Saturday, February 7, 2015

Planning Ahead to Prevent Paper-Writing Stress

By: Rachael Groat

Sometimes it feels like your professors had a super secret conference in which they maniacally planned to have multiple major writing assignments all due the same day or week.  This influx of writing assignments can be overwhelming and potentially panic-inducing depending on how soon the due dates are looming.  But instead of last minute paper writing while stress eating pints of ice cream, let's think in advance this semester.

I know when I find myself with a heavy work-load but without an assignment due right away, I typically get nothing done at all and find myself on Netflix, only making the problem worse.  But those far away due dates are deceiving, especially when it comes to multiple papers.  So here's some tips on how to stop binging on the Walking Dead and logically tackle your papers with plenty of time to spare.

Plan ahead.  Early in the semester, map out your semester schedule in a calendar or planner.  Write down all the major assignments for each class.  Highlight or star them to make them stand out. Now you have a visual feel for your semester so those due date ridden weeks can't creep up on you.

In addition to my planner of major assignments, I take 15 sheets of notebook paper, one for each week of the semester, and write down the date of each class and the readings and assignments due that day.  I typically do this in pencil so I can easily make any changes that come up.  It's satisfying to cross them off and helpful to think of the semester structured in weeks.  There are eight weeks before spring break and seven between break and finals.  What should you be doing in each?    

Now that you've been proactive and know what's coming, do something about it.  Block off time, especially in less busy weeks, to begin working on one of the assignments.  Even if you don't write a paper far in advance, you can get started on research.  I find that by committing to doing something small, even writing a single paragraph, can be less daunting and help you get started.  If your goal is too overwhelming, it's much harder to begin.  Also, the reward system works well when you're having trouble finding that motivation to start!

Notice the smaller assignments due around a particularly busy time.  I often try to get ahead in my reading or short assignments, so I can exclusively focus on the major assignments in a due date filled week. 

Take some time off while working on a project.  Spreading out your work rather than powering straight through allows you to clear your mind and return with a fresh perspective.  So take breaks by watching the Walking Dead, but try to forge a more balanced semester through organization and thinking ahead.  Spreading writing assignments through all fifteen weeks reduces stress, and you'll be grateful you planned and acted ahead when finals week comes around.

So, this semester, let's work on preventing those paper writing frenzies and instead logically plan out our work!


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