Large tasks are tough to complete and even worse to get started if you procrastinate like most people. I usually thought it would take much longer to complete an assignment then it actually took. This caused me to put off the assignment until it was too late. I often then regretted not starting it sooner which would have reduced the stress that it caused in the first place. This often caused late nights and/or early mornings spent scrambling to get the assignment done in time.
Doing an assignment at the last minute leaves little time to give it one final read to catch simple mistakes. These simple mistakes can cost you easy marks that really shouldn’t have been lost. What I have found works best to tackle big tasks is to break them into finite chunks.
Use Your Daily Planner Applications
Almost everyone has a phone or access to a free planning application like Google Calender. Something with a reminder feature works best. Use the planner to spread the assignment over multiple days. Spend some time and colour code the assignments from different classes and organise it in a way that you find is easy to read. If your organisational structure hurts your eyes you are going to abandon the daily planner and go back to your old ways. It might take a few tries to find something that work so be prepared to fail a few times. If in doubt, copy someone else whose style works for you.
The planner organises your life and makes you commit to tasks. The key to using this effectively is to work within your limits and set realistic expectations. I have various obligations but the big four that I try to work in every evening are Learning German, Going to the Gym, Saxaphone Practice, and The Dishes. I have to do the dishes every night or I have to listen to the nagging, so that leaves me to choose two of the remaining three. I never try to do all four in one evening because I know that is impossible, and if I come home late from work I only have time for two of the four. The lesson is to learn what your time limits and plan within it.
Use your Daily Planner to Break Down the Assignment
The daily planner is a great tool to manage your time to complete an assignment because you can assign a finite time for an assignment. By giving yourself a defined start time and working on it for duration of one or two hours, the thought of completing the assignment becomes more manageable. Of the following two statements, the one with defined times is less daunting.
A) I am going to do my essay on the events that led to the outbreak on World War I.
B) At 7:30 I am going to read the assigned reading on World War I for 1 hour.
When I was in university I often approached my assignments thinking like A). What this caused me to do was constantly postpone it – I didn’t start my assignment because in the back of my mind I knew it would take all night or day to do, but I often had other obligations. More recently I think like B) and that allows me to get started sooner. A side benefit of starting sooner is similar to reading the whole test before you start writing. You will think of your assignment subconsciously and generate ideas throughout the day that you can jot down.
Don’t work right before you have to go to sleep. You might be too worked up or be too worried to have a good night sleep. Additionally, you don’t want to work all the time. You need to have some fun too. I usually reserve the last hour or so before bed to read or watch TV.
This is not the easiest assignment-tackling method to master. It takes practice to be able to estimate the amount of time you will need effectively and you have to be comfortable to let your planner control your life a little. The reason I like this method because it forces me to get started, which I often find the most difficult thing to do. The old cliché of, “The sooner you begin, the sooner you will finish,” is inevitable true and can prevent a lot of stress in your post-secondary journey in addition to increasing your results.