I don’t suggest that anybody purposely procrastinates writing a 10 page paper until the last 2 hours before it’s due. Buuuuuut…. If you do find yourself in that particular predicament, then I can walk you through the process. I did it a couple weeks ago and it actually turned out ok– which basically makes me an expert.
I’d be lying if I said doing online classes is easy for me during my Sophomore year. Due to COVID, our campus is closed and I’ve been staying at home in Southern California doing 3 courses through Pitzer College entirely online.
One of my courses is about political philosophy through history.
Political science, political theory, political studies, political thought – really, anything academically political – is not my interest. I respect the field of study and people who have a passion for it, I’m just not one of those people.
These two combined factors (online classes + an area of study that is not of interest to me) have created a cocktail of struggle and boredom in this particular class. So, when I realized I had to write a 10-page paper analyzing the idea of “justice” in ancient political texts, I wasn’t really jumping for joy.
Luckily, I’m a problem-solver and a scientist. So, I had the genius idea to procrastinate the paper til 2 hours before it was due, try and write it in that time frame, and record the experience to share with you.
This ‘experiment’ was based on an experience I had freshman year in a class that I forgot to write a paper for and had to get done in a few hours to turn it in by midnight.
I’m not exactly sure what grade I got on that paper, but I do remember the sheer adrenaline rush that came with trying to whip out 10-pages on a topic I had basically no idea about.
So, if you’re like me and really need a deadline to light a fire under your ass for an assignment you’re dreading, here are some tips, tricks, and strategies for getting it done.
Subscribe to the newsletter
I know this would make sense to put at the end, but it’s so crucial to validate my strategy that I bumped it up. It wouldn’t make very much sense to try and tell you how to write a paper then say “oh, and by the way… I failed”. Right??
So this paper turned out surprisingly well: I got an A. While I can’t guarantee these results for everyone and on any assignment, there is definitely a good chance you won’t fail completely by doing this method.
Step By Step:
1. Mentally Prepare
Although circumstances may not allow you to take this step (i.e. you forgot what day it is), I would highly recommend mental preparation if you are able.
If you’re like me and you just want to see if you can do it, commit yourself to doing it right. Think about it in the days and hours leading up to this assignment and make sure you are going to go into it with the right headspace and some ideas pre-prepared in your mind.
Personally, I channel my inner Michael Phelps before starting my paper. I imagine it’s 2008 and I’m in Beijing, about to race for my eighth gold medal with my whole country watching, believing, and supporting me. I’m in the zone, listening to Daft Punk (R.I.P). My heart is pounding out of my chest, but I’m oddly calm. I’m ready to win but also ready to accept defeat if that’s my destiny. I dive in and give it my all.
2. Physically prepare
Don’t do this on an empty stomach. Have some snacks, coffee, tea, etc. before. You don’t want to be thinking about what you’re craving during this mentally draining period of time.
Get some headphones and throw on your “Focus” playlist (which we actually made for you, here). Do whatever you need to put yourself in the right physical circumstances to type at the speed of light.
3. Just start writing
This paper has to be turned in whether you like it or not, so just start writing. Don’t get analysis paralysis thinking about it too much. Puke words onto the page and then figure the rest out. Remember, even if it’s nonsense, it’ll get you more than a 0.
4. Use “smart words”
‘Nuanced’, ‘nonetheless’, ‘however’, ‘in addition’, ‘furthermore’, ‘finally’, ‘multidimensional’, etc.
These are my go-tos, but the list is endless. Find your favorites here and shove ’em in every chance you get.
5. Perfect is the enemy of good
Just get something out to answer the question and fulfill the requirements. Updates and revisions come later (if you have time).
Focus on the priorities: question answered, page count reached, citations done, and your name somewhere to be found.
Everything else is gravy.
Look, I’m not saying it should seem like it was written by a 4th grader, but don’t get fixated on the tiny details that have the potential to be a major timesuck. Prioritize.
6. Block quotes save lives
Block quotes do a fantastic job of filling space on any page.
Here’s my formula:
- prepare for a block quote with ~1 sentence priming the reader about what the block quote is about
- *insert block quote*
- ~1-2 sentences reiterating exactly what the block quote said in your writer’s voice
- ~2-3 sentences clarifying how the quote ties into the overall argument of the essay.
This formula has the potential to carry about 10-30% of the paper. You’re welcome.
7. Set a turnaround time
At a certain point, the deadline is just too close and you’ve gotta wrap up whatever you have.
Know at what point you have to just slap a conclusion paragraph on that bad boy and call it a day.
I usually say about 15 minutes before it’s due (gives me time to check the citations, my name, etc. and turn it in).
Note: My conclusion formula:
- 1-2 sentences restating your answer to the prompt
- 1-2 sentences recapping sections from the essay
- 1 sentence giving some sort of deep thought to wrap it all up like a present on Christmas
8. Turn It In
Out of sight, out of mind. When all is said and done, this is one paper of many. Don’t let it ruin your day. Be able to accept that it is now out of your hands and as long as you gave what you could, there isn’t more that you could’ve done.
9. If all else fails, last second extension request
I don’t personally support this approach, but I do understand it. Send your professor a sad, desperate tale of woe and hope they pity you.
This strategy works best if you don’t regularly turn in assignments late or ask for extensions.
I don’t think this is doable for every paper, I think this is a band-aid for those problems you just have no other way to solve. I also don’t think this is the best idea to make a habit, but if you’re going to do it… at least do it right.
Good luck and don’t forget to breathe. It will all be ok. Papers are important, but they’re not the end all, be all. Remember to not place too much pressure on yourself and treat yourself with kindness throughout the whole process.