I’ve found that with Thanksgiving on the horizon, the rational part of my brain that keeps track of deadlines and convinces me to start projects ahead of time always gets clubbed aside by the frenetic impulse to stuff myself with as much pumpkin pie as possible. Somehow, the knowledge that in just a few hours I’ll be home, curled up with my dog on my parents’ couch, causes me to forget that Thanksgiving break is just that: a break. And when it’s over, there’s still schoolwork to be done.
And because it’s the end of the semester, there’s a lot of schoolwork to be done. Quickly.
I know, I know, figuring out how you’re going to get all your work done by the end of the semester is not the most festive pre-break subject. But I promise: you’ll enjoy your vacation a whole lot more with the knowledge that once you get back, you won’t be scrambling to write fifty pages worth of final assignments in just a few days.
To put things in perspective: after Thanksgiving, classes resume on Monday, November 29th. We then have only two full weeks of class until the last day (Friday, December 9th). After that, it’s just one more week of reading period and finals before the semester’s over. That’s not a lot of time, folks. Take a few minutes before you take off to plan out a schedule for the rest of the semester.
1. Mark down final exams and final assignment due dates on a calendar. You should be able to find these dates in your syllabi, but just in case they aren’t listed, check out the registrar’s final exam schedule.
2. For each writing assignment, set a date by which you pledge to finish your first draft. You should leave yourself one full day (at the very least!) before the assignment is due to edit your work. Ideally, you’ll leave yourself three days: one to take a complete break from your work to let your brain relax, and two to make any necessary edits. Be optimistic: schedule your first draft due date at least three days before the actual due date. That way if you don’t complete the draft three days ahead of time, at least you’ll have some wiggle room!
3. Pick a side: work on everything at once, or focus on one project at a time? Both options have merits. If you have three final research papers and vow to work a bit on each one every day, you’ll avoid a situation where you only have two nights to complete an entire assignment. However, splitting your time between numerous assignments could lead you to feel as though you aren’t actually accomplishing anything; sometimes it’s a more effective mental boost to be able to see the effort you’re making in the form of a completed draft.
If you decide to focus on one project at a time, vow to complete one project before moving on. It can be tempting to move on to your anthropology paper once your history paper is just about done, but resist! Take the time to sit down and copyedit, format, check for citations, and basically get your document entirely ready to hand in before you switch gears. That way, you’ll avoid the unfortunate realization later on down the line that you have more work on that first assignment than you’d planned!
4. Give yourself mini-deadlines. You want to be doing something every day to make sure that your work doesn’t pile up. So, your final paper for art history is due on December 13th? And you’re aiming to have it finished by December 10th? Great: aim to write at least two pages every day leading up to your first draft due date. Although, you do have that big math assignment due that week…better give yourself some wiggle room. So, if the paper is 10 pages long, you might aim to write two pages a day starting on December 3rd. You probably want a solid outline before you start writing, so maybe you aim to have that finished by December 1st. To make sure you have enough information to start outlining, try to finish up all your research by November 29th.
This is just an example of one possible way to structure your time; figure out what works best for you depending on your personal predilections and any other assignments you might have!
5. This was brought up in the last point, but really cannot be stressed enough: do something every day. It’s tempting, yes, but don’t coast through reading week! If you get a little something done every day, you won’t be one of those crazy people camped out in Olin during finals who can’t tell whether it’s day or night outside because their cubicle isn’t facing a window. A little work now will save yourself a lot of hardship in the long run.
6. While this might seem paradoxical coming on the heels of tip number 5, take breaks. Relax. Breathe. Enjoy the rest of the semester. A frazzled mind will only serve to produce sloppy work, after all!