When faced with a large task do you have a tendency to get everything done now or wait until the last minute? Although your tendency towards action or procrastination may depend on the specific situation, most of us have a natural inclination towards one or the other. I prefer to start things early, as approaching deadlines can be a source of stress for me. My friend, however, usually tends to hold off on projects. In our master’s program, this meant that I would start projects early and finish before the deadline. My friend, however, would start things much later and finish them at the deadline. On a whole, the quality of work was comparable. The biggest difference was that I would spend more time working and stressing about a project while she would endure more suffering but for a shorter period.
I am currently working on graduate school applications (yes, I would like to go back to grad school even though I already have a master’s) and the process is aging me. I have spent too many Saturdays in the confines of a cold office (they turn of the heat on the weekends). Although parts of the application are somewhat enjoyable, mostly this has been a process of tireless writing, deleting, and rewriting. Boy, do I wish I would have started this process earlier!
One problem that I have found with procrastination is that it is harder to get feedback on your work. Although I started on the grad school application process relatively early, I did not start asking for letters of recommendation or feedback until a bit later. Communicating with other people naturally means delays. So, although I am working on a tight deadline, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I will see immediate results from others.
Through the grad school application process, I have found that it is not the amount of time that one spends on applications, rather it is the quality of the work being put into them. At the beginning of the process, I started writing my applications before fully researching the application “dos and don’ts.” My eagerness to start for the sake of starting most certainly backfired. My motivation letter and research proposal suffered in particular because instead of figuring out what the admissions committee was looking for, I simply wrote what I thought would be good answers. When I finally reached out for input from friends and colleagues, 100% were in agreement that I was not putting myself in the strongest position application-wise.
Whether you choose to start projects early or late, it is always advisable to start with a clear plan/ purpose in mind before beginning anything. Preparation is an overlooked yet totally necessary part of the process. Sometimes for me this can be hard, because it means delaying the project (the tangible deliverable) and setting aside time for planning (the intangible undeliverable). I write this post today for you, Dear Reader, because writing, re-writing, and stressing is not the best use of your time! If I could leave you with a few words of unsolicited wisdom today, they would be the following: 1. always make sure to have a clear purpose before beginning work–this will save you so much time and headache!, 2. if you need help, ask for it 🙂 and, 3. you are a smart person and you should never let the process get the better of you– you are stronger than you think!
P.S. Did you know “procrastinate” comes from Latin and literally means “to put off until tomorrow”? That’s the fact of the day for me!