That is the question. Actually, it’s usually not a question, is it? We know we shouldn’t cram, but we do anyway. We resign ourselves to cramming for exams, writing papers the night before they’re due, and generally stressing ourselves out over things we could have done weeks ago. Why do we do it?!
Cramming shouldn’t be—and doesn’t have to be—your style. Whether you believe it or not, your work will always be better when you start early. In addition to improving the quality of your work, you will find yourself feeling less stressed out and having more time in general. Sounds good, right? These strategies all boil down to two main pieces of advice: stay organized, and practice good habits.
- Keep a school calendar and write down the due dates for all your assignments for the semester in advance.
- Keep an agenda and write down your assignments, exams, and appointments for each day as they come up.
- In all things, start as early as possible, and manage your time appropriately! It’s much easier to work constructively for one hour five days a week than it is to work for five hours straight in one night.
- Don’t trust technology. Save often. Keep backups on flash drives, through the cloud, or through email. Always give yourself plenty of time to print your paper or submit it online.
- Pick a place to study or write where you know you will be able to concentrate. However, don’t spend too long picking this spot if it will cut into your study time! Pick the spot, then go to work.
Practicing Good Habits
- When writing a paper, give yourself enough time to brainstorm, write drafts, and revise.
- If you have questions about your assignment (such as what you’re supposed to write about or what you’ll be tested on), ask for an explanation from your professor before you start writing.
- When reading, pay special attention to titles, headers, bolded words, italicized words, tables, and figures.
- Take notes by writing down the most important information—ditch the highlighters!
- When studying for an exam, talk to classmates or your professor to clarify your ideas.
- Look up examples of papers and exams similar to the one(s) you’re working on to get an idea of what you should be studying or writing about.
- Just because you’re staring at the book doesn’t mean you’re learning anything! When you dedicate time to studying or working, make sure you’re actually studying and working.
These lists are not exhaustive, but they do contain some key strategies to avoid having to cram for papers, exams, and other assignments. Want to talk about specific ways to apply these strategies or need some extra help slowing down this whole process? Come on into the writing center! We’re happy to talk these things out.
October 28, 2014