Procrastinating On Essays

Procrastination. The age-old nemesis of the student species. Lurking beneath desks, living inside your laptop and hiding in the library. It teases you with Facebook, dangles your favourite TV show in front of you, and convinces you that now really is a good time to read the Song of Ice and Fire saga.

Or, at least, that's what we want to believe. Instead procrastination is merely an inability to dedicate our time appropriately to the task at hand. It is something that many students, myself included, do.

This advice is not meant to condone laziness or leaving things to the last minute but as a guide for if you do happen, for whatever reason, to be zeroing in on deadline. Anyway, we all know you'll work harder next time...

1. Have your books nearby

Before you start writing, work out what textbooks are likely to be of help and find them in the library. Having the texts beside you will reduce the time spent running around aimlessly trying to find a book. It also means that if someone has taken out the last copy, you can find a replacement early on.

2. Don't overreach yourself

Yes, you want to get a good degree in the end. But if the deadline for this particular essay is hurtling towards you, this is not the time to be aiming for perfection. Read enough to do the essay. Once you've finished it, if you still have time, you can add a bit more. Remember that handing in a complete essay will always net more marks than handing in unintelligible shards of writing.

3. Plan, plan, plan

Everyone works at a different speed and only you know how much is possible. Set a schedule where time is allocated to outlining, reading, and writing. Also, make sure that there is enough time left to double check the essay and bibliography.

4. Reference as you write

Speaking of the bibliography, do it while you write. It will save you from having to search through masses of textbooks to find that one quote used 10 hours ago. Failing this, at least it will make you bookmark pages that have been used.

5. Take regular breaks

This may seem counter intuitive but a break (watching a TV show, talking to a friend, or having a walk) keeps you awake, and alert. Taking time out is often helpful during troublesome sections, allowing you to think about the problem, and clear your mind, without having to stare at a blurry screen of text.

6. Stay away from sugar

The immediate high may help but, especially during marathon sessions, the low can derail the entire session. Try substituting fruit or cereal for chocolate bars and biscuits. The odd chocolate biscuit will not do too much harm but munching away constantly doesn't help.

7. Ban yourself from Facebook

This could mean the difference between getting your essay done or wasting valuable time checking what your flatmates are eating for dinner. Pass your details on to a trustworthy friend, or family member, and get them to change the password; with strict rules not to give it back to you until you hand in the essay. Trust me, your work will reap the benefits.

Or use a productivity tool such as Leechblock, that'll keep you away from social media for set periods.

Spending time on an essay, and doing it in advance, will always provide the best results (and put you in the lecturer's good books.) But we all stray sometimes, so try not to rush through your work and stay calm. One advantage of starting late is that the whole horrible ordeal will soon be over.

You did it again.

You procrastinated.

You watched sixteen episodes of “The Office” instead of writing that 15-page research paper.

I really can’t believe you. Actually I can, and I know what it’s like. Most of us do.

I’ve put off papers and articles before and I’ve had to pump them out in as little as a few hours.

As a student-journalist, I am constantly writing under tight deadlines that force me to write and edit very quickly.

After a lot of practice, I can say with confidence that I’m pretty good at writing papers in a time crunch.

But enough with the blabbing because you need help and you need it fast.

Here are a few tips that I think could help you get through it all:

1. Chill out

You don’t want to go into this process freaking out. However, a little stress can be good and motivating for you.

There’s no more putting it off and you have to get it done now, whether you like it or not. So, take a few deep breaths, we’re going to get through this.

2. Know what you’re going to say

Let’s make sure that you have some major points outlined. Reread the rubric and prompt of your essay and create a brief outline.

This may seem like it takes more time than its worth, but it will keep you on task and help to make sure that you aren’t going off topic as you’re writing.

And, let me tell you, that will save you some time in editing.

This outline can be as simple as one-word bullet points. I usually write mine on a post-it note and put it somewhere that I can see as I’m writing the paper. This essay outline writing guide may be able to help if you’re confused and I sound like I’m speaking jibberish.

That way, I can refer to it as I go and I don’t get lost.

3. Research is key

You haven’t even done the research? Well, go to Wikipedia relating to your topic and scroll to the bottom where they list their sources.

A lot of times this can lead you to some pretty good, legit websites that can help you find quality research in a short time.

I would also suggest citing your resources as you go. That way, when you are finished with the paper, you don’t have to go back through it and try to find where to cite.

If you cite as you go, you’re also much less likely to plagiarize.

4. Do not forget to edit

Grammar mistakes are the easiest ways to lose points, but also some of the easiest to catch.

Make sure you are at least reading through your essay to see if there are any glaring errors, or if some of your main points got muddled in your rush to write.

A pro tip is to copy and paste your essay into an online translator and have the robot read it back to you.

You’ll immediately be able to notice anything that sounds funny.

Good luck on your essay! I’m sure you’ll be fine and get everything done.

Next time, don’t start a new Netflix series – we all know it leads to binge-watching.

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