Instead of writing your due dates into your school diary, several pages into the future, consider developing an action plan for successfully completing the assignment on time. Just follow these simple steps.
Step 1: Develop a term calendar where all due dates are displayed in one view. Stick it on the wall in a prominent position so that dates are not lost in pages of a diary.
[Note: There are some laminated versions for sale that can be used, but these often have a lot of other information on them that can be a distraction.]
Step 2: When a date for a test or assignment deadline is given, mark it on the calendar in bright red.
Step 3: Scaffold the task. This is just the latest jargon for ‘break the task down into small steps in a logical order
⦁ For an assignment, make a list of all the steps required to complete the task. Keep the steps small, simple and in a logical order.
⦁ Sometimes the first step may simply be to select a topic, book, medium etc.
⦁ If the task requires some research or a specific activity, then clearly that should come next.
⦁ Completing a draft copy or practicing a speech are clearly at the end of the planning process.
[If the student does not understand enough about the assignment to start this process, then it would be reasonable to go back to the teacher and ask for some direction immediately.]
Step 4: Set up action plans. This effectively means setting some mini deadlines. For each step, work out the time it should realistically need e.g. 15 mins, 1 hour
Now, in green pen, write each steps in a logical order on the calendar, ensuring that all steps are spread out in a reasonable time frame. Some days you may complete three tasks. Another task may take a couple of days. Be realistic in your expectations.
Multi-tasking essentially spreads your attention too thin, and all the different tasks you’re juggling get less and lower-quality love as a consequence. The more efficient, effective and organized people do it as little as possible. They give one task their ultimate attention.
Step 5: Stick to the plan. Do not let tasks back up. Sometimes you may find that the order needs to be rearranged to a more logical sequence. Again, if you are unclear about the next step on the calendar, ask the teacher immediately. Do not skip a task. Do not procrastinate.
[Note: Asking a teacher a specific question about a small step in the process will usually elicit more useful feedback than general questions about the assignment ]
Step 6: When the step on the timeline has been completed, put a cross through it. This serves a couple of purposes – it clearly monitors progress but also provides a good psychological boost, reinforcing your sense of control over the situation. (I personally take great delight in screwing up my original planning when it is completed and throwing it in the bin!)
This strategy works for test revision too!
⦁ Break the topic down into smaller sub-topics
⦁ Schedule small, specific revision sessions.
⦁ If you are not clear what will be in the test, ask your teacher for a list.
⦁ If you do not understand any of the sub-topics , ask the teacher immediately! Do not skip over it. Do not procrastinate.
Some extra tips
- Use different coloured pens for different subjects.
- Try using small coloured post-it notes for each step
- Prioritize – get started on the most urgent task first. Don’t be tempted to start with what you enjoy most or find easiest. Do the hardest things first while you have the most energy.
- Always aim to finish a day early – to allow for mishaps like unexpected interruptions or computer and printing glitches.
- Set up a time schedule for completing your homework. The time may vary from day to day, depending on your personal commitments, but you should keep to this schedule once it is set.
- If you do not have enough homework to fill the time slot that day, get started on tomorrow’s tasks. It is much better to hand up work before the deadlines and take some time off when all is complete.
What if you do not have enough time for every task before the due date?
It can mean one of two things.
⦁ You are trying to do more than is actually required. If so, scale it back.
⦁ The task is too large for the time allocated by the teacher.
Irrespective of the reason, talk to the teacher. Show them your planning. They can let you know where you may be doing too much, or they may readjust the deadline.
My best advice is to take the time to plan before you start. It will save time in the long term, and also save you much stress.