Monthly Archives: June 2011
It’s coming to the end of the school year, which means, for many of you, it’s “finals season.” With what feels like 148,927,826 final papers due (give or take a few) and that many more final exams, final projects, and other final end-of-the-semester things to worry about, how do you find the time?
To do so, you have to MAKE the time, not find the time.
Sadly, there is no way to make days longer or for weeks to magically appear between now and your deadlines. Unless a way to bend time is found, there is no way to add extra days or hours to what you already have, or to recoup “lost” time. There is no two ways about it, you have a lot of things to do, and a very limited amount of time to do them. So, it’s crucial to make use of the time you have, and to do so efficiently. Time management means exactly that: to manage your time available. In order to do so, you will have to prioritize, by dividing your time appropriately.
Dividing your time “appropriately” means to devote the appropriate amount of time to the tasks at hand. The appropriate time, however, means the ACTUAL time you need to complete a task. So, your mission is to be honest with yourself. Don’t tell yourself you work best under pressure when you… well, don’t. In the same way you know your paper isn’t going to write itself, know your own strengths and weaknesses; if you know pulling an all-nighter isn’t going to end well for you and for your grade, then don’t do it. Time isn’t going to magically expand itself and you’re not going to magically work at a vastly different pace than you’re normally used to. If you genuinely feel you do work best under pressure, that’s okay, too– but, think twice about it. Is this really the case? And, if it can be avoided, why would you want to put yourself through that?
More time is ALWAYS better than too little time. By managing your time consciously and honestly, you’re allowing yourself to have more time, time being one of the most crucial factors to improving your skills as a writer. How, you say? This is how. So, again, be honest with yourself. The more conscious you are about how much time you have available and how much time it will actually take to complete your assignment fully and completely, the more likely you are to do it.
So, sit down with your planner, Google Calendar, or what-have-you, and make an assessment: How much work is due? How much time do you actually have? How can you safely allocate the appropriate amount of time to each task? This is the first step to actually managing your time effectively. By doing so, you’ll be in a much better position to not only survive your hectic end-of-semester schedule, but to totally ace it.
I get asked a lot of questions from my students– mostly asking for tips and tricks to writing essays. While there’s no way to avoid doing the work, there are certainly tips and tricks to improve your writing and, in turn, to improve you yourself as a writer.
1. Write more than one draft.
It’s certainly more time-efficient to bang out a draft, staple it together, hand it in, and be done with the assignment. It saves time, but doesn’t save you from submitting an essay riddled with mistakes. Simple grammatical gaffes, like mixing up “your” and “you’re”, can go unnoticed and even more serious ones, like mixing up citations and copy-and-pasting wrong quotes, can fly under the radar if you hand in only your first draft. Thoroughly proofreading your work ensures that you’re not handing in an essay that is full of misspellings, bad grammar, or worse. Realizing your mistakes is the first step to a successful essay, and writing multiple drafts where you can make corrections and tweak your writing will ensure that you’ll be submitting your best work.
2. Have someone else look at it.
In the same way that writing two (or more!) drafts is crucial to writing a good essay, having someone else read your work can give you ideas and insight that you may not have thought of or seen otherwise. This can be your professor, a friend, your roommate, a neighbor, anyone. Giving your paper to an outside reader is essentially what you are doing when submitting your essay to a professor: you’re providing a written argument, explaining your point of view on the subject, and hoping your argument comes across clearly. An outside reader can spot critical errors that might not seen right away and tell you if your argument is explained fully and, most importantly, if what you’re saying makes sense. Through an outsider’s opinion, you can better gauge what your professor’s criticisms might be and (through drafting!) correct them preemptively.
3. Make sure you give yourself enough time.
I know, I know– this is easier said than done. And, sometimes, you’re not given the time to begin with. I have previously covered ways in which to make the most of your time allotted, but all of the above should explain why it’s important to do so. You want to give yourself enough time to complete these important steps in order to hand in an essay that truly shows off your ability. Aside from completing the assignment, you want to prove that you’re a capable student and a good writer. Skimping on these steps can lead to mistakes, which could instead showcase the opposite– that you are careless, rushed, and maybe even lazy.
All in all, these are not tips on “how to write a paper in 90 minutes or less”, or other get-rich-quick schemes. These are instead tools that will, ultimately, show your best work possible and that you are a good and careful writer.