Tag Archives: time management

Revision: Run the whole race

by Anna-Zoë Herr

At this point in the semester, you might feel overloaded with the amount papers you have to write and hand-in on time. If this is the case, you might feel tempted to turn in a paper without any revising or editing (as I have done a few times, but have learned to never do again). It has been proven, though, that revised papers receive higher grades and better feedback from professors. 

I like to think of each paper as a thought marathon, and in order to finish strong and improve our performance, we need to run the whole race and not drop out 50 feet before the finish line. To overcome the last 50 feet, you have to go through one of the most underestimated but powerful parts of writing a paper: the revising and editing process.

Let’s differentiate these two processes: Revising relates to the inner structure of your paper. It is looking at how the ideas flow, how paragraphs are structured, and how the paper sounds from beginning to end. This process requires time and attention. Editing is the mechanical process of finding punctuation errors, spelling mistakes, and sentence fragments. This can typically be a quick process.

Here are three tips on how to make these processes a little bit easier:

1) Value your writing

I realized that sometimes I have turned in unrevised writings because I didn’t value what I had written enough to give it a little bit more time and love. At first, it really didn’t seem to matter to me. But the truth is that it does matter to me, and I feel much better when I hand in something that is coherent, revised and strong. Valuing yourself and your writing shows that you respect yourself and the amount of time you have invested in a paper. Giving your all to these last feet in the “race” is absolutely worth it.

2) Eat one piece of the pie at a time

It is a crazy undertaking to want to revise a whole paper in one pass. To make sure that you really do every part of your revision, create a strategy that is broken up into chunks. Your strategy could look something like this:

  • Check the flow of writing, especially how one paragraph flows into the next. Don’t be afraid to move paragraphs and sentences, add new material, or delete material that doesn’t quite fit.
  • Read the introduction and conclusion and make sure that the ideas relate to each other and connect to the rest of the paper.
  • Go over the paper to correct grammar, spelling, and sentence structure errors.

3) Give yourself time

This is a crucial part, because writing a good paper requires time. Ideally, you have a week to revise, in which you can commit to one part of the strategy a day. That way, you spend very little time on it each day and avoid getting overwhelmed with stress or boredom with your paper.

 

Anna-Zoë is in her last semester and the final week of her capstone, which she will present during the last week of classes. Afterwards, she will stay on as a PGTI for the sustainability center for one semester and then hopefully go to grad school in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Super strategies for the self

by Anna-Zoë Herr

We have all been there. We all carry at least a little bit of guilt and shame with us for not being more of a superhero, like the people who are on top of their work, have a balanced life, cook beautiful Instagram-worthy meals every night, and travel to exotic places for no money. While I can’t tell you how to be a superhero, here are a few tips to help you become more productive so you can do what feeds your soul and feel super.

1) Remember why you do what you do.

One reason why we don’t do our work sometimes is because we are stuck in the belief that we do the work for others. That we write that paper for the professor, do that math assignment for our grade, go to college for our parents, and write a resume for our future. Actually though, none but yourself is demanding anything from you. Find reasons to do what you need to do that aren’t related to an outside source. For example, writing that paper will deepen your knowledge, help you become a better writer, teach you how to think more critically, etc., all of which are amazing skills to have for yourself in your own life. Becoming the person you want to be takes work, and all the small little things you don’t want to do typically somehow help you get there. Then all your work is not work anymore, but a step towards something more.

2) Beat Procrastination.

There is probably not a single college student who hasn’t used this word at least once. It is a common theme in the work or school life, and it is mostly related to those tasks we dislike or find challenging. How can we overcome this? Author Roy Peter Clark encourages a different perspective of procrastination when he suggests that we move from the word procrastination and instead think about it as rehearsal time. Let’s say you have a paper to write and it is lingering in the back of your mind and knocking on your mental door. While you procrastinate, it is still there. So, what if you still procrastinate, but use your time thinking about it by thinking about your topic, making a mental outline, reviewing pieces of sentences and related ideas. This takes away the fear of writing, potentially even makes you excited to get started, and you already have something on hand when you sit down on your computer!

3) Adopt a strategy.

Most of us think that we can beat ourselves to work harder through guilt and pressure. We wait for deadlines to become so overwhelming that we simply have to get down to work. Somehow, we trick ourselves into thinking that we will do a better job the next time, that we will be clever enough to start early. We think that we don’t need to manage ourselves, but in reality, we kind of do. So, sit yourself down and recognize the patterns you have that don’t help you out and create a strategy for yourself. Here is what I have learned about myself: I like to work with the Pomodoro timer (I use an app called “Tide” which I love) and I work better in the mornings because I just get slower and more distracted at night. I also noticed that when a lot of projects are happening at the same time, it helps me to work a little bit on all of them over a longer period of time, instead of working solely on one thing and trying to finish it before moving on to the next one. What are strategies you use?

Anna-Zoë Herr is a senior studying art and global perspectives, with a minor in sustainability. This is her last semester and she is spending most of her time either working on her capstone, investigating how creative literature and sustainability connect, or she is talking about it. Writing and reading have been a passion of hers ever since she was very young, and currently her favourite word is serendipity.

Keep calm and write an annotated bibliography

by Sydni Hammar

A wise professor once told me, “Any time you’re trying to figure out how long something will take to do, take the amount of time you think it will take, and multiply that number by six.”

I have found this to be true time after time. If you care about getting work done correctly the first time around, expect to invest ample time from the start.

I put this idea into practice recently when I was given the assignment to thoroughly annotate 20 sources as part of some initial research for my capstone. Here are specific tools I use for doing thorough annotations, which take time, but are incredibly worth it:

  • Print each article out and ACTUALLY annotate the text by hand. (ex. Ask questions in the margins, paraphrase the thesis of the article, highlight key sections/sentences). If you don’t know the meaning of a word, look it up and write it in the margin!
  • After you go through the annotation process, take a break! But don’t just scroll through Facebook or Instagram—really give your mind space to absorb the information you just read. So, go for a walk, do some yoga—or whatever else works for you!
  • When you come back to write your annotation, go through the article again. This time, pay attention to your marginal comments, weave in quotes you underlined, and make sure you articulate the thesis and main points of the article.

This process may seem like a lot of work, but it is work that will ultimately save you so much time. A thorough annotated bibliography is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself as you write a research paper.

 

Sydni Hammar is a senior majoring in English, and works as an editor for Mistake House, a student-run literary magazine at Principia College.

 

 

 

 

 

The other side of tutoring

by Ariana Dale

When I was a student I never took the time to go to a tutor, or any academic workshop offered on campus. Now that I am no longer a student and am working in an office that hosts workshops and works with writing tutors, I am beginning to realize how much I actually missed out on.

Like many college students, I found tons of reasons why not to go to the workshops or writing tutors. These excuses ranged anywhere from “My paper isn’t due for another two weeks” to “I have way too much going on” or “I don’t need the help and work better on my own.” These all boiled down to my lack of awareness and inefficient use of time, or simply a lack of willingness to ask for help when I really could have used it.

I think this idea of thinking we don’t need help is one of the biggest pitfalls in the writing community. Everyone can use a little help with their writing. (Professors too!) Revision is a process that requires multiple read-throughs, and having an extra pair of eyes makes each additional read-through that much more beneficial. I always did OK when I turned in papers: I never got an “A++, you’re great! 100%,” but I never completely tanked (a.k.a. F–) on an assignment either, so I didn’t think getting help with my work would matter much in the end. I was blind to the fact that everyone asks for help, especially good writers. I found that many of the students getting the A’s in class were the students who were asking their peers or writing tutors to look over their paper with them.

This year it dawned on me:

If you want a better grade, be willing to ask for help.

Now that I’m on the other side of tutoring, where people are asking for me for help, I see just how valuable this collaborative resource is. Not only are tutors helpful in finding and addressing different issues or patterns within your work, they’re also great to bounce ideas off of so that you can further develop your ideas and master the concepts in your paper. An added perk to this is that you’ll get better and better at writing and editing your papers the more you ask for help. If a tutor helps you better understand commas this week, maybe next week you can dive deeper into more complex sentence structure and word choice to make your paper stronger and clearer.

So, when in doubt, ask a tutor!

Ariana is the Post-Graduate Teaching Intern (PGTI) for the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). She graduated in the spring of 2016 with a B.S. in biology and a creative writing minor.

Strategies for tackling long-term assignments, part 2

by Maddi Demaree

Part 2: What if I don’t know how to start?

More techniques for tackling challenging assignments can be found right here on our blog, WriteHereWriteNow, but I’ll give you a few as well.

  • Make a list of the tasks that need to be accomplished. A list of these tasks might look something like this:
    • Decide on a research topic
    • Make a hypothesis/thesis
    • Gather resources (print, online)
    • Research & gather data
    • Write intro
    • Write body paragraphs
    • Write conclusions
    • Edit
  • Write these tasks into your calendar so you have a schedule to hold yourself to.
  • Meet with a writing tutor to discuss potential topics or how to find resources.
  • Schedule a meeting with your professor so they can give you feedback on the work you’ve accomplished so far.

But remember, the key to success with long term assignments is to “Start Early and Start Often.”

Maddi Demaree is a junior majoring in education and political science. Last spring she traveled on the Finland Abroad.

Strategies for tackling long-term assignments

by Maddi Demaree

Part 1: Start Early and Start Often

Well, you’ve made it through syllabus week, congratulations! The good news: you won’t have to hear the same spiel about attendance again for another seven months. The bad news: you probably received at least a couple long-term writing assignments. Especially in upper-level classes, these papers are ubiquitous. Now, flash forward to week 13. You’ve known about this assignment since the beginning of the term, but all of a sudden you only have five days to complete something that should have taken you all semester. Is it possible to avoid such a troubling fate as this?

Yes! The best way to avoid the desperate eleventh-hour cram session is to do something I like to call “start early and start often.” If a professor assigns something to you at the beginning of the semester that is due towards the end that means they you want you to be working on it all semester – starting now! The earlier you start, the better it will be. I have a few techniques I use to motivate myself to work on assignments even if their due date feels far away.

Start Early

  1. Begin your work on this assignment NOW. No seriously, right now.
  1. Don’t just look at the assignment one time today and then remember over Spring Break that you should have been working on it this whole time – putting focused effort (even if it’s not for long periods of time) will ease your burden later in the semester.

Start Often

  1. Put in on your calendar.

Scheduling time into your day or week to work specifically on an assignment will help make working on it a habit. If you have a weekly calendar, schedule in 30 minutes every couple days to sit down and work exclusively on that project.

  1. Have someone help you stay accountable.

Tell a friend, roommate, or even your RCE about your goal to work a least a bit on this project each week. Ask them to check in with you at the end of the week to see if you worked on the project. Sometimes, just telling other people about goals makes us more accountable about working on them.

Stay tuned for some tips if you just don’t know how to start that long-term assignment.

Maddi Demaree is a junior majoring in education and political science. Last spring she traveled on the Finland Abroad.

Write the introduction last

by Samantha Bronkar

Writing an introductory paragraph can be daunting, especially if you try to write it first. Introductions are the first part of the paper, but they do not have to be the first part you write!

You could start by writing your introduction, but you may run into some obstacles, such as:

– not knowing how to introduce a paper you haven’t written yet
– not knowing how to handle a blank document
– not knowing which points you should include in the introduction, and which ones you should leave out

Before you begin to write, choose a working thesis or, in other words, a thesis that certainly may change. As you learn more about your topic, your thesis may become more complex, or you may decide to change your thesis entirely.

Because your initial thesis may change throughout the writing process, writing the introduction first may not be the best approach. If your thesis changes, you may have to rewrite your entire introduction.

Instead, write the body paragraphs—or the detailed argument—first. This process will take more time than writing your introduction, but it will allow you to build your argument fully and freely, without being limited by what you stated in your introduction. And it will save you time on your introduction when it’s time to write it!

Once you finish writing your body paragraphs, you are ready to write your introduction!  By the time you finish writing the body of your paper, you can decide what you feel are the most important points of your argument.

You can think of your introduction as a guide for the reader to understand the main points of your argument before moving into the body of your paper. Make sure to include essential background information and key points you will discuss in your argument, now that you know what they are.

Saving the introduction for last can also ensure that your conclusion matches your introduction. While they are not the same exact paragraph, they should identify the same main points. Once you’ve finished up your introduction, you’ve got a complete, unified draft!

Samantha Bronkar is a junior and will be in Prague next fall studying creative writing and visual art.

The art of annotations

by Samantha Bronkar

Have to read an article for a class? You could just read it—but what if you could have a conversation about it instead?

Often, we can expand our own thoughts and ideas when we talk about them out loud. You can think of annotating an article as having a conversation with the author. If you are reading an article that appears dense or uninteresting, physically taking notes on the article (along the margins) helps you to actively engage with the article.

When you annotate, you can (and should):

  • Ask your own questions
  • Paraphrase or summarize what the author claims
  • Take note of your own thoughts
  • Underline or highlight key phrases, quotes, individuals, dates, and ideas*

*Tip: You may find it helpful to color-code your annotations. For example, you can use an orange pen to note questions you have, a blue pen to note the author’s claims, a green pen to note your own thoughts, and a red pen to underline key dates, figures, etc.

Rather than reading text and trying to absorb it as you progress, annotating gives space for pausing, reflecting, questioning, and connecting ideas or themes you notice. This space can help readers learn, understand, and remember.

The beauty of annotations is that they give you permission not to understand something the first time you read it. I repeat: it is okay to not completely understand something, especially the first time you read it. In fact, having questions is a sign that you are critically assessing what you are reading, and that’s great!

As you read, take notes in the margins about things that confuse, interest, and inspire you. That way, you can easily locate those ideas in class or when studying in order to discuss them in greater detail. It’s also a good tool if you need to revisit a source when writing a research paper: your annotations will help you remember and work with a source you haven’t read in a while.

Happy annotating!

Samantha Bronkar is a junior majoring in English and will be participating in the Prague abroad next fall. She will be dearly missed.

Staying ahead of the curve

by Anna Tarnow

Bad news: getting better at writing is a lot of work. Good news: anyone can do it!

Being good (or even excellent) at writing is not some magical skill that some people have and others don’t. Good writing is the product of dedication and energy, just like pretty much every other skill. Some people may seem astronomically better at things, but they just have a lot of cumulative practice, which is something that anyone can have given time. And to me, at least, that’s encouraging! You can make serious progress just by working a little each day.

Here are some of my top strategies for long term improvement:

  1. Give your written work some percolation time (usually around a week, maybe two or three), and then come back to it. Notice odd quirks or repeated mistakes in your writing, make a list of them, and start checking for them every time you write.
  2. Use ctrl+f or cmd+f to search for words that you overuse. I used to write “really” in every other sentence, but I’ve learned to suppress that urge.
  3. Focus on structure, especially if you’re fresh out of high school, where structure is usually skimmed over. Each point should lead logically to the next, like a chain of stepping stones.
  4. Make sure you’re using the right word! People, myself included, will often throw in words that they don’t actually know to make themselves sound smarter. This is a trap because using the wrong word looks worse than using smaller words correctly.
  5. But do work to expand your vocabulary! There are plenty of apps that can help you do this. I like Magoosh’s products.
  6. And finally, find something you like to write about. Whether it’s complaining about politics, predicting the outcome of sports, or talking about MAC products, something in this world probably gets your gears spinning. So use that, and have fun!

Anna Tarnow is a senior majoring in English and enjoys working on the Pilot newspaper, where she is editor-in-chief.

Beating writer’s block

by Sydni Hammar

We’ve all had it happen: we receive some daunting writing assignment and we resist the work like a little kid refusing to eat green beans at dinner. Of course, we can only avoid an assignment for so long. Eventually, we sit down to write…and stare at the blank screen for what feels like an eternity.

In these horrifying moments, we feel paralyzed. This writer’s block can happen for a variety of reasons:

  • We simply don’t want to put in the time
  • We don’t know where to start
  • We’re not interested in the topic
  • We’re so passionate about our topic that we’re afraid we can’t do it justice

Oftentimes, the longer we wait to begin, the more daunting the work becomes. But in remaining passive by making excuses to procrastinate, we allow our writer’s block the space to intensify.

BUT…

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield discusses the idea of resistance, explaining that it functions as a paralyzing roadblock between a writer and his work. He asks: “Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign…like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it” (57).

Pressfield shows us that if a writing assignment feels daunting—paralyzing, even— then it must be very important. This also tells me that accomplishing the assignment will be all the more satisfying. As Pressfield puts it, “the most important thing…is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying” (121).

With that in mind, here are three rules that I swear by when it comes to a daunting paper assignment:

  • Don’t like your topic? Change it! Developing a genuine curiosity as we explore an assignment is half the battle. Once we recognize how important and rewarding our assignment is, it is easier to be disciplined in our engagement with it.
  • Block off some time to work on the paper every day leading up to the due date. This amount of time could be 10 minutes or several hours. Be reasonable with yourself and your time, but be disciplined, too.
  • After you spend time working on the assignment, allow yourself to step away from the work. If you practice this, then you can truly look at your writing and ideas with fresh eyes when you come back to it. This space is important as your paper and ideas develop.

Remember that writing is very process-oriented. Any amount of time you spend wrestling with ideas is progress, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Fighting writer’s block with small, practical steps is a surefire way to get your paper to where it needs to be.

Sydni Hammar is a junior and an English major on the Creative Writing track.