Friday, October 21, 2011

Set Your Own Deadlines (and make them early!)

(BTW, this post was actually written about two weeks ago. Now I'm at the point where all the stuff I mention is coming due, and boy, am I glad that I listened to my own advice.)

Anyone who read the title of this blog post may think that I’m crazy. After all, university deadlines are always looming ominously on the horizon. Why would I want to move them closer?

The thing you have to remember is that some storms are bigger than others. Sometimes you’ll get just a little rain shower and other times it’ll be a huge thunderstorm. Still other times you’ll get a little rain shower and then a huge hurricane will blow in followed by an inch or two of snow, and then you’ll just be stuck.

(Before I continue, I’ll take a second to apologize to anyone who thinks I’ve greatly overused the rain analogy)

I hope you get my drift. Assignments tend to pile up. You’ll have assignments due in two different courses on the same day, or three tests within a week. I have that situation right now (which is why I’m writing this blog post). For the next two weeks I have absolutely nothing due, unless you count a one-paragraph outline of an essay that’s not due until February. If you just look at my next two weeks, I’m doing pretty good.

But then the week after that is nasty. I have a 1000 word book review on All Quiet on the Western Front, a 1000 word Sociology paper, a Psychology exam and a poetry exam, all within a week. Now, I know a lot of students can write a paper in one night, but can anyone write two papers and study for two tests all at the same time? If you want a decent mark, then the answer is no.

So I’ve decided that my Sociology paper will be done this weekend, a good two weeks before the deadline. And then next weekend I’ll write the book review, leaving next week (the one before the tests) virtually free for studying. To make sure I achieve these goals, I’m telling myself that my essays are due before they really are. If I allow myself to think ‘oh, it’s three weeks until this is due’ then I’ll put it on the back burner and spend these next two weeks watching Doctor Who.

Now, this doesn’t mean that my essays will be done done. They won’t be amazingly polished totally-ready-to-hand-in finished drafts. I can certainly do some polishing in the last week right before the deadline. Still, I’ll have a first draft, something to fall back on when it gets crazy.

For all you writers out there, this would be a useful skill to have. I’ve heard that a lot of published authors are publicizing their first book while editing their second book while writing their third book. That’s a lot of work! Working with self-imposed deadlines (I need to have ten blog posts written by Monday) and fixed deadlines (your editor wants the second draft in two weeks) can’t be easy, so it’s best to start practicing now.

Now, over to you, University/Highschool students, or general writer-people. Have you ever mentally moved a deadline forward to get something done? Or do you have other strategies? Since I’m just developing my study habits, I’d love to hear any ideas you have!


  1. Hi! New follower. Can I just say how pretty your blog is? And yay! you're Canadian. Lol. Thanks for following!

  2. Ah yes, the old trick-yourself-into-thinking-it's-earlier regime. I know it well, :) I do that with my writing, or kniting or--oddly enough--the book I'm reading. Be at chapter 12 by 3:00, 20 by supper...I'm a control freak though, :)

  3. Ha, I've never tried that technique before. Now I think I will :)
    And I'm definitely with you on the addiction to Dr. Who, haha. I think All Quiet on the Western Front is a great book too.