which is why I didn’t get as much other things done in that time as I should have), back to just before she began law school, and I love it. Her writing is clear and helpful, her analysis is useful and well though-out, and her general attitude is wonderful.  Her perspective is unique and upbeat without being saccharine or bowdlerized. I think what I appreciate most about her writing, though, is that she admits the limitations of her perspective. She never takes things to the extreme of “my perspective is the only valid one” and admits her privilege while simultaneously not denying her challenges. She is fabulous.

I don’t want to keep writing too much about her blog because doing so about a personal blog quickly becomes more “evaluation of a person,” which is mostly judgment even when it is positive, than “evaluation of writing,” which I don’t particularly care about in this context.

I guess what I love most about it is that I got exactly what I was looking for from her site: a perspective on the law school experience. While she doesn’t update nearly as much as I’d like (so there would be more content and context), what she does post is helpful. For more of her writing, click here to read her posts on Ms. JD. I would like to hear more about her classroom experiences and how she studies and how she gets and seizes the opportunities that she has, and I hope someday she’ll write about that, but for now, what she’s doing is great.

I recommend The Second Sunflower without reservation.

My new book

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I finally got to the library to start on my new book, and it is a challenge.

It’s not a challenge like the first book was; it’s something different. With the logic “games” book, I more or less had no idea what I was doing when I went into it. I had to learn (or re-learn, because I’m pretty sure we did those games in TAG in elementary school) something new. All the processes of getting those things done and done (mostly) right was hard, but after a lot of work I think I was able to do it.

This new section, though, I think I mostly can do. I did well enough on it in my first preptest, probably better than many do on the real thing, but not well enough for what I need.  So I bought the book to help myself out. I need to know an efficient way to tackle this to ensure the best score I can possibly get. This means that although I probably am mostly capable of these things, I still have some work to do and need some help.

The approach to doing these things is not completely foreign to me. I have seen most of the language and logic ideas before in my ethics and religion classes (one of my minors and my major, respectively), but I’ve never applied it to constantly changing brief topics or in a timed setting. With enough study time, if I had nearly unlimited time to do the sections, I think I could do very well on the final test. But I don’t. I have 35 minutes, so I need to be efficient. Therefore, book.

What’s really different about this book is how much reading there is to it. It’s silly that it’s the first thing I noticed when I first opened the book, but there are a lot of words in this thing. The first book was full of diagrams and the pleasant white space around them. There aren’t so many diagrams in this one and nearly every page is grey with text. The writing is dense with complicated ideas spelled out in simple terms, so the going is slow. I appreciate that the writers took the time and words to slowly draw out all these complex ideas in a away that’s easy to follow, but, I know I already said it, it’s slow going.

Ultimately, though,  I think it will be worth it. I’m less than a hundred pages in and I already feel like I’m making progress. I’m getting the sense that I understand the construction of the questions better and by the time I finish I will be able to approach the sections confidently.

Let’s see how this goes.

Finished!

 

I finished my logic games book on Sunday, and it was just as satisfying as I’d hoped it would be. Before I got the book, I could barely guess at the questions, and now I feel like I can tackle many of them. It’s given me tools and confidence to approach that quarter of the LSAT and I’m grateful to have found the site and friend to recommend the series to me.  I ordered the logical reasoning book last Tuesday and am hoping it can help me just as much. That section of the test doesn’t intimidate me nearly as much as the “games” one, but it’s 50% of my score, so I’ll take all the help I can afford (about $40 worth).

Since I had finished the book, I wanted a way to quantify my improvement, so I decided to re-take the preptest I took before I ordered the book. I started with the “games” section, which went much, much better than the first time. I could only kind of remember some of the games and none of the questions, so it wasn’t like I had prepared in any sort of cheating way. I was more or less attacking the test cold. Some of the themes of the questions were familiar, but no approaches. I was able to improve my score from a 13/24 to a 20/24. I am thrilled! Since I can’t really afford law school, I need to get the 20 up to a 24 and I need to work in the timing element eventually, but this gives me hope, which I need.

After scoring that section, I had planned to start the whole test from the beginning again, but decided that would be foolish. Why would I do two sections of logical reasoning before studying if there’s a pretty great risk that I’ll inadvertently teach myself bad techniques or approaches? All that would do is double the work I’ll have to do when the book arrives. I’d have to first un-learn the bad things I taught myself and then learn the better methods, all while trying not to confuse myself. Better to just wait until the book comes. So that’s what I did.

I did tackle the reading comprehension section, and I did well enough. The main problem with this section for me is that even though I read a lot and quite a bit of what I read now and have read for college and grad school is dense, academic stuff, I haven’t read this type of material for this purpose in a long time. I’m capable, but out of practice. I don’t think I’ll need the book for this section, but I will need to get a lot of practice tests in order to improve this section, both in terms of doing it correctly and getting timing under control. I think I spent around 45 minutes on it at the library, and that’s not going to work. Timing will come later though, after I can get my untimed scores on each section to at least 90%.

Going Home

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Last week my husband was out of town for work, so I took the kids to visit my parents for a couple days. There’s more to this story, but this site is about the journey to law school (I hope) so I’ll leave out most of those pieces. I’ll just say that we stayed busy the whole time, with over nine hours of the two-day trip spent in the car. By the time we got back late Wednesday night, my whole body was sore, most of all my tailbone.

I brought a notebook of notes from my book with me, but was only able to look at it for about ten minutes while we were at my parents’ place. Thursday I was still alone with the kids all day and was still so exhausted from traveling that I didn’t get any studying done after they went to bed. Friday I spent with my husband since he’d been gone for four days, then fell asleep almost as soon as the kids were asleep.

Saturday I was feeling better so I went to the library to get some studying done and learned the hard way that I can’t take five days off of studying. I did a little review, read some new material, then did a practice “game” set and got every single question wrong. I’d forgotten so much that I felt like I was guessing. I kind of remembered some things, but it turns out I haven’t drilled this stuff enough yet to have it deeply enough ingrained to overcome gaps in studying.

Now we know. So this morning I got some more studying done, read ahead, then took the kids to the museum (1). Tonight after dinner, I’m planning to get a little more studying in, with the idea that I’ll finish the book tonight or tomorrow and take another full practice test after work tomorrow to get a new score. Hopefully I’ll improve from my initial 156.

(1) I cannot recommend the museum enough! Our kids are two years old and will-be-one-next-week and it was fabulous. There’s a lot of NO TOUCHING, but enough “pwitty!” things to keep them distracted.