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Positive Thoughts for Bar Exam Domination

During my first week of studying for the California Bar Exam with Barbri, I went to a valuable seminar called The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam taught by Chad Noreuil.

Reminder: Rob-tastic and I teamed up with Barbri to document and share our stories from studying for the July 2017 California Bar Exam. Back to the story . . .

Noreuil’s pretty awesome. He’s a Barbri instructor (Criminal Law and Procedure), and he teaches legal writing at Arizona State University. I had the privilege of taking his class my 1L year.

I should have asked Noreuil to take a selfie with me.

Lessons from The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam
Since Noreuil wrote the book, The Zen of Passing the Bar Exam, I figured this seminar would be a good way to prime my brain for the marathon of bar studying – and it was! He shared three lists of top ten tips: for bar exam essays, for the MBE (multiple choice), and for the MPT (performance test). While this information is useful, the best advice I got at this seminar came from his reminders about how humans get their energy. We can get energy from four sources:

  1. Diet – food is fuel.
  2. Exercise – simple walking or stretching makes a difference.
  3. Sleep.
  4. Thoughts – even if you have bad diet, exercise habits, and sleep, your thoughts can carry you through challenges.

One of the biggest challenges I have during bar prep is managing stress. Noreuil reminded us that it takes discipline to keep out negative thoughts. Whenever I start feeling stressed about studying, I force myself to take a deep breath, sit up tall and confidently think, “I’m going to kick this bar’s ass.” I’m also trying to avoid negative energy – including listening to the news too much and sad or degrading music. Happy ’80’s dance music is my friend right now.

Setting up the coffee at Castle Carter before bed.

Decreasing Caffeine
You might think I’d be increasing my caffeine these days, but here’s another take-away I got from this seminar: caffeine has a six-hour half-life, and if you have more than 15mg of caffeine in your system, it can prevent deep REM sleep. I immediately started crunching the numbers on my coffee habit. I usually drink two or three cups (200-300mg) a day. (I also have a history with insomnia.)

Let’s do the math: If I drink 250mg of caffeine by 6am, I’ll have 125mg in my system at noon, 63mg at 6pm, and 32mg at midnight. My levels won’t drop low enough to achieve deep REM sleep until the next morning when I’m up again and already re-caffeinating.

After this seminar, I completely changed my caffeine intake. Each morning, I pour myself 8oz of coffee (using a measuring cup), add 6oz of cashew milk, and a spoonful of sugar. Since making this change, it’s been easier to fall asleep, stay asleep most of the night, and I don’t have any more problems than usual feeling alert during the day.

Where’s Rob?
No, that this Rob, our Rob. As far as I know, Rob-tastic is at the INTA conference in Barcelona. I sent him a note asking how things were going and I didn’t hear back – but I know he has a full schedule there, and he’s allegedly been in contact with some of our co-workers about client cases. If he doesn’t resurface in Budapest next week, then I’ll worry.

Un-Caffeinated People Can’t Read

Stardate 94202.47

Dear Hyatt Hotel:

I enjoyed spending my last night in New York at your establishment, including the complimentary breakfast. In the future, please make the distinction between the regular coffee and decaf coffee more obvious – with the visual equivalent of glitter and sirens.

I’m sure Seattle’s Best Coffee put significant time and energy into making the labels on their dispensers beautiful, but the verbiage and coloration of the decaf coffee is too subtle for blurry-eyed un-caffeinated people. Before my first hit of caffeine all I can think is “Coffee-There-Gimme.” I barely had the mental capacity to properly put cream and sugar in my cup. (Shut up you people who drink it black.) I opened one of the mini-cups half-and-half and proceeded to pour its contents into the trash instead of my cup.

Morning Coffee - My Vision is Too Blurry Before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Morning Coffee – My Vision is Too Blurry before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Your coffee is delicious. (Thank you for not carrying that Starschmucks swill.) Thank goodness I came by the coffee counter to top off my cup before heading back upstairs. (What is this “thank goodness” crap. Everyone knows I need more than 1 cup of coffee to start my day. I’m just being nice.) By then the smell of coffee and the carbs from your delicious pancakes connected my cerebral synapses long enough to detect the subtle green “decaf” sign on the dispenser where I poured my first cup. (I would have been hurting by 10am if I didn’t get my daily caffeine fix.) I immediately threw that first cup in the bin and pour myself a cup of real coffee.

In the future, please make the distinction between the real-deal coffee and decaf so obvious that that that actual reading of the dispensers is not required. Put a space between the dispensers and label them with big signs – a neon rainbow-colored sign on the “Real Deal Coffee” (it will be a beacon to your caffeine-addicted patrons, something like “This is the coffee you’re looking for.”) and “I don’t know why anyone wants decaf but here you go” sign on the decaf.

Day 47/90 – Coffee

Day 47 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? Coffee!

All my mugs for coffee are big.

All my mugs for coffee are big.

Some of you may not be aware of this, but I generally don’t sleep well. There are times I have terrible insomnia. Even when I get good sleep, it’s usually not great sleep. And even when I get to bed late or am up and down throughout the night, the alarm still goes off at 5:15 AM the next day.

Needless to say, coffee is my friend. My day does not start without coffee. Coffee helps me human. I’m not a huge fan of the flavor of coffee (at least until I add cream and sugar), but I enjoy the effect and the feeling of having a warm mug in my hands. (When I travel, especially when I travel with friends, and I know there’s going to be time delay between waking up and getting coffee, I have a caffeine pill to tide me over. Yes, I know I’m addicted to caffeine, and I’m perfectly ok with that.)

Earlier this year, my cardiologist put me on it GERD medication. It’s a pill I have to take first thing in the morning and then I’m not supposed to eat or drink anything for 20 minutes. So it’s a bit painful to go through the first 20 minutes of the morning without my caffeine friend. One of the advantages of having insomnia, is sometimes I wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning, and I will shuffle to the kitchen to take my GERD medication so I can have a cup of coffee first thing when my alarm goes off.

I had a pretty good week, but also and exhausting week – couple of late nights and lots of client work. I was still exhausted when my alarm woke me up today. It was definitely going to be a 2 cups day, and by 2, I really mean 4 because I have a big mug. I had my first mug of coffee at home and refilled my mug before heading to the office.

Sometimes I’m so tired in the morning, I take my coffee with me when I walked Rosie in the neighborhood. I think one of my neighbors gets a little jealous when he sees me sipping on my coffee while his is still brewing in his condo.

In case you missed it: Day 46 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Helping Clients Resolve Problems.