We “last minute” people are sorely misunderstood. Over the course of my million-year college career, I have seen hundreds of teachers, supervisors, and fellow students whose eyebrows raised so high until they began to fade when I casually stipulated that, yes, I had actually finished writing an essay 20 minutes before it was due and hoped it would be good without proofreading. And my friends even ordered their work on various suitable sites, for example PayToWritePaper, and they do not even have to think about the details now.
Yes, I actually went to bed when 500 words were written, expecting to write the remaining 2,000 between 3 and 9 a.m.; yes, I really thought a city bus would be a great place to write a bibliography. For those who don’t understand this, “last-minute” sounds like laziness, disorganization, and bad faith. In reality, of course, it is not. Rather, it’s a completely different way of thinking, in which you need the pressure of a limited amount of time and the expectation of using as much time as is available for work, right up to the point of handing in. You finish the job with as much effort as anyone else, but later and, as it often comes out, more frantically.
The problem is that being a “last minute person” doesn’t so much mean being lazy or disorganized as it can and does get you in trouble. I can mention too many examples where I’ve had to finish badly on something that was the focus of my attention because I planned to do too much and too late.
There was the time I wanted to completely restructure a 10,000-word essay the day before it was due, when I still had 2,000 words left to write and I didn’t have time to put references in. Or when I was going to finish a piece of coursework the morning of the deadline and woke up with a migraine, unable to finish anything. Or the hundreds of times I’ve handed in papers with a mass of mistakes that I didn’t notice because I was too tired after a sleepless night.
If you’re the kind of person who finishes work at the last minute, and reading this you feel inner frustration at all the terrible work you handed in because everything went down the drain at the very last minute, then this trick may help you in that case. Make an attitude for yourself: have something that you can already turn in by 9 a.m. on the morning of the day the work has to be handed in.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be finished, written almost to the final version, formatted, with conclusions and references. If it implies that you have to stay up long or get up before dark, then so be it. Make the necessary changes the day before the deadline, but so that you come out with a completed version ready to hand in.
1. Use caffeine as the answer to everything
One cup of coffee or even Red Bull, drunk in a really hopeless situation, can show wonders in helping you outwit your thinking and get through immeasurable amounts of work. But consuming a larger amount won’t make a significant difference and instead will leave you unfocused, anxious, wobbly and unhealthily confused. Too much caffeine also hurts your heart and disrupts your sleep patterns.
If you’re having trouble concentrating or feel like you’re working through a brick wall of fatigue, try doing more exercise – scientists have proven time and time again that 30 minutes of intense cardio exercise several times a week does wonders for your mood, sleep and attention span.
2. Working through the night
The evil sister of working until the last minute and overdosing on coffee is the night vigil, my least favorite study support of all. We all do it. For example, I’ve done it probably hundreds of times. I once watched the sun rise and set, rise and set again for an entire session in the library (I should say this was in winter when the sun only shines for about 7 hours a day, but it was still a very depressing experience).
Nightly vigils always look like a brilliant idea somewhere around 6 p.m. the day before you implement them: you’ll have an extra 12 hours, which you don’t have in your normal life, without distractions, though you’ll probably have to eat and drink tons of low-quality food and gallons of fizzy drinks to stay awake. In fact, if you’re going to stay up all night, you can probably break out to get some rest now… Around 9 p.m., once you’ve eaten all your snacks, rested well and begun to realize “how much you should have done” and “what you would do more than anything else,” the sense of smug determination begins to disappear.
By 12 o’clock, after your third cup of coffee, you may feel fine, but around 2 a.m. your head will throb visibly, your eyes will be bloodshot, itchy, and mostly half-closed. And by 4 a.m. you’ll be in a tired and hungry delirium, so that you’ll have trouble reading the words you just wrote, let alone thinking of new ones. When you reread your work the next day, then, when it’s too late, you come to be horrified by the number of typos, spelling errors, and sentences written at 6 a.m. that make no sense and just take up space on your page. Thus, while you may work the next day, personally, staying awake at night turns me into a zombie for at least two days.
Of course, there are unavoidable circumstances where some of the work takes longer than anticipated, or something goes wrong at the last minute. But, unless you’re one of those crazy nighttime “people-suckers” who sleep all day and work best at 3 a.m., don’t plan or rely on nighttime wake-ups. They are absolutely terrible and definitely not conducive to good work.
3. Working in your bedroom
Working in your room seems like a good idea at first: it’s nice and comfortable, you can easily get tea or snacks, and you don’t even have to be very dressed up. But to me, that seems like a recipe for fun: either it’s the distinct urge to eat something delicious in the fridge that prompts us to take breaks every 5 minutes, or the temptation to watch TV, or the realization that I really need to do laundry right now – I personally always find reasons to be distracted at home. What’s more, a day spent cooped up in one room with no one to see and not much to do can leave you in a lonely, stressed out state, which means that at the end of the day you’ll have trouble turning off and relaxing in the same room. No, where you should go is the library.