Scheduling Struggles & Overcoming the Fear of Procrastination

I love planning. When I wrote any paper as an undergraduate or graduate student, I always set my own schedule of deadlines. With my own schedule, I was confident my paper would be complete at least a week before its actual due date. I would spend “A” amount of time researching, “B” time organizing my thoughts with an outline, “C” amount of time on each section of the paper, and “D” time revising. It was a perfect process for me.

But when I was in my last semester of grad school, I was working on the final 15-20 page papers for my two classes while also trying to complete my 100+ page thesis. My life was thrown upside down with a death in the family that completely shattered my perfect world of checklists. Now I had just a week to finish the last-minute edits of my thesis, write a conference proposal with two other CWE consultants, and write one of my final papers for an American Literature course that I had yet to begin.

I had a topic for the American Literature paper because we had to submit topics to the instructor already. But the only other step I had taken to work on the paper was checking books out of the library and skimming through them. In a normal semester, this paper would’ve already been finished by this point in time. But now, after meeting the deadlines for my thesis and conference proposal, I had to start my American Lit. paper on a Friday when it was due early the next week. This was unheard of for me. In the past, I think it was paper anxiety and the fear of not finishing that prevented me from procrastinating. Picturing myself writing a paper the day it’s due was my worst nightmare.

Luckily, my worst nightmare didn’t come true. I spent Friday and Saturday writing the paper, and then it was finished. Just like that. I had been so caught up in my own mind for so many years that I didn’t realize that a last-minute effort to complete an assignment wouldn’t necessarily result in a poor product. I mean, the paper certainly wasn’t the best I’ve ever written, but it did meet my standards and actually received an “A.” In previous semesters, I had always looked toward the people who procrastinated and wondered, How do they do it without compromising their health? But this experience affirmed for me that no single writing process is “correct” and that I could loosen the reins on my schedule a bit and still be successful.

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  • Danielle says:

    You’re coming over to the dark side!
    I completely understand how quickly plans can get turned upside-down. I had a great plan for meeting deadlines in my class and plugging along at my thesis this semester, but it seems like life outside of academia is going to get in the way of my plans. It is reassuring that you were able to finish all of your assignments and projects even with the stress and struggle of family/personal complications. I hope that I will be able to finish all of my work and meet all of my commitments, even if it is a challenging and demanding process. Thanks for sharing your success, so I can feel better able the outlook of my semester. :)

  • Vanessa says:

    Julie, I love that your idea of “procrastination” is my idea of “planning well in advance” for papers! Seriously, your work ethic throughout graduate school was definitely an inspiration for me to not wait till the last minute. This entry really speaks to the idea of finding a balance between procrastination and planning, and it’s great that you took an experience that could have been your worst nightmare, approached it in calm, disciplined manner, and still managed to write something you were proud of!


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