Left in the (last-minute) lurch: avoiding assignment procrastination

We’ve all been there. Every single one of us. Don’t lie. Across all degrees in all universities, in all fields and colleges, there is one thing that unites the common student: our bittersweet love of procrastination. It’s the cornerstone of the uni student stereotype – 10 pm, leaning forward on the couch, leftover Thai on the table and Netflix on the TV, rushing an assignment to the very last minute of an 11:59 pm deadline. It’s almost a part of the student experience. However, just because we’ve all been there before, doesn’t mean we need to continue to be. Here’s how to avoid leaving yourself in the last-minute lurch with your assignments.

Start early

Some of this will sound like obvious advice. Case in point, ‘start early’. However, taking this to heart can seriously help with assignment management; the greatest truths are often the simplest. Take a little time at the start of semester to get your head around what each assignment will require of you. In the first three or so weeks of semester, when you aren’t swamped with deadlines, it’s a good bet to go through each of your assignments, make sure you understand them, and lay out a plan for each. Break that essay question down into paragraphs, make a workflow for that group assignment, whatever it is, prepare yourself for crunch time as best you can by making sure you at least know what you’re supposed to be doing when you get there. It’s not possible to finish all your assignments in the first three weeks. It is possible to prevent yourself going blind into a 30% assignment a few nights before its due.

Time ’N’ Place

Okay, so you’ve got a roadmap for semester. You know what’s due when and you know what needs to be done. Great! Now you just need to do it… Crickets. This is the hardest part, no doubt. It’s easy enough to get your head around what needs doing, but much harder to actually knuckle down and do it. The trick is to find a ‘time n place’ for your assignment work. This is especially important at the start of your assignments, when they’re at their most daunting and impenetrable. Chain yourself to a desk in the library for a four-hour block until you make a dent. Somewhere away from distractions, where and when you can study for an extended period of time unbothered, is probably best. Phone upside down on Do Not Disturb is a must. Let this become your ‘time n place’ to do assignments.

Do it every day

Being a uni student is a full-time job. That means it’s a long-term hustle too. The best assignment work is done consistently over an extended period leading up to the due date, not crammed into an exponentially increasing workflow in the last few days beforehand (or even hours – again, we’ve all been there). Now we’re starting to get a picture of what good, not-last-minute assignment work is supposed to be: starting early, finding a suitable time ’n’ place to do your work undistracted, and then doing so consistently. Even a half-hour browse of a relevant journal article counts; what’s important is that you keep at it on a regular basis.

Finish early

Arguably the most important part. Aim to have your assignment done a week before it is actually due, or even earlier if possible. At the end of the day, assignments are about learning. They’re supposed to challenge you in ways that will teach you important skills to be used later in your education and career. You’re not learning to your full extent when you’re aiming to just scrape past the word count and the pass mark; by giving yourself a window of time between the assignment’s completion and the due date, you give yourself the opportunity to review, revise, to see where things can be changed for the better, and ultimately to learn the material more deeply.

Get help

If you find yourself falling behind on deadlines more often than you’d like, it may be time to get some help from the many academic services available at University. You may want to check if your course runs PASS sessions, where you can talk to both current and past students in your course about how to tackle the material. You can also visit the Academic Learning Support website to access a number of resources, including workshops for study skills, academic writing, one-on-one consultations, counselling and more.

We’re all gonna leave something to the last minute at some time in our university careers; it’s a fact of student life. Hopefully, with this guide, it just doesn’t have to be every time. Speaking of which – isn’t there something you’re meant to be doing?!

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