No matter how many assignments we have to learn from, there is always the habit of leaving the assignment untouched until the day before it is due.
A 12-page research paper done in 12 hours, absolutely it can be done. We think to ourselves as we begin, although there may be a cringe on our faces.
Then in the midst of our work we start to kick ourselves for leaving it to the last minute.
By the time the assignment is uploaded or printed out, we swear to ourselves that never, ever will we wait until the last minute to start an assignment.
Inevitably though for the majority of us, we won't heed our advice. There will be 12-hour marathons of getting an assignment done in our futures.
The habit of leaving things until the last minute was something I got into when I was young, in elementary school.
There were multiple book reports that required dioramas that didn't get started until the night before. Those usually required a parent's help and then a lot of scolding was involved and frustration on all sides.
Since those early elementary school days, my mom has always been telling me, "Start things earlier." Or "Break up a project into small, more manageable chunks instead of leaving it all until the end."
It has taken me most of my academic career to fully adopt this philosophy and practice.
But now, many years and dozens of assignments after my mom first gave me that advice of breaking a project up into smaller pieces, I understand the wisdom in that.
The most satisfying realization of how great it is to break things up into bits was last semester when all in one day I had a creative writing portfolio, a research proposal and a third assignment due and by the night before at 11:30 p.m. each assignment was done, printed out and stacked on my desk ready to be turned in.
It was a miracle. I was in utter amazement that I was actually able to get everything done without being up until some ungodly hour in a scramble to put the finishing touches on everything. It was also an extremely satisfying feeling when everything was ready.
That feeling of satisfaction is one I try to remember during weeks that I just endured during midterms. Trying to give myself a goal of getting everything done the night before it's due in order to prevent running around campus trying to get something printed or not getting enough sleep to function the next day.
Do not think that this is easy to do. It absolutely isn't. It takes a lot of self-discipline to actually sit down and get chunks of work done when you know the due date is not immediate. There are tons of other distractions that fight for my attention.
As I said, it has taken many, many years of practice in order to get to a point where I can have things done in a timely manner without pulling my hair out.
What I do now is sit down and make a to-do list for every weekend of the upcoming week's assignments. I create one master list and then break things down into smaller tasks day by day. It can be overwhelming to look at the massive amount of things you need to accomplish, but once things are in smaller bits, it seems more approachable.
I also have realized the importance of saying "no" and putting my needs first. This is what I had to do this past weekend. I had 2 midterms, 1 test, and 1 literature review all within 48 hours of one another. I knew that the only things that would be getting my attention over the weekend were my assignments.
I openly advertised to my friends that I would be shutting myself down for the week and would let them know when I was available again. I didn't do this to gain pity points for how much work I had to do. I did it to set boundaries. I did it to let my friends know I truly wanted to hang out with them, but I couldn't.
Everyone understood, and in turn, I got a lot of cheerleaders and messages of encouragement as the week wore on, which was much appreciated.
So if you trudging through midterms, pulling all-nighter after all-nighter, I am going to sound like a mom for a moment, but try breaking assignments up into manageable tasks and do not leave it all for the last minute.
My mom was definitely right in her advice when she gave me that and I wish I would have listened earlier.