I know I always write about surviving grad school with the most ideal situation in mind, but, let’s be real here: no one’s perfect! I confess, I write the tips, but I am not perfect. I also procrastinate—I work particularly well under pressure when it comes to assignments for whatever reason. In honor of midterms and final projects, for those of us who take 8-week courses not 16, I am giving my patented tips to finishing final assignments at the last minute!
#1: Skim the assignment the night before. I usually skim what I have to do night before. Now let me say, I am NEVER caught off guard by an assignment and ALWAYS check what each assignment is and when it’s due at the beginning of the class—not doing so is setting yourself up for failure—PERIOD. I generally have an idea of what the assignment is, so I’m never blindsided, but I do a nice perusal the night before so I can be prepared in the morning.
#2: Get a good night’s rest. The next day is going to be a doozy—you have to be prepared for the grind that is about to come. With that being said, don’t worry about the next day—it’s going to happen whether you like it or not—just be sure to get a restful sleep because being sleepy will hurt you the next day.
#3: Wake up bright and early! I’m a night owl, but I always wake up bright and early on these days. I know that I am going to need a MINIMUM of 12 hours to get everything together, so I try to wake up around 8 or so—which is VERY early for me on a weekend. You need to make sure you have enough time to get everything completed. Waiting until noon to start work is a recipe for disaster!
#4: Get all of your necessary materials together. These materials include the obvious, laptop, books, notes, assignment and rubric, but also includes things like coffee and snacks. I usually set up my iPad and let the Netflix roll so that I have something going in the background. Just be sure to get everything that you need so that you stay put and grind everything out.
#5: Outline your tasks. Review the assignment and clearly outline tasks that you need to do to complete it. This generally includes outlining sections of a paper or presentation, finding supporting research (which I generally already have), and outlining potential answers/content. If you have a outline, you have a plan. If you have a plan, you won’t fail.
#6: Work in timed increments. You have to have a brain break! I tend to work for fifty minutes and break for ten. This keeps my sanity going and keeps me from completely burning out. I use those ten minutes to stretch, mill around on social media, send a text or two, but break from the task at hand. You must give yourself time to refresh when working intensely.
#7: Set an end time. I generally estimate how long the assignment should take me to complete and set a end goal time. For example, I may think an assignment will take me 6 hours, so I’ll estimate that I should be done by 3pm that day. This keeps me focused while I’m working so that I don’t focus on one particular section too long, and it’s always easier working knowing that there is a visible ending in mind.
#8: Proofread and cite as you go. I avoid waiting until the end to add citations or proofread when I am really working at last minute. I proofread each section after I complete it. I make sure citations are made and ready for the reference page and add them as I go. In some cases, I need a bit more time, so I leave a citation holder which looks like this—(CITE THIS)— so I know where to return before I submit the assignment. The key is dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” as you come across them—never letting them pile up. Because anyone who’s using APA knows, citations and reference pages are brutal if you don’t keep up with where things should go.
I know there are a lot tips in this particular blog, but waiting until the last possible minute is stressful enough. It’s important that you have a solid plan in place to push you through everything that has to be accomplished. Good luck with midterms and final assignments guys!