The other day a friend tweeted “What if I wrote one page every day for my 20 page paper due Dec. 21? I know, I know, that’s not how that works.” But why isn’t that how it works? Why have I made it halfway through my senior year of college and despite this obsessive over–planning, only once finished a paper before the day it was due?
I remember the relief I felt that day — I got a full night’s sleep that night! I pressed print 18 hours before the start of class instead of ten minutes! There was time to read it over! Finishing at 6:00 p.m. and leaving the library in time for dinner was a far more civilized approach than my normal tactic of camping in Rosengarten with a bag of chocolate chip cookies and a never ending supply of Diet Coke. I vowed that I would approach every subsequent paper that way. I have never repeated the feat since.
Most people who know me know that I am an intense scheduler. My notebook is filled with to–go–to and to–see and to–do lists and carefully allotted timetables for my busiest days, down to when I will eat dinner and for how long. I can look back through my planners from the past years and see when my schedule was the most intense, by virtue of the amount of black ink scribbled on the page. I don’t always stick to these schedules, but the mere act of writing my work down and parceling it into neat sections is comforting, a reminder that no matter how overwhelming it seems, I can get it all done. But my life doesn’t need to be like this, constantly rushing to fit things in, staring at to–do lists of things that should have been to–done the day before.
Why is it that we can’t start things earlier? What is it about the pressure of the immediate deadline that makes us finally kick everything into gear? If I started every paper just one day earlier, I’d be able to finish with time to spare. Logically, the choice should be an easy one — a better final product and an easier process? Yes please! The reality? It seems to be utterly impossible to do just that.
Two weeks ago, I decided that my ways would change, for real this time. My art history research paper would be completed before I left for Thanksgiving break! I spent a Saturday afternoon in Fisher Fine Arts blankly staring at a computer screen, realizing that I had wasted so much time that I had already run over the 2–hour reserve check out time and needed to renew the book before I even opened it. I marched in Sunday and did the opposite — I got all of my research done! Monday and Tuesday slipped by too quickly and I gave myself an extension — I would finish the paper before the end of break or else.
Unsurprisingly, I did little more than stare at a blank Word document at my parent’s kitchen table. Now, I’m sitting in Fisher Fine Arts, cursing my pathetic work ethic and disappointingly looking at the fun events I had foolishly penciled into my planner while convinced of my newfound responsibility and foresight, now staring back at me with big black lines through them. My resolution for the rest of senior year? To finally, finally dominate the deadline instead of letting it rule (and ruin) my life. But who am I kidding? See you in Rosengarten at 3 a.m. next week.