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Calling everyone who successfully works to deadline on top of having a busy life- writers, students, etc- how do you do it?

(27 Posts)
ScummyMummy Thu 05-May-05 10:38:16

Please tell me. I've just handed in an ill planned pile of pants masquerading as an assignment. It will probably just pass (fingers crossed- I never want to have to think about it again!) but given its costs- a hugely disgruntled, distressed partner, the flat looking like a pigsty, a stratospheric caffiene and nicotine intake, 36 hours without sleep prior to hand-in and, consequently, residual grumpiness- I wish I'd either managed to produce something better or had put less time and frenzied effort into it, frankly.

Does anyone have any tips? I've another 5000 word monster to do for 3 weeks time and will have 5 more next academic year including a massive dissertation [feel sick at the thought emoticon]. This is on top of 2 jobs (well, one is a placement but same difference), my boys and partner, so time is short and I usually only have a couple of days to do these assignments. So I really need some different strategies. I seem to spend far too much time thinking and being distracted and far too little time banging out words. Even though I started work on Sunday morning for a Wednesday hand-in, I really didn't have much to show for my efforts by Tuesday evening and ended up doing well over half of it between 12am and 7 am Wednesday. I seem to have major problems with planning and researching in an organised way, so end up taking detours to look up information online (with the tempting possibilities of quick looks at mumsnet or emails) or searching through books for quotations that I've suddenly realised are essential evidence for my argument.

What can I do to help myself out?

Tinker Thu 05-May-05 10:44:21

No tips but shall be watching with interest. I'm not sure there is a technique that works without something suffering though. If think of something that helped me I'll let you know (good luck though, sure you'll do more than just pass)

Tinker Thu 05-May-05 10:44:51

Oh, thought of one - get pregnant then you have an excuse to opt out for a bit

Marina Thu 05-May-05 10:45:36

Here are some linkies for you, my nicotine-stained scholar pal:
British Universities Bulletin Board (BUBL)

and,

How to Win as a Part-time Student

and,


Palgrave's Study Skills website

I really hope they help, Scumster XXX

Kelly1978 Thu 05-May-05 10:46:37

I don't know about planning strategies but can't you start any earlier? I have set days for study and do my tmas at least 2 weeks before they are due, then review nearer the time. Then I forget to post them onn time, but that's something else!

Kelly1978 Thu 05-May-05 10:51:26

also, i refuse to stop until I've reached my target for the day. Tht gets me motivated to keep going and concentrate.

robin3 Thu 05-May-05 10:56:02

I think the key for me was always to start writing 2 weeks out, do the references and little bits 1 week out.....then re-write and edit the final doc til your hearts content knowing that is all you have to do in the last week. End result will be markedly different to the first draft but doing a first draft gets you over the hurdle of feeling you have a long way to go and no time to perfect.

soapbox Thu 05-May-05 10:59:29

If I'm working to a deadline at work I take stuff home with me in the evening and the second the children are in bed I get down to work. Usually manage to fit in 8-12 which over the course of a week is usually enough to get the job done!

Do my research and then print it all out and read on the train in the way to/home from work.

DH has to step up and do all the domestic stuff while I'm in struggling mode - I do the same for him when he's up to his eyes in it!

Good luck - I'm sure all your hard work will be worth it in the long run

ZolaPola Thu 05-May-05 11:00:54

if you/yr family can accept the pressure of it, could just go with the flow of being a last minute, under-pressure type of person and work accordingly. Used to teach study skills and found that not everyone, unfortunately can work to timetable, planning in advance - however, if you can get yourself to do this, theoretically better.

Tinker Thu 05-May-05 11:12:18

Agree very much with ZP on that. Doesn't matter how much you may intend to plan ahead, some people smple need the pressure of the dealine to do it.

beansmum Thu 05-May-05 11:26:21

I'm a maths student, so not so much of the huge essay type stuff, just constant assignments/tests/projects. I'm the type of person who can't work without a deadline looming so I set my own deadlines for doing things, like I MUST go over a certain bit of my notes by x date. If I do it I get a reward (usually wool, mad knitting freak).

When it comes to end of term exams or big assignments I just accept that my house is going to be a state and ignore it. At the moment I have no clean plates or bowls, ate my brekkie this morning out of a semi clean saucepan, had to wash a spoon and dry it on a pillow as I had no clean towels and the pillow came out of my laundry basket so it wasn't exactly clean either!

ScummyMummy Thu 05-May-05 13:42:53

Thank you everyone. Lots to think about here.

I love the idea of getting pregnant and opting out Tinker! You don't know how very, very tempting that thought is- my boys are so big now and I've been having loads of fantasies about having another sweet gurgling baby! (Jeez, I must be an amnesiac.) However, I really must resist because there is absolutely nfw I would go back and finish this course if I had a break- it's a nightmare at present! The theoretical side of it is a horrible mixture of demanding (very long written assignments, hence moan) and dull (obvious approaches and theories dressed up to look intellectual because social workers worry constantly about their professional status especially if they work in academia). And though I'm enjoying the practical side a lot and learning lots in the way that you do when you start work in a new place with a new client group, I can't honestly see that my practice is perceptibly worse than many of the (qualified) people I'm sharing an office with. Sorry- I know that sounds unbearably arrogant and I should be more eager to learn anyway but at the moment the I'm feeling the power of the dark side and can't wait to finish. Having said that I am keen to find ways of not handing in utter rubbish and your advice looks fab for that.

The Palgrave link looks great, Marina, though it's descriptions of the most common errors (eg "...this results in a long, discursive shapeless essay") are ringing rather too many loud bells for comfort. And surely it's not that important to answer the question if you bring other interesting stuff in, is it?! <<hangs head in shame and despair, hoping lecturer is in extremely good mood when marking assignment of pants>>.

Have to go out- will say more when back! All the posts are fab!

MABS Thu 05-May-05 22:22:26

Oh Scums, just to say best of luck with it all, don't give in to the baby thing though..... x

sallystrawberry Thu 05-May-05 22:34:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

slug Fri 06-May-05 10:33:45

I keep work, home and study completly separate. It's the only way that works for me. I also rely an awful lot on dh to hold the fort while I'm studying, on the understanding that he gets 'time off' when I've finished (which was yesterday afternoon) I had set times when I worked at college, so there's no misunderstandings with dh. It is understood that Tuesday and Wednesday evenings I wouldn't be home till late. Having that time blocked off, and not likeing to work at home (a bit difficult anyway as I needed programs I don't have on my home pc) it meant that I was kind of forced into concentrating.

Hey ho, it's all over till next year anyway.

sallystrawberry Fri 06-May-05 10:48:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hub2dee Fri 06-May-05 14:38:21

Scummy, are you good at knocking out / filling out an essay plan, or does it kind of evolve much more 'on the fly' so to speak ?

Tortington Fri 06-May-05 20:29:18

best of luck scumster. right have been tinking about this and people usually study in two ways either they get up early and study 5-7am or after the kids have gone to bed. personally i always did it on a saturday when the assignment was due monday 9am and always using half a bottle of vodka.

the best tip i have is to have your own space. i was lucky in that we had a dining room where i could go whilst the kids watched power rangers or something. so a space or area of you own is very important or else your dp and kids have to work around you and that gets on everyones tits.

was thinking how this would work for you and i can only think of barracading yourself in the kitchen or - an even better idea. be really nice to your dad and ask him to get you a laptop. that way as summer is drawing nearer and the weather is nicer you can work o the balcony and have permanent fag in mouth to be supplied periodically by dp passing through a cup of coffee. personally i like the last idea - you can payhim backwhen your a wealthy child snatcher

SenoraPostrophe Fri 06-May-05 20:56:31

start earlier, definitely (says one who had a deadline for 2pm today and have just finished. not my fault - client expected too much).

My method for essays is to knock out the introduction early on (maybe after doing a spider diagram if I'm stuck), then plan the essay and the reading around that. If you do it well, the essay will follow exactly the same structure as the intro.

sounds like hard work though.

wordsmith Fri 06-May-05 21:17:34

Not a student but a writer. Agree with Tinker - I work better the closer to a deadline I get. Of course this means that any last minute emergencies (ill kids, computer crash etc) can completely bugger up the plan! But from your first post it seems to me you are trying to fit a lot in with no 'official' time to do your studying. Could you carve out half a day or one day a week when you don't have to work, look after kids or anything and have the house to yourself (ie 'me' time) which you can set aside for the serious stuff? can your partner/friend have the kids or can you afford childcare for a day? I can't work at all if the kids are around. My eldest is now at school and the youngest at day nursery 2 days/week. I still work in the evenings most weeks but I only feel slightly panicky rather than completely freaked.

Understand EXACTLY what you mean about online distractions. Bloody Mumsnet - it has seriously reduced my workrate.

Congratulations tho - it sounds like you are coping with masses of stuff, much more than I have to. Guess all I can say is that the key is being organised and getting rid of the kids for a bit.

ScummyMummy Sat 07-May-05 11:02:47

Aw, thank you so much for all this advice and support everyone. You all have such good points. Custy- you and Virginia Woolf are so right about a woman needing a room of her own! I am lucky really though because I do have a laptop and I usually do exactly what you suggest- hole myself up in the kitchen. This time round that was scuppered by my dear parents in law coming down for the weekend, partner feeling unable to tell them to f off despite my fury, so me fleeing to my dad's for the bank holiday Monday with laptop and a suitcase full of massive books. I love the balcony as study idea- wonder if that could work somehow if I moved the bikes out the way? I also think your idea of compartmentalising home, work and study is a good one, slug but unfortunately not very practical for me as I'm not physically in college very much and it's too far away to escape to. I have three evenings a week when my partner knows he's the one in charge of the boys but I have to go to work those nights.

Zola, Tinks and wordsmith, I think you may be right about it being practically impossible to change your fundamental attitude/strengths/weaknesses to work. I remember putting in an enormous effort to plan well in advance, work little and often and finish before the due date on an essay once at A level. I did manage to do it, even handed in a neat second draft- this was in the days of handwritten essays- but was really peeved to get a v average grade, whereas my rushed, pressured, messy, unplanned late night efforts always did pretty well! Not much has changed over the years, except that this way of working is not just not so easy with a family and a job. I also now see the benefits of doing some planning and more systematic, focused research and have gained a few more skills in that area over the years. Though I still wouldn't describe myself as good at it, hub2 dee! And because at the moment I have so little time, it's easy to fall back into minimal planning, skim reading without taking proper notes followed by an outpouring of overnight prose in which waffle seems to swamp the considered relevant stuff by a ratio of about 3:1. Sigh. SP, Kelly and robin, you are so right that I really need to start a bit earlier, at least with the boring organisational bits. I need some of your discipline, beansmum and soapbox.

I think I'd better stop angsting about this now and start work on the plan for my next epic! But thanks so much everyone.

Ps- Sally, good luck with your assignments. And thank for your support, Mabs.

hub2dee Sat 07-May-05 13:09:53

It's been a while since I've been knocking out essays on all-nighters but I think the ability to knock out a plan for any kind of written material - quickly - is a really valuable skill.

Different subjects I guess may need tweaks on the approach, but the core approach to a uni-level essay is often quite samey and can fairly often be tackled (I think) by fairly routine structure.

(People with 'proper' experience in this area do step in / comment / correct). Did you receive lectures / read about this ? (Sorry if I'm patronising someone with decades of writing / studying skills behind them... only trying to help)...

Maybe some of the wise owls on this thread, for example, could comment on ways to structure your next essay / dissert ? What's the title ?

tallulah Sat 07-May-05 15:00:52

I went to Uni when my kids were 7, 5, 3 & 1. I worked 16 hours in a call centre & 1-2 shifts a week as an evening waitress at the time. I could never get organised with essay deadlines & found the only way I could do them was to get all the books/notes together for the weekend before the (monday) deadline, shut myself away in my bedroom for the whole weekend & get DH to take the kids out. They had some lovely trips to bird sanctuaries, and miniature trains & I got my essays in. (house was another matter )

(I always used to find as the deadline got closer that I desperately needed to paint the bathroom, or some equally obscure task, just to put off starting...)

Enid Sat 07-May-05 16:12:56

oh scummyone your post rang a bell with me. Not essays anymore but bits of copywriting, press releases and general work. I find the juggling so stressful - not least because if you are writing sometimes you can't get going during the time you have set yourself.

The only thing that makes sense of the chaos for me is to write everything down - and I mean everything. I have a big notebook where I write everything I think of or need to do - work stuff, family stuff, birthdays etc etc. Then I spend 10 mins a day going through the book and deciding what I need to do 'now' - ie in the next three days, 'not now' - ie can get away with in the next three weeks and 'never doing now' - things that can wait so long that they will probably never get done, thats fine.

Organising myself in this way means I can get my job done, family fed and occasionally fit in a haircut or shop for me.

With work I break each assignment or project down into bits - could you do the skeleton of your essays first - rough plan with bibliography one day, intro the next etc etc?

I have to say that the reason your 'chaotic' essays probably score higher marks is that you are an excellent communicator by nature - that skill is almost certainly heightened with the thrill of a deadline - but if you can combine that with the 6 P's (Prior Preperation Prevents Piss Poor Performance) you'd be laughing!

ScummyMummy Sat 25-Jun-05 21:22:27

Just come back to this because I got the assignment back...

... and got my best mark thus far!

I'm v pleased but genuinely ed and am now even more confused about whether to really work at planning and structure or just let things take shape as I go along in a panicked rush. So I was delighted to see your message Enid- thank you so much- the 6 P plan sounds like a good compromise!

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