Academic Success, Learning Styles, Perfectionism, Procrastination, Productivity, Student Engagement, Study Skills, Time Management, Writing, Zen

Doing Assignments the Day Of: A Primer

Doing assignments the day they are due is a terrible idea, and I do it all the time. Of course, I never do it on purpose. Nonono. Whenever I find myself with thirty minutes to produce some math proofs or English essays, it is always some unanticipatable calamity, and never my fault. But these cruel twists and happenstance have given me a certain grace under pressure, and I would like to share my strategies for getting things done at the last minute, for reasons which should be in no way discernible from the previous paragraph.

Accept your work will be terrible. The first step is simply admitting to yourself that you will not be able to produce the Great Canadian Homework in the span of an hour. If you are at this stage, considerations of quality will only hold you back. Finish what you have to do, and if you have time later, look back on it and revise.

Remove yourself from all distractions. If you don’t need your computer, turn it off. Repeat this step for every electronic device which brings you joy. If you are on the computer, close all programs and tabs that you are not using. Every errant glance at anything that is not homework is a waste of time. Your time for luxuries has come to an end.

Do it. This is always the difficult part. The key is to break it down into steps. For my English essay writing, I begin by choosing a section of the literary work which I want to write on. Then the next step would be to come up with some argument. Then I would write my first paragraph. And so on and so forth. Obviously, this is highly simplified and will likely result in work which is sub-par at the university level, but excellence was thrown out the window a long time ago.

Consider handing it in late. If you don’t manage your time perfectly, there will come a day when you will consider this. I myself have gone entire semesters where I based which homework was getting handed in at what time based on their total mark value in the course and the late homework policy of the course. I am not proud of this academic triage, but given my mental state at the time it was necessary for me to do so in order to pass my courses. When it comes down to earning marks, it is a numbers game, especially in very large courses. If a one day late penalty results in ten percentage points taken off but you feel confident that you can improve your homework immensely (i.e. more than ten percentage points) then mathematically it makes sense to take that extra day. In some courses this won’t be possible, so:

Hand it in even if it isn’t done. You will feel awful, but at least you won’t get a zero.

There are a few more optional steps afterwards:

Don’t let it happen again. If you analyze what went wrong, you can attempt to prevent it in the future. Hopefully, you won’t have to produce sub-par work in a short amount of time ever again. Prevention > cure, as they say.

Go speak to your professor. If there is a legitimate (i.e. medical) reason that keeps you from completing homework on time, and you can provide the proper documentation, you might be able to be accommodated. You could also go speak with Accessibility Services.

Let it go. In the grand scheme of things, a hastily completed assignment falls somewhere between a mite and an ant. Focus on doing better next time, instead of focusing on your mistake.

I would like to say that I have gotten to the point where I complete everything in a timely manner, but that is simply not true. But I can say that I complete assignments in a more timely manner more often, and hopefully you can to.

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