It’s happened to almost everyone. That impossible deadline that you have been ignoring has crept up and now there are only a few days before four assignments are due in at once. If only you had thought about it earlier. If only they were spread out a bit. If only you had not had to go to your part-time job or continue with your extra-curricular activities.
No matter your level of study, multiple assignments for a singular deadline can cause the most studious of hearts to flutter. The simplest technique is this: Take control by creating a plan to meet the deadline and do not panic.
1. Write a to-do list
Write down the title of each assignment and underneath each one, jot down any research or extra reading that you will have to do. Include assignment plans on the to-do list. Think of this as a list of ‘mini’ tasks that have to be completed to enable you to complete the assignments. Draw a margin on the far right of the page and write ‘Done’ at the top of the column. Watching the ticks fill up the page as you complete each item will provide an underestimated sense of achievement. Don’t feel overwhelmed when you look at the to-do list – you’ve made the first step towards meeting the deadline on time.
2. Prioritize tasks
Use whatever ranking system you like based on the idea of high, medium and low priority. A simple numbering system will work or writing the words in; highlighting items in colours that relate to a priority level can inadvertently cheer you up.
At the moment, it probably feels as though everything on the list is a priority but you can’t do it all at once. Breaking the list into sizable chunks means you are more likely to work methodically and ensure that the preparation has been made for the assignment writing.
A good tip is to prioritize the tasks that will require extra time and possibly travel, such as going to the library to find journal articles that then need photocopying. Try to avoid giving preference to your favourite subject and attend to the mini tasks of the topics you know less about – these tasks may take longer but by the time you have completed the more difficult parts, the lower priority items won’t take as long to complete.
3. Estimate times
Look back at your to-do list and work out how long each item will take to complete. If you’re struggling to pin times to tasks, consider how long you taken in the past and write those times down. Can you combine the different research tasks into a single afternoon or day? Would you set aside a day or two purely for the assignment planning? Don’t forget to factor in how long the assignments themselves will take. Once you have allocated a time to each task, add a bit extra as a contingency in case the exercise takes longer than you had expected.
4. Create a timetable and set earlier deadlines
The next thing to do is to make a plan of action as to how you will meet the assignment deadlines. The simplest way to do this is to create a timetable that you can work to. You could do this using an empty calendar that can be printed from an email provider. Find, or make one that covers the period from now until the deadline date. Make sure you write in any of your extra-curricular or employment activities as this will impinge on the amount of time you have available to work on your assignments.
Use your prioritizations to write in the tasks that should be started immediately. Think of the prioritisations as being your ‘start date’ for tasks. Write in the lower priority task start dates too. When a number of assignments are due together, it’s sensible to set completion dates a day or so earlier than the actual deadline. You could also write in ‘milestone’ deadlines.’ The milestone deadlines are the date by which you plan to complete the mini tasks for each assignment.
Fill out the timetable with the various start and deadline dates, distinguishing milestone deadlines from final deadlines.
5. Write assignment plans
When you have completed all the research and have found the resources you plan to use, it’s time to write the assignment plan.
An assignment plan sets the structure of the assignment you will write and simultaneously simplifies and speeds up the actual writing process. Firstly, consider the assignment title – do you plan to disagree or agree with it? Knowing what or how you will conclude the assignment from the outset will guide the points you can plan to cover. List the number of points or arguments you will be making in the assignment. Using each as a heading, write down all the supporting material you intend to use and any short notes that might occur to you as you make the plan.
Ensure there is a flow to the plan. Approach the introduction at the end of the plan, as well as the actual assignment. Trying to write the introduction can be the greatest sticking point if you try to dive in – take the pressure off yourself and make your points and your conclusion first.
Writing the assignments should be straightforward due to the planning and preparation you have carried out. Completing them in advance of the deadline will give you time to check for spelling and grammatical errors as well as perfecting references and a bibliography if required.