I’m in that odd period of time, between the early college deadline and the regular college deadline, where I’m counting down the days until I hear whether I’m accepted early or not. I know that I should be working on regular decision materials just in case I’m not accepted early, so that I won’t have to scramble to finish in December. But procrastination lives on; after having spent pretty much the past two months on early applications, I’m not too eager to get back to them so soon.
This is, of course, a trap, one that I know too well. There’s still two months left until the deadline, so I figure that I’m allowed to take a little time off. Next week rolls around, and I take a little more time off—a couple more weeks of time off, in fact. And the next thing I know, there’s not two months left anymore but only one month, and I still haven’t started on anything. It’s one of those processes where you can see it happening, plain as day, but you don’t really do anything to break out of it.
Of course, it’d be a lot easier to just never get tangled up in that trap in the first place, right? So I had to think of a way to keep myself from falling for it. So I thought, what’s the one thing that never fails to kill procrastination? The answer, naturally, is pressure. It’s tough to put things off when the deadline is right in your face, zooming closer.
So I went ahead and set some deadlines for myself. The rough draft for this application is “due” on this day, another draft is due the next week, and so on, until the final due date in December. Obviously, my own deadlines don’t carry the same sort of weight as the actual January 1st due date, but sometimes just seeing a date by which something needs to be done is enough to get me into action. It’s not exceptionally rigorous, so there’s plenty of wiggle room—there pretty much has to be, as a high school student, since you never know when you’re suddenly going to be hit by a wall of homework. But it is definitely a helpful thing just to have in place, for a few reasons.
For one thing, it’s a lot easier to visualize how much work you actually have ahead of you. I can go ahead and say that I have four more supplements to complete, but that doesn’t really mean much without knowing how much work is in each one. Actually picking out each thing you need to do and assigning it a reasonable due date gives you a much better perspective on what your expected workload is. And along those same lines, it becomes a lot easier to see how far along you really are—if you’re on track to finish early or need to pick up the pace a little. Again, it’s all about making it more difficult to put things off; if you see that you’re already behind where you planned to be, it becomes a lot tougher to justify putting it off even more.
So even if you’re not exactly the type to plan very far in advance, I’d definitely recommend drawing out a timetable of some sort. Nothing incredibly detailed—you don’t need to plan out every single day from now through December or anything—but just a few general due dates for where you think you ought to be in one week, two weeks, and so on. Even if you end up getting off track, you’ll be able to tell just what you need to do to catch back up.