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  • How to do a large amount of work in a small amount of time: advice from a veteran of rushing, botching, and bashing it out

Clock against purple sky.

1. Get in the zone

I don’t know about you, but I have a dozen little rituals I have to perform before I sit down to do a big slog of work. In general, I make it a rule to work in the library or university, because I find working at home, with all its possibilities of making and drinking tea, drifting off to watch TV, or being drawn into long conversations with my housemates, too distracting.

You should also read…

  • How to Stop Procrastinating: Advice from a Champion Procrastinator
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But when I’m really up against the clock, or even about to start what I know will be an all-nighter, I prefer to be in my room, with easy access to vital things like coffee, food and the shower. (N.B. There is nothing like a shower for waking yourself up in the middle of a miserable work-session. Just don’t do what I did one particularly inauspicious Wednesday at 4am: fall asleep sitting down in it with a foot covering the plug, and wake half an hour later under a jet of now-freezing water to find that you have transformed your bathroom into a giant soapy sea).


But back to the rituals. Before I do any serious, or seriously rushed, work, I’ve got to do a number of things to ‘get in the zone’. This might sound like elaborate procrastination  — which, in reality, it most definitely is — but if I don’t do these little things, I find my concentration is poor, and my mind constantly wanders. First, my room has to be absolutely, books-in-alphabetical-order, spotless — mess is incredibly distracting, and when I’m working I want to use all the space on my desk. Plus, while you’re tidying you get to watch videos of cats falling over on YouTube. Next, I have to have a strong coffee (which I never drink more than a few sips of before remembering that I hate coffee and it gives me a headache — but it smells nice and is somehow a very reassuring thing to sit next to). Third, classical music doesn’t work for me; while I’m working, and especially at night, I find it keeps the mind sharp to blare out tragic noughties techno music. In particular, the songs of the ultimately unsuccessful Australian band Pendulum played at approximately a million decibels are so unpleasant they keep one constantly skittish with adrenaline, hammering out a thousand questionable words an hour while simultaneously imagining you’re in a warehouse rave. Finally, and most embarrassingly, I have a pair of leggings called my essay leggings that I like to wear while I’m working. They’re very comfy (and holey) and haven’t been replaced since my first year of university, because they’re somehow magically conducive to getting lots done in very little time. Now, the line between preparing oneself for work and procrastination is always thin, and one I continually find myself on the wrong side of. Your rituals might look very different to mine, and perhaps take a little less time. But if you need to do certain things to change your mindset from play to work, I’d advise you do them.

2. Work out exactly what you’ve got to do

Now that you’re sitting comfortably at your desk in your spotless room, work out exactly what you’ve got to do — and how long you’ve got to do it. Make a list of your tasks in order of priority, what they involve, the date they’re due in and how long you realistically think they’ll take. Your list might look something like this:

  • Write out labels for Art coursework (2 hours, due tomorrow)
  • Write self-analysis for Art coursework (3 hours, due tomorrow)
  • Finish researching, plan and write History coursework essay (12 hours? 2 days? Due Friday)
  • Finish Physics lab report (2 hours, due Thursday)
  • Maths problems (3 hours, due tomorrow)

Red clock.

Now, for some of these tasks it will be absolutely essential that you hand the work in on or before the deadline . For any task that counts towards your coursework , or an exam, you’ll usually lose marks if they’re late — in my university, we would lose 5 marks out of 100 if an essay was handed in one minute after 12pm on the day of the deadline, and a further 10 if it was more than a day late. For these tasks, you absolutely can’t mess about — they should sit right at the top of your list of things to do, and be the first thing you get out of the way — and the ones you put most effort into getting right. But, even though it won’t make you very popular with your teachers, sometimes you’ve got to accept that you can’t do everything you’re expected to in a small amount of time. When I’ve got a big deadline coming up, I jettison everything else: I tell people I can’t make other commitments, even if that annoys them, and if I haven’t got time, I simply don’t do less important pieces of work. On the list above, for example, I might decide that only the pieces of coursework were really important, and that I wasn’t going to bother handing in the lab report or the Maths problems. Of course, all this is advice for an emergency situation: if you’ve got the time to do everything you need to, then deciding that you won’t is probably not the best strategic move and will mean you have to endure hours of unnecessary telling-off.


Make a timetable detailing exactly when you’re going to do each of the things on your list. Make sure you plan enough time for each task rather than being overly optimistic — you’re going to stick to this timetable no matter what . Think about the times of day when you work best, and how tired you’re going to be at various stages of the day/night/week you’re mapping out — the morning of your deadline, for example, when your eyes are itchy with tiredness and your brain about as much use as its equivalent weight in mincemeat, is probably not the best time to be proof-reading or tackling difficult Algebra problems. I study English and consequently write lots of essays, and I find that I can read and take notes at pretty much any time of day, but planning and writing are tasks I can only really do well first thing in the morning. Once you’ve made your plan, sit back and take a deep breath — it might be a rush, and you might not see sunlight for the next week, but it is possible to do everything you need to in the time you’ve got. All you need to do (and this is the important bit) is make sure you stick religiously to your timetable. Here’s how:

 4. Let things be less-than-perfect

Not every work of art can be perfect; sometimes you really must wrap it up and move on.

If you’re still not happy with something near the end of the time you’ve allotted for it — tough. Finish up and leave it in its imperfect state — if you’re lucky, you might have time at the end to come back to it, but it’s much more important to stick to a schedule which will allow you to get everything done than it is to perfect one part of the task. This means not reading that extra useful-looking article, not toying with the wording in an introduction any longer, and leaving a problem you just can’t solve. Remember — when you’re working on any task, it’s completely normal that that task will feel like the most important one — but it’s important to take a step back and gain some perspective over your whole project. I’m constantly messing up because I find it really hard to leave things alone – – for example, I wasn’t happy with my dissertation last year the day before I handed it in, and decided to stay up all night before the deadline restructuring and rewriting the last 3,000 words before I’d even begun my referencing or conclusion. This meant (as I’m sure you can guess) that the section I rewrote was garbled and full of spelling mistakes, my footnotes and bibliography were a total mess and my conclusion was 5 lines long- not exactly what I’d planned when I decided to begin my noble rewriting mission, and not exactly the formula for a winning dissertation. Polished and finished, if slightly flawed, work will always make a much better impression than something messy and incomplete, even if it’s more carefully thought out — it actively irritates examiners to find silly mistakes or signs of haste in things they’re marking. Take it from me, look at the bigger picture and simply move on .

5. Be selfish

Party balloons.

I’ve got a friend who actively refuses to make any plans other than a quick coffee for about four weeks before any deadline. Sometimes she doesn’t leave her house for days, and while she’s working she lets other people cook for her and tidy up her mess. Last year she didn’t go to her boyfriend’s birthday party because it was the week before a talk she was preparing. Now, this might all sound a bit mad, but my friend always does really, really well at everything she puts her mind to. Basically, in quite an extreme way she’s got her priorities straight — most of the time she’ll do anything for anyone, but when she’s got important work on her plate, she’ll say honestly that she needs to concentrate, and just can’t make other commitments. I, meanwhile, work in the absolute opposite way. I let friends come to visit me the week before a deadline because I don’t want to annoy them by cancelling, and am anxious about work and cranky for the whole time they’re there. I’ll go to the library with someone else but get annoyed when we distract each other. I end up getting so stressed out over all the commitments I’ve made that I can’t concentrate even when I’ve actually got time to work. I’ve come to conclude that my friend’s got it sorted. When you’ve got stuff to do, be selfish. This is one of very few chances you’ll have in your life (apart from, if you’re a girl, maybe your wedding) to be totally unreasonable, self-centred, and rude to everyone around you. Like a mad cross between Professor Snape and Kim Jong Un. Get your mum to make you dinner but refuse to sit and eat it at the table. Cancel plans, leave a mess. Refuse to read someone else’s work or do anyone a favour. Your friends might not like the new crazy you, but you’ll probably annoy them just as much by being irritable and stressed than you will by being selfish — and if you pick the latter course, you might actually get stuff done.

6. Do not entertain the thought that you might not finish

With the energy I’ve spent over the years asking for extensions, making up excuses or writing cringing apology emails to tutors and employers explaining that I just haven’t done things, I could have written novels. Stuff it, I could have written the Iliad . Extensions and the like might feel brilliant in the short term, but they’re not the solution to anything — you’ll still have to do the work one way or another, and you’ll annoy people and complicate your own life in the process of putting it off.

7. Just do the work

This is fairly self-explanatory. Though this article has tried to show that you can make things seem easier and more surmountable by organising, rationalising, and preparing, there are no magic solutions that can make you work miraculously quickly. There’s no substitute for sitting down, closing the door, turning off the internet and just doing your work . It might not be exactly fun, but it’ll feel worth it when you’re done, and then you can sleep and relax properly without feeling guilty or stressed. Got any top tips for getting things done quickly? Let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below!

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can i do an assignment in 2 days

An approaching deadline is a source of worry for most students! What if you realize you have an assignment due for submission tomorrow, and you haven’t even started writing it? It will put you in a state of worry! Right? 90% of students, in this case, started searching google or asking friends how to do an assignment in a day? 

can i do an assignment in 2 days

Well! It’s time to put your worries aside as you have hit the right place. We have written this blog solely to answer this query and help you get stress free. After reading this blog, you can quickly write your assignment in a day. It seems Interesting, right? Keep reading to find out the recommended tips by experts!

can i do an assignment in 2 days

13 Tips for you- How to do an Assignment in a Day!

With no further ado, you can dive right into the steps to know, “How to do an assignment in a day?”

1. A Productive Start to Your Day

When you ask how to do an assignment in a day, the first step would be to give a productive start to your day. Start your day off with a nutritious and energizing breakfast to provide your body and mind with the energy to stay organized and productive. You are now ready to begin working on your task. The most crucial step is to choose a suitable workplace, as this will ensure that you complete the task on time. It is preferable to turn off your phone and go somewhere peaceful, where you will not face any disturbance.

2. Plan Your Time

When your deadline is approaching, students often start writing assignments. But it is not the right way! To achieve optimal productivity, create a plan of action by dividing the time left in hand for doing different tasks. For example, if you only have 8 hours available, allocate an hour for research, two hours for brainstorming ideas and organizing points, four hours for writing the assignment, and an hour for proofreading and editing.

3. Overcome the Distractions

Do you feel that social media consumes all your time, but you can’t stop using it? Let me share a fact! Studies have shown that social media sites and other texting applications are two of the most common roadblocks to completing your homework before the deadline. To meet the deadline, you must try to overcome distractions in your life. Log off of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and do not speak with your buddies on Whatsapp for some time, as they will stop you from completing your assignment on time.

4. Understand the Topic and Read the Guidelines

Every assignment is usually centered on a single topic, and depending on the nature of the topic, students must provide an objective or subjective response. As a result, it’s critical to comprehend the problem and know what you’re supposed to write in the assignment. Also, read your professor’s directions carefully because you get all the requirements you must follow while completing the assignment. Therefore, you can prevent making serious errors in your assignment by spending a few minutes comprehending the topic and reading the instructions. 

5. Establish Deadlines

Establishing deadlines helps you effectively manage your time. Effective time management can make a huge difference in your ability to succeed. Set a deadline for every task you perform (for example, brainstorming, generating an outline, writing the entire assignment, and complying with the specific guidelines of your professor) and stick to your schedule. Remember to take some time out to refresh your head. Otherwise, you will not be in a position to complete your work.

6. 1-hour Extensive Research on the Topic

Although it may appear counterintuitive, students can conduct significant research on any topic in just one hour. Read all you can get your hands on regarding the subject to add to your knowledge bank. It will help if you read multiple perspectives and viewpoints on the same issue by skimming through pages of books and articles online. It guarantees that you have compiled all the essential details regarding the subject without going into extensive analysis. In less than an hour, you’ll have read all of the resources on the subject that will help you create your perspective. It is the best technique to conduct research when short on time.  

7. Make a Rough Note of all the Points you want to Include

After you’ve completed your research and written all the vital points, it’s time to brainstorm and consider the facts and data that will help you create your perspective. Make a list of all the points you wish to cover in your assignment. This stage ensures that you don’t get caught in your thoughts and don’t waste time reiterating your opinions when writing.

8. Form a Skeleton of your Assignment

Do you know what the skeleton of an assignment is? An introduction, a thesis statement, the body of the assignment, and a conclusion. Therefore, before you begin writing, make a skeleton by outlining all of your ideas and points on paper.

9. Spend Time Creating a Good Hook for your Introduction Paragraph

It is finally time to write after completing the preparation, researching, brainstorming, and constructing the skeleton of the paper. The way you begin an assignment significantly impacts your score. It is critical for you to develop an intriguing first sentence or the hook to make your assignment enticing. Avoid introduction paragraphs to ensure originality and creativity.

10. For Writing Assignments, Logically Listing Points in Order

Following the introduction, you must logically list all the points to support your argument. It will ensure content flow in the assignment.

11. Conclude Strongly

Always make it a point to finish your assignment with a strong note, especially while writing a research paper. It would help you score high if you reiterated the main ideas in your assignment conclusion. 

12. Take Small Breaks When you Feel Exhausted

When you work till the wee hours to finish an assignment at the last minute, your mind and body will be exhausted. As a result, it will affect the quality of your work. Therefore, it’s critical to take small pauses now and again to avoid fatigue. 

13. Proofread and Edit

The last step to how to do an assignment in a day. Proofreading is a must if you are dealing with Online Assignment writing services . After you’ve completed the writing process and taken a small break, proofread your piece to look for and correct grammatical and logical errors. If you find any issues, trim them immediately to ensure that your assignment is error-free. Besides, you must dwell time to ensure that your assignment is factually correct.

can i do an assignment in 2 days

Hassle-Free Assignment Writing Experience with TutorBin!

If the fear of deadlines does not let you write your assignment in a day, we have a piece of good news for you. At TutorBin, we relieve all your stress and give you a hassle-free assignment writing experience. Our assignment helper ensures that all your requirements get fulfilled. If you have a question like “How to do an assignment in a day?”- TutorBin is the solution to your query. We have a pool of expert tutors in here for making impeccable assignments for you.

They will craft your assignment to the instructions given by your institutes & help you fetch high grades. Not just that, they understand the consequences of missing deadlines. Hence, they ensure to deliver it before the deadline.

Final Verdict

Though we don’t advocate leaving your assignment till the last minute, we hope that this post will assist all students who are terrified of deadlines. It will be a boon for the students who don’t know how to do an assignment in a day.

If you found this article helpful and are searching for similar content regularly, TutorBin is there for you. We share such content regularly to help you with your studies. We wish you luck in your academic endeavors!

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My assignment is due tomorrow and I haven't even started it yet!

can i do an assignment in 2 days

English expert at Atomi

can i do an assignment in 2 days

Well, if it really is due tomorrow, let’s do this and do it quick! You could have anything due tomorrow, so instead of a step-by-step guide let’s focus on some tips and tricks to pull off this craziness. Legions of students before you have done it and legions of students after you will do it so have faith—you can do it 💪.

1. Prioritise

This probably doesn’t need to be said but if it’s due tomorrow then clear your schedule tonight—this is absolutely your top priority right now! Normally we recommend getting plenty of sleep but if you have something due tomorrow, tonight's the night to push your bedtime back a little bit (still no all-nighters though!)

2. Get your head in the game

Okay, no matter how much of a mountain it seems, this has to be done tonight. Don’t let yourself even consider the option of handing it in late—just thinking that will make it even harder to finish in time.

It’s time to get your head in the game and focus on the task ahead. You want to grab some water and make sure you’ve eaten. Then, set yourself up in a clean, bright area, find a supportive chair and grab all of the resources you'll need to do your assignment.

You can check out our video on Study Spaces for everything you need to set up the perfect workspace.

3. Work out exactly what you need to do

To work as efficiently as possible you should first understand exactly what you need to do.

That means you need to think about exactly what ideas or topics you need to cover and what your approach should be. So, read the assignment and marking criteria carefully and identify any keywords. Also highlight any important details, like the word count or page limit, the submission format and any other info that will affect how you approach this task.

This will vary massively depending on the assignment. The point is basically just that you should make sure you know exactly what you need to do before you start. Trust me, it’ll make everything quicker if you do ⏰.

4. Do a brief plan

To make sure we can get this done properly in one night, the next step is to plan your answer. This will make it a lot easier to start writing and, if you have to do any research, you will know exactly what you’re looking for.

So, sketch out a brief plan onto a page. Work out what needs to go into your answer and how it’s going to be structured. It might feel difficult or pointless to plan at this point, but if you can get some of the hard work out of the way here it’ll become much easier to write!

5. Research efficiently

Now, this one is obviously only relevant if you need research for your answer. Gathering research for an essay or report can take time. By using the keywords from the syllabus and assessment notification, you’ll be able to focus on the resources that you actually need. As far as you can, drop your research straight into the plan and you’ll be moving much more efficiently.

Don’t forget to reference as you go! This will save you time and ensure you don’t make any mistakes 😅.

6. Quality over quantity

This is a seriously important tip. When you’re really under pressure, it can be tempting to just smash out as many words as possible so you can hit that word count—don’t do this! It’s just going to give you a whole lot of waffle and even worse marks.

Instead of waffling, stick to your answer plan, use your research and fall back on the ideas in our lessons . It will get you a much better result for not that much extra work ✅.

7. Do your final read over tomorrow morning

Once you’ve finally pulled off that answer, it’s time to go to bed. You’re probably going to be too tired, too stressed and too wrapped up in your answer to be able to give it a proper check and edit.

So, just get some sleep now, set the alarm 30mins earlier tomorrow and read over it again with fresh eyes and a clear mind. You should be able to pick up any little mistakes and make the whole thing read a lot better and generally end up with a stronger answer!

Even though this isn’t ideal, you can still pull it off! The secret is to be as efficient as possible. So, keep calm, find out exactly what you need to do, plan, research properly and don’t waffle.

Oh and next time, don’t leave your assignments to the last minute 😅. Instead, watch our lesson on Planning an Assignment and use the downloadable planner so you aren’t in this sticky situation again.

For more study tips, tricks and advice, keep reading the student blog or follow Atomi on Instagram . See you there 👋.

Published on

March 15, 2022

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This Productivity Hack Will Help You Nail Your Assignment In One Day

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Uni life is super full on. Between classes, internships, placement and working, it’s pretty easy to forget that you actually have to do assignments.

If you’re like me, it means you’ve probably found yourself freaking out with 24 hours before a deadline trying to figure out how to smash out your assignment.

Luckily, the people over at DeskTime did a study on the most efficient way to have workers acting productively, and it works for last minute assignments too . The answer is simple: take more breaks. It’s 52 minutes working, 17 minutes break, rinse and repeat.

If that explanation isn’t clear enough, here is a pretty basic run down on how to finish a dreaded 1500 word essay in one day.

9am: Wake up

We’re not actually making you start work at 9am, but this will give you a solid hour to prepare yourself for the day. Have some breakfast, have a coffee, sit outside and listen to birds. Spend the morning relaxing! You have a busy yet productive day ahead.

10:00 – 10:52: Get That (Essay) Body Shaking  

Generally for essays your intro and conclusion should be written last, so start with the body. Your goal should be around is 300 words. It doesn’t sound like much but time will fly.

10:53 – 11:10: Check Your Socials

You’ve probably been tempted for the past 52 minutes. Well now you can.

11:10 – 12:02: Keep That Body In Shape

Another 300 words! Another paragraph! Another 52 minutes of great self control to get that assignment done!

12:03 – 12:20: Watch This Video  

Drunk Brendon Urie explaining the history of Fall Out Boy? Best way to kill some time while you have a break. Go grab some water as well – staying hydrated is important!

12:20 – 1:12: Write My Pretties, Write

Another 300 words should be your goal. By the end of this 52 minutes you should really have a draft body complete. Don’t stress if you don’t, there’s plenty of time.

1:13 – 1:30: Lunch Time

Your stomach may be performing its mating call and it’s time to fill those urges. Try 2 minute noodles so you can spend the other 15 reading online articles.

1:30 – 2:22: Hitting The Home Stretch

It’s intro and conclusion time! You should be able to smash through them. Now’s a good time to finish off those body paragraphs that might need a little extra work, too. That should get you to the 1,200 word mark.

2:23 – 2:40: Vine Time

When was the last time you went through the vine archives? At six seconds a video you could potentially watch 170 vines during this break.

2:40 – 3:32: The Dreaded Reference List

A necessary evil to prove you didn’t just make everything up. Spend this 52 minutes sorting your in text and reference list.

3:33 – 3:50: If Music Be The Food Of Love, Then Play On

This guy reckons he can teach you how to play guitar in 10 minutes. Go on, give it a go.

3:50 – 4:42: Edit

Print your work out and look at it with some fresh eyes. Read it out loud, grab a red pen and fix those pesky errors.

4:43 – 5:00: Figure Out What You’re Doing Tonight

You’ve worked hard so plan something fun tonight.

5:00 – 5:52: One Last Look Over And Submit

You’re pretty much done. Take a quick look over that bad boy and run it through Turnitin. You did it.

(Lead image: Bruce Almighty/Universal)

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I'm a student and have an essay due in 2 days - can you give me some advice?

  • Thread starter snowydog
  • Start date Apr 25, 2012
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  • MacRumors Community
  • Community Discussion

macrumors 6502

  • Apr 25, 2012


Macrumors member.

Wirelessly posted Try drugs! Just don't overdose  


macrumors P6

Don't you have an outline?  

Rodimus Prime

Rodimus Prime

Macrumors g4.

-aggie- said: Don't you have an outline? Click to expand...
Bingbonghoho said: Wirelessly posted Try drugs! Just don't overdose Click to expand...



Macrumors 68040.

Better start writing... I find it best to have a glass of scotch, bull$#*! for a while, then revisit and tweak later. Got me through 4 years of college with a 3.6 GPA.  


macrumors 68030

Write it all out first, then fix it.  


Couple beers, not DRUNK, just one or two, write until you fall asleep, wake up and edit it tomorrow. Throw enough ***** at the wall and some of it will stick.  


macrumors G3

smithrh said: Write it all out first, then fix it. Click to expand...

Zombie Acorn

Zombie Acorn

Macrumors 65816.

I miss the days of weaving a 3000 word ******** web and getting a grade for it.  


As others have said, do this: 1. Outline it. 2. Write down whatever to fill your outline. It won't look nice at this step. 3. Walk away from it for a bit (or overnight). 4. Go back and refine it.  


macrumors 6502a

  • Apr 26, 2012

Very simple advice. Unplug your internet connection. Turn off your phone. Find a quiet place without other distractions. Then try again.  

Drink a lot of sugary tea. Got me through my 20,000 word dissertation! Sounds like you don't have a visual plan on where you're going with your essay. Draw up an introduction and end points/conclusion, fill in the gaps in-between with subheadings and gradually fill in the content. If you know this subject area well, that shouldn't be a problem. Sounds like you are just panicking over getting a good mark and it's draining your brain. Drink some tea, and draw on a piece of paper your essay plan. It'll all start flowing soon enough. Taking a break and watching TV helps too, you might get an epiphany on what'll really get your essay a good mark.  


Get into the mood and just get it done. Put some music on, have a cup of coffee by you and get typing like you've never typed before. Works for me.  


Draw a mindmap of aspects you need to include and how they are related. This can help you find a general structure of the whole paper, and it gives you a "roadmap" of segways. It's easier to write when you don't have to think "What do I have to mention now?".  


macrumors 601


macrumors 68000

Maybe you could change your topic to "Procrastination, the Cost of Putting things Off". I feel for you. When I had to write... I needed to feel the pressure before I could do it. Ten PM, the night before it was due was when I would start. Those who have suggested to write it all out to the finish, then polish it, are correct. Do not write a paragraph and then try to get that paragraph perfect.  


snowydog said: Ok I'm gonna try blasting through it and then edit afterwards - I dunno why I'm finding this one so difficult - I know the subject area, more so than other essays I've done in recent weeks! Arghghgh! Click to expand...


macrumors Haswell

snowydog said: I know what I need to write, where I need to write it etc....I'm just struggling to actually write it - i.e. I write a paragraph - read it - reword it X3-4 then scrap it and start again! Click to expand...
eawmp1 said: ? senioritis ? fear of transitioning to the next phase in life ? burn-out There is excellent advice here. Go outside for a few hours and do something physical in the sun. Then crwl into yoiur work cave adn disconnect from the outside world (turn all electronic devices off, pull the window shades, etc.) and WRITE. Click to expand...

I'm coming to the end of a long 12 week semester and have a presentation to do for tomorrow. I'm in the same position. Just can't get it done. I find that writing without editing or structuring helps even if you have to delete some or restructure later.  


macrumors Core

Can anyone give me some advice on how I can ensure I critique enough - I mean is anyone an academic here that would know what examiners would be looking for? Click to expand...

College Info Geek

How to Finish a Huge Assignment or Project Overnight

can i do an assignment in 2 days

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The great American writer Mark Twain once said,

“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done the day after tomorrow just as well.”

When we live by that advice, though, we sometimes find ourselves chugging concentrated coffee at 2 a.m. in a valiant effort to stay awake and finish a huge project that’s due in 6 hours.

As productive as I’d like to think I am… I’ve been there.

If you’ve been there as well – or maybe if you’re there right now – this week’s video is for you. I’m not going to waste time lecturing you about the importance of planning, there are other videos for that – let’s just look at the best plan of attack when you find yourself in a time crunch.

Now, we’re going to look at some specific concepts related to planning and willpower in a minute – The Impact Effort Matrix, Ego Depletion – but let’s start with the foundation: location selection .

I think your location is vital when you’re working under pressure, and personally I like to pick my study locations based on their “vibe” – that is, what’s going on around me. I tend to favor coffee shops and libraries – I still go to my university library at times even though I’ve graduated – because I work well when I’m surrounded by other people who are also working. Also, close proximity to caffeine is helpful.

The most important part of location selection, though, is avoiding the “call of the pillow”. When you’re studying in a time crunch, it’s likely you’ll be doing it late into the night. That’s why you want to get as far away from your bed as possible.

The later it gets, the more you’ll start rationalizing how good a nap might be and the more you’ll start deciding that certain parts of your project don’t matter. So pick a place where going to bed would be more effort than finishing the next part of your project.

That piece of business taken care of, it’s now time to plan your efforts . Before you start working, take some time to break down your workload into individual parts. Then, it’s time to figure out which ones should get the bulk of your attention.

Dwight Eisenhower often remarked that,

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , Steven Covey popularized the “Eisenhower Decision Matrix”, which is based on this principle. In the matrix, tasks are categorized based on their importance and urgency.

When you’re in a time crunch, though, everything can seem urgent – so importance is the factor you should focus on in this case. To that end, let’s use a similar but more fitting tool – the Impact/Effort matrix .

Impact/Effort Matrix

Here, tasks in a project are given scores based on their impact to the overall success of the project and the effort it will take to implement them. To illustrate how this works, here’s an example from my life.

When I was a senior in college, one of my final projects was building a web app. My idea was called AMPanic, and it was an app that would require you to log in and tell if you’re awake before a certain time – otherwise it would send an embarrassing email to someone. This was actually the precursor to the early wake-up system I use now, which I detailed in this video .

With this project, though, I found myself in a time crunch trying to finish it. So I broke my project down into different parts that I’d have to code and prioritized them using this Impact/Effort matrix.

The core functionality – the code that would let you set an alarm and an email message, the code that would schedule and send the email on time, and the function to cancel the email if the user checked in on time in the morning – those required a lot of effort to build, but they also had the highest impact on the project.

On the other hand, some parts of the site – like the About, FAQ, and Contact pages – didn’t have as high of an impact, but they were low-effort tasks. Since they didn’t take much time to create, I made sure to include them to make the site look more complete.

The main element of the site that I chose NOT to focus on was the user registration and login system. A proper one needs functions for resetting passwords, but I decided that the core alarm setting functionality would be more important to my grade since that was the point of the whole project. So I used a login system I had written for an old project and didn’t bother creating a way to reset passwords.

In the end, it was a worthwhile decision; the alarm system was more advanced than most of the other projects in the class, so I ended up getting an A.

To assign Impact/Effort scores to each component of your project – or each assignment if you’re juggling multiple – consider the following factors:

  • What the core deliverables are
  • The grading criteria for the project, what which components count for the most points
  • What percentage of your grade each assignment counts for
  • How much each component will contribute to the knowledge you need to have for tests, which usually impact your grade the most

Once you’e assigned scores to each component, I think it’s a good idea to tackle the ones with the highest impact and highest effort first. This is due to Ego Depletion – a phenomenon explained in Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow . Citing research from the psychologist Roy Baumeister, he reveals that:

“…an effort of will or self-control is tiring; if you have had to force yourself to do something, you are less willing or less able to exert self-control when the next challenge comes around.”

Use the bulk of your willpower to complete the harder tasks first; that way, you’ll only have to deal with low-effort, high-impact tasks when you’re feeling drained.

That’s where we’re going to close for this week. If you select your location well, plan based on impact and effort, and tackle your tasks in a way that utilizes your willpower effectively, you’ll make if through your time crunch in one piece.

Need help finishing a personal project you’ve been procrastinating on? Read this next .

If you’re unable to see the video above, you can view it on YouTube .

Looking for More Study Tips?

10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades - Thomas Frank

You’ll find more tips on planning, study environments, and maintaining willpower in my free 100+ page book called 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades (While Studying Less) .

The book covers topics like:

  • Defeating procrastination
  • Getting more out of your classes
  • Taking great notes
  • Reading your textbooks more efficiently

…and several more. It also has a lot of recommendations for tools and other resources that can make your studying easier.

If you’d like a free copy of the book, let me know where I should send it:

I’ll also keep you updated about new posts and videos that come out on this blog (they’ll be just as good as this one or better) 🙂

Video Notes

How to Finish a Huge Assignment or Project Overnight

  • Eisenhower Decision Matrix
  • Impact/Effort Matrix
  • Ego Depletion

What other topics related to working under tight deadlines would you like to see covered in the future?

Do you have any additional tips? Share them below 🙂

If you liked this video, subscribe on YouTube to stay updated and get notified when new ones are out!

Images: Eisenhower , Twain , Twain living room , James Cameron , ocean trench , Everest , wall of books , Big Ben , coffee shop


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