Even the Struggle Bus Makes it to the Finish Line

GUEST BLOG Josh Olin, University of Miami School of Law

              We see others stressing out and when we’re surrounded by stress, our own stress amplifies.

Being stressed out during law school is nothing new.

We all go through periods where we feel like we aren’t going to get anything done—that there’s no way we have enough time during the week. Yet, we keep adding on more—we add on extracurricular activities, such as law review or moot court; we convince ourselves that we need to find a job right now, right this second; and we convince ourselves that we need to go out with our friends. The truth is, some of us thrive on that stress. It keeps us going. But that stress also burns us out.

It also doesn’t help that much of the stress we feel is induced by others. We see others stressing out and when we’re surrounded by stress, our own stress amplifies. Now, I haven’t taken the Bar Exam yet, but I know right now that it’s going to be a completely different ball game. I remember my first summer in law school. I came to campus pick something up and meet up with some friends and I could feel the tension. The 3Ls who had just graduated, and supposed to be taking a break, were doing the complete opposite—they were studying for the Bar Exam, feeling the pressure already setting in. This was just one week after graduation. Early on, this set a tone—I knew that in two years, that would be me. And here I am, almost two years later, starting to feel the stress of the Bar Exam creep up on me. Between school, being Editor-in-Chief of one of our school’s biggest law reviews, and maintaining a social balance in my life, I’m at the point where I don’t know how I’m going to get everything done. But, while I feel that pressure building up, I know that it all will work itself out—it always does. So, I’ve developed a plan to stay mentally in the game, as I often find myself doing. Here are a few things that I keep in mind when I feel like I have too much on my plate:

  1. There are a lot of things to think about, but nothing to worry about. As law students, we have been trained to overanalyze things like crazy. Often times, we allow the things we overthink to get under our skin and worry us. But there’s a big difference between thinking about too many things and worrying about them. If you keep your head up and keep pushing forward, things always work themselves out.
  2. Stay out of your own way. Much like my first point, you can’t allow yourself to stand in your own way. Don’t prevent yourself from the doing the things that you know you need to do, and don’t prevent yourself from doing the things that you want to do. Compromise your time. Allow yourself to do the things you convince yourself you are unable. While it may feel like a waste of time, you’ll find you’re more productive when you allow yourself to let go once in a while.
  3. Know you aren’t alone. Sometimes, it feels like no one can sympathize with how you’re feeling. Even though you know you are surrounded by people at school who likely feel the same things you do, it’s easy to feel alone. But know that you aren’t. Allow yourself to confide in friends. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you’re too busy to do something if you are. They get it. You don’t have to be a “Yes (Wo)Man” and you don’t have to feel guilty because they understand. Because while it is you this time, next time it could likely be them.
  4. Set yourself up to succeed. While procrastination is something we all experience, sometimes the best thing we can do is set ourselves up for success. For me, that usually means frontloading as much work as I can in the beginning so that what comes after is much easier. If I have a paper due on a Friday, which was assigned Monday, I’ll try to do the research Monday night. For me, research takes the longest. I’ll write up an outline and as I research, I’ll fill the outline in. Rather than waiting until Wednesday or Thursday, this allows me to write a draft on Tuesday by basically just turning the outline into the paper. From there, I have Wednesday, Thursday, and whatever time Friday before the time the paper is due to perfect it. I’m not scrambling at the very end to turn in something that I’m not proud of. While I don’t necessarily want to spend the time on Monday and Tuesday frontloading the entire assignment, it allows me to relax and take it easier as I finish up the paper, making it less likely to make mistakes and keeping my mentality intact.