Juggling multiple deadlines
Ah…finals season is upon us.
Term 3 officially started this week, but the reality is I’ve been working on essays non-stop since the start of April. This is my final round of essay submissions before my degree is finished, which is a crazy thought. I think when it’s all over I might print off every essay I’ve written at uni and keep them as mementos…
Still, I have to finish them all first.
I’m an English Literature student, and every year the word count for our essays increases. That means that across the 4 essays I have to submit this term, as a finalist, it’s around 18,000 words. I don’t have exams and even though there’s no teaching in term 3, I’m still plenty busy.
So how do you manage working on four large projects at the same time?
First, delegate based on when your deadlines are. If they’re spread far apart, it obviously makes the most sense to work on the first one first. But then again, it depends on the nature of the essay. If you have a creative project due, I’d recommend starting on that well in advance, as I find that with that kind of thing, letting it stew in your mind over a longer period helps you to conceptualise it easily. I find that coming up with brand new ideas like that is harder to do under pressure.
All of my deadlines are within the same week, so the way I’ve been managing my work this term is to spend a few days devoted to working on one project before moving on to another. I rotate them through my schedule like this.
Enjoy your ideas. Motivation to sit and study comes easier when you’re excited about what you’re writing about.
Don’t leave it all to the last minute. Let’s be real, we’re all going to do this anyway, but making good progress in advance of the deadline can help relieve some of the stress. I’ve found that the planning stage of an essay is the most time-consuming part. Secondary reading can take a long time and is often frustrating when you’re searching through lots of material that ends up not being relevant.
I do really detailed plans that make writing the first draft easier. I often surprise myself with how quickly I can get a first draft done with the plan to help. I then do a second draft to clean up any structural issues with my argument and paragraphing, and then a third to proof-read for spelling and grammar.
Take breaks (with moderation). I know that this is the advice everyone gives, but it’s important! If you’re spending all day everyday studying, that’s not good for your health. A healthy work-life balance includes taking time to do things you enjoy, even if it’s just watching Netflix. From my experiences as a Literature student, you don’t need to devote your every waking hour to studying. In fact, time away from your work gives you perspective to better identify what can be improved. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be studying – naturally, the more hours you put in, the more likely you are to produce a better essay.
Don’t stress about grades. At the end of the day, the grade you get doesn’t define you. Again, it’s something you hear again and again, and it can be annoying, especially if you need to attain a certain grade for a job or further study. The pressure might work for some people, but so long as you’re trying your best, making improvements to your work based on previous feedback, then you’re set. I find it’s better to enjoy the process than hyper-focus on the result.