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Self-Control: Smoking, Eating, and LSAT Prep

Studying 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?


Obviously, I think you should keep chain-smoking and gorging on fried twinkies indefinitely but study for the LSAT now. You can get healthy when you’re a lawyer.

However, 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.

LSAC doesn’t officially allow smoking breaks (you do have a 10-minute break, should you want to use that to smoke). 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.


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