Scholar Hacks: What to do if you’ve waited until the last minute

Procrastinated a bit too long on that essay or speech? Here are some tips if you’ve waited until the last minute to start. (Please take number one to heart.)

  1. Don’t. Seriously. Procrastination seems like a good motivator to your future self, but it is by necessity a short term solution that can make you feel crummy, and can produce less than stellar results.
  2. Start now, whenever now is.
  3. Go through a very quick brainstorming session. It can take as few as 5 minutes. Give yourself 3 minutes to write down all possible, even ludicrous ideas then pare down in 2 minutes.
  4. Decide and commit. Give yourself a deadline for when to stop thinking and start doing (research.) This is somewhat dangerous, because you are not giving yourself the possibility of an out in the event that your work leads to a dead end. However, if you waited too long, languishing in your decision will only add to the problem.
  5. Be judicious in your research. You will need deftness and skill in researching if you have very little time. No tangents allowed here. Be prepared to work as hard as you can as efficiently as you can with less positive results than if you had longer amounts of time.
  6. Get the minimum done, and then fill in as possible with details and other things that make your assignment high quality. The point here is to not let perfection be the enemy of progress.
  7. Save time to polish.  Professors can tell when papers or speeches are written the hours before they are due, but don’t give them extra help by leaving careless errors in your work.
  8. Don’t go wonky with the formatting. This is likely not your professor’s first rodeo, and she will probably be able to tell if you’ve altered the size of the margins or of your punctuation marks.
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