Self-Control: Smoking, Eating, and LSAT Prep

fried twinkieStudying for the LSAT is exhausting and time-consuming.

Why are some people able to study for hours on end while others can't stand more than a half-hour at a time?

The answer may lie somewhere in the concept of "ego depletion."

Basically, the idea is that you only have a limited amount of energy for focusing on something you don't enjoy.

This suggests some people who (productively) study for the LSAT are probably spending most/all of their "self-control" energy on the LSAT.

People who can't focus on the LSAT for too long may be dividing their self-control energy among multiple tasks that require self-control.


Let's say you're trying to get your life in order, so your New Year's resolutions were to:

1. quit smoking
2. lose weight
3. study for the LSAT


You really want to do all these things ASAP, so you attempt to fulfill all 3 of these resolutions at the same time.

However, what you love more than anything is:

1. smoking menthols
2. sitting on your ass and eating fried Twinkies
3. watching the Kardashians


According to the researchers in the article linked above, you only have a limited amount of energy to invest in each of these acts:

1. chewing gum/your pencil, biting your nails, and doing anything instead of smoking those menthols

2. eating "healthy foods" instead of fried Twinkies (despite what the "American Twinkie Fryers Association" claims, they're not actually healthy)

3. sleeping with your LSAT books under your pillow...er...I mean...actually staring at the pages of those books


If you spread your limited willpower around and attempt to quit smoking, lose weight, study for the LSAT simultaneously, you're not likely to successfully achieve any of these goals.

You're better off tackling one goal at a time and focusing all your willpower on it.


So which one should you attempt first?

My take - focus on the LSAT and don't stress too much about the other stuff.

You can get healthy when you're a lawyer.

(Your doctor would probably feel differently.)

Whatever you decide, focus your self-control on one thing at a time.

The alternative to all this, of course, is to "brainwash" yourself into enjoying the LSAT. In that case, the above would be irrelevant.

***

Cigarettes are both physically and psychologically addictive, while fried Twinkies and the Kardashians are only psychologically addictive (as far as I know). The smokers out there might be concerned that they won't be able to smoke during the LSAT.


For this reason, a few thoughts on...

Quitting Smoking

Everything above suggests you shouldn't try to quit smoking while you're studying for the LSAT. At least, you shouldn't try to quit cold-turkey.

Some folks might feel differently, but this is my opinion based on the information above.

Your health is probably more important than your LSAT score, so if you're going to quit cold turkey, do it before you start serious LSAT preparation. Otherwise, you'll probably find it difficult to focus on the LSAT.

I'm not a smoker, and your smoking habits are none of my business.

However, if you're a smoker who wants to quit, the LSAT might be the push you need to actually make it happen.

If I were a smoker who was studying for the LSAT and wanted to quit, I'd *gradually* decrease the number of cigarettes I smoked each week.

I'd start the process now and continue straight through until the exam (and beyond).

Also, I'd try to avoid smoking during the time of day at which I'll take the exam.

The June exam starts at 1PM, while the February, September/October, and December exams start at 9AM.

LSAC doesn't officially let you leave the building for smoking breaks (enforcement varies). The LSAT is over 4 hours, and that's assuming everything goes well.

One last thing: this should go without saying, but don't smoke while you're taking full-length practice tests, since you won't be able to on Test Day.

You can still keep watching the Kardashians, though. I'd never take that away from you.

***

Also see: Are Cigarettes, Coffee, and Gum Allowed on LSAT Test Day?

Photo by santos / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0



3 comments:

  1. I know it sounds stupid, but this is really quite true, and part of the reason why you must plan for the LSAT around the rest of your life, not just take it and "hope for the best." I had a lot of stuff going on this February and got to the point that, even though I was trying to study, I just kept hitting a wall. I postponed and am now doing much better, now that some other big changes are out of the way.

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  2. I love your blog. I am not a smoker. But, I drink a lot of caffeine. I don't eat healthy at all. And the last of all lots and lots of stress from the job and my daughters. We all live in one house and have one car. Steve, I have taken this Lsat 5 times. I think I am depressed about this test. This was good to hear about focusing on the lsat. Because, I am not. I didn't want to take it again and again. I need my fight back for this. The first time I took this lsat, I was graduating from Loyola and studying for finals and taking care of my sick mom, and lets not leave out my daughters. But, I know I can do this. Law is a part of DNA. Law is a passion for me. I have my degree in Criminal Justice and I work for the Police Department as Police Tech. Guess what, the court house and The District Attorney office is like right in the area. This should be motivating, but I am aggravated. I like what you said about getting healthy when you become a lawyer. I thought that was cute. Have to get back to work. I type crime reports in the computer system.

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  3. I smoke and notice that my "sharpness" goes down for about 20 minutes after smoking. If I start craving a cigarette, my brain actually gets fired up. So what I've done is get used to not smoking for an entire day up until about 1PM. Or, have one right when I get up, jog, then start the test in an hour or so.

    I also study a lot while smoking a lot. Then on test day my brain will be sharper than I'm used to. Like running with ankle weights.

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