Sunday, 20 November 2016

Procrastination: A Student Lesson in how NOT to approach coursework.

When asked to write an article for the DkIT Times, I had no hesitation.  It's not like I had anything else to do, right? Wrong. Very wrong. It's official.  I am the Queen of procrastination.  So, here it is. My honest approach to tackling assignments, reviews and pretty much anything...


When will I ever learn?  For almost three decades I have promised myself I will become one of those organised humans.  The type who can plan their days/weeks/months in advance and stick to the plan.  The type who buys a new calendar at least six months in advance and begins by writing everyone’s birthdays in nice, neat, legible writing.  The type that buys Christmas cards in the January sales and plans the following year’s summer holidays before they’ve even finished their current one.  I can organise things for other people, no problem.  I am the queen of organisation when it comes to someone else’s life.  It’s just my own agenda I have issues with.  So, can you imagine how this now plays out as a mature student, with a (non-existent) diary jammed with assignment due dates?  Not very well, let me tell you.
Here we are.  Heading into the final leg of semester one, year three (final year in Digital Humanities) and, as usual for me, it’s a case of ‘not a child in the house washed’ (not literally true, as I have five kids and I can confirm they are all very clean).  As part of our course, we must complete a dissertation on a topic of choice, related to one of our subjects.  Mine is grounded in the area of English, so comes with the added bonus of reading a large body of books.  Great, she says.  Reading is my favourite thing.  I can do that no problem.  My logical self conveniently forgets that just reading the books and articles doth not an essay make, and my dissertation proposal is due in tomorrow.  I have just typed the last word on my first draft.  I have spent months reading around the actual topic and yet completely balked at committing anything to paper (or Word).  That’s ok, says you, sure you did it.  Just in the nick of time. Well, yes. Technically this is true.  But I am omitting the fact that I have another essay due in by next week, one the week after and so on, and so on.  And, guess what? I haven’t started those either.  I hear my classmates discussing their (finished) essays on a daily basis and I seethe with envy.  When will I EVER learn? I am my own worst enemy, says my poor husband who has to listen to me moaning about deadlines for months on end.  I snap that it is just the way I work (whist secretly agreeing with him) and how l have heard that ‘creative’ people leave everything to the last minute.  He gives me the one-raised-eyebrow look and finds something to do (thus leaving me to stew in my own stress).    It is also worth noting that I do the same with newspaper reviews, blog posts, bills to be paid, car tax to be renewed, etc, etc.  I may have a PhD in Procrastination, I just have no actual paperwork for it.  

In the spirit of honesty, I have managed to do quite well in year one and year two despite this ridiculously, and frankly, time-consuming procrastination.  I know I could make less mistakes if I was to type up essays weeks in advance, take notes as I go along or even create a document with the correct title (instead of one that is so generically titled that I have lost it in the abyss of my document folder on my archaic laptop).  I also know that this is my last chance. The great grades that I received in year one and year two do not count toward my final marks.  This is it.  I have waited twenty seven years for this degree and I am still leaving everything to the last minute.  I have not learned from my mistakes.  I am a stubborn old(ish) woman who knows she is doing this all wrong.  I have constant doubt and fear and insecurities about my work and yet I continue to say “Sure, I’ll do a bit tomorrow” or “I’ll definitely do that (really important) thing at the weekend”, whilst booking theatre tickets online or seeing what new articles have popped up on The Guardian app.  The logical part of my brain that should tell me to get OFF twitter and onto Moodle  is obviously wired incorrectly.  However, I will keep trying to cut the rhetorical red (or is it black) cable that is causing the problem and get with the actual programme.  I am also guilty of printing off reams of journal articles, reading them and forgetting to note which ones were most useful, leading to a massive re-reading session as the deadlines close in on me. There is a lesson in all this.  A moral, if you will. Stop making excuses, turn off your devices (or at least silence them), buy a sharpie and write the dates of deadlines down in a very obvious place.  Having them scribbled on a little pug calendar hidden behind a pile of books is perhaps not the best way to plan.  Trust me.  I am the perfect example of how NOT to do it!  Now, off I go to find reasons why I should not open a new Word document called ‘Sit your arse down and write’. (I may trademark this).
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