As an undergraduate who sits on three student group committees, works three part-time jobs and can never say no to a social (primarily due to an overwhelming fear of missing out), time is something I am always short of. There never seem to be enough hours in the day and I do not have enough fingers to count the amount of academic-related obligations I have missed already in my first semester. However, given these constraints, I have had to learn how to manage my time as effectively as possible. This is especially the case during the intensity of the deadline period. I study a joint honours humanities degree (English and History), which requires lots of reading research before writing up some lengthy essays. Therefore, I feel as though I am qualified to give you some handy tips and tricks on how you can manage your time when writing a long assignment:
Keep track of your deadlines
This seems like an obvious one. But sometimes it is easy to fall into the trap of mixing up dates or missing an announcement in class. As soon as you know when your deadlines are, write them down everywhere. Save them in your phone calendar, scribble them down in a diary planner and, if you have one, get it on your whiteboard. This method of multiple signs will significantly decrease the risk of you forgetting about any assignments that are due. It also gives you a mental reminder of how long you have left.
Make a timetable
Following the above, the next best thing you can do is start divvying up your time appropriately. First, block out all the times you are unavailable, whether that be because of lectures and seminars or society activities and socials. Then, think about how long it is going to take you to write this assignment. For example, I know that I can complete a 2500 word essay in a week and that I do not need to start any earlier than that. However, if you have a particularly busy week coming up, or if you know that this assignment is going to take a little bit longer than usual, you may want to factor in some chunks of time earlier on. So, in this example, I would give myself two weeks instead of one.
I would also recommend reserving at least an hour or two a day dedicated to just this assignment. As it gets closer to the deadline, naturally you are going to want to spend more time on it. So bear that in mind and perhaps add a few extra hours in for the days just before the due date.
Think about when you work best in the day as you do this. There is no point setting your assignment time for the morning if you are a late riser and more productive at night. Instead, pencil in exactly what you want to focus on, such as researching the topic or working on the thesis and introduction.
Stick to the timetable
Do not get into the habit of changing your timetable, unless it is absolutely necessary (i.e. if there is an emergency). Shifting things around inevitably results in some lost time somewhere, which can cause you to fall behind very easily. Furthermore, if you complete your hour a day, it gets you into a healthy routine that will increase your productivity. For example, on the first day, you may only get 100 words done in the hour, but later on, maybe on the fifth or sixth day, your mind and body will become accustomed to this new writing practice, meaning you will perhaps start churning out 500 words per hour.
Do not leave it to the night before
We have all had to pull an all-nighter on occasion (I have already had mine this semester!), but it is not something you want to get into the habit of doing. Sometimes you will veer away from the timetable, but make sure it is not so much that you end up in the position of having one night to get everything done, as whilst it is possible, you will not be producing a high-quality standard of writing. An easy way to avoid this is to set your own three-day extension period. So, instead of making your deadline sit on the due date, bring it up to three days before in your calendar. This means that you will be working towards an earlier, fake deadline, so that even if you run over a bit, you will not miss the real one or be left with the night-before situation.
These are just some of the ways to manage your time when writing a long assignment. If you have your own, why not let us know?