Illustration by Amelia Madarang

Waiting until deadlines is a sign of dedication

Time management is one of the most critical aspects of being a reliable, dutiful denizen in society. However, as all humans are different, it is only fitting that time management strategies vary too. It is a highly individualistic experience, and I believe, one of the few ways we retain some semblance of autonomy in a world that demands so much of us already. 

If I had a dollar for every time a professor advised me not to wait until the last minute to complete an assignment, I could cover daily coffee from the Dovecote for the remainder of the semester. 

Do not misinterpret me, I understand why professors make this general suggestion: Accomplished work requires careful consideration, diligent planning and the sufficient resources to execute it. When everything in your world requires these, as is the case with many tasks in academia, it is difficult to find time for anything else. Fulfilling yourself and academic expectation requires flexibility. 

What professors fail to consider is that waiting until the day an assignment is due can be careful planning on the student’s part. This all may sound like a deluded excuse to justify my nearly-late work. However, I genuinely do not view it that way. 

For nearly all of my assignments, I read the project descriptions as soon as they are published. I prepare mentally by brainstorming, allowing my daily experience to both inform and inspire the final result. Then, I schedule blocks of time dedicated to specific assignments and classes. By scheduling my days using time blocks, I am able to remind myself that I can only complete one task at a time. This lesson has taken me years to learn, and is one that I often need to remind myself of. 

In short, this strategy means that sometimes I have to plan to wait until the last minute. What I would like my professors to know is that this approach does not mean I do not value my academics, nor does it mean that I wish to disrespect them or dismiss their efforts. In fact, it often means the opposite. 

I have tried to work ahead. I have tried to plan for assignments weeks ahead of time by plotting out each day with the objective of getting ahead. The result of these experiments was not an improvement in the quality of my work, but rather utter exhaustion. 

I personally work better when I can dedicate several hours at a time to one assignment. This is how I find my flow and feel the warmth. 

Writing for an imminent deadline ensures that I am able to focus for longer. The sense of urgency keeps me zeroed in on the task at hand. The deeper sense of focus, I believe, also allows me to think more critically and comprehensively. The need to complete the assignment feels more important, which in turn, yields more meaningful results. My thoughts are able to unravel naturally and I find myself uncovering nuances that I might have overlooked if I had worked on it in smaller increments. 

So why do I feel guilty when I tell professors that I will be working on something and completing it the day it is due? 

As I previously noted, I believe my guilt is rooted in the fear that my professors will think I do not respect them, our professional relationship or my own academic success if I wait until the deadline to turn in an assignment. 

Of course, many professors care and are willing to extend deadlines if necessary, but what if we do not need an extension in this circumstance? What if waiting until the last minute has less to do with our ability to complete a project, and more to do with our bodies telling us to take a break on a Tuesday at 3 p.m. before our next class begins at 4 p.m.? What if they are telling us we need to shower, eat, sleep, stretch, walk or just not think about being evaluated for a second? 

Sure, I could go to the library and work on that assignment for that hour in between classes— and trust me, I have — but if you want my best work, professor, I recommend treating me with respect and kindness when I tell you on a Friday that I still have to draft my essay due at midnight. 

The professorial guilt does not make students start assignments sooner, it stigmatizes prioritizing our individual mental and physical needs. 

As for any given  assignment: I have had it written in my planner since syllabus day.  I have had my plan to draft it booked on my calendar all week. I have had the exact allocation of hours for it outlined all day. I did not forget about it. 

I do not wait until the last day to disrespect you. I wait until the last moment to better respect myself. I value my academic growth, but I also value warm, unhurried showers, the slow stirring of my $2 box of Kroger brand pasta and giving myself grace to absorb all of the lessons you have taught me, so I might have a better chance of retaining them. 

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