Come this fall, your college workload will hit you like a brick. Summer has ended and the cynical cycle of papers and pens returns. Professors like to think their material is your top priority, but in reality it’s just one of many with homework from other classes, a job or two to juggle and a social life to maintain. Truth is the only reason you’ll care about an upcoming essay is because odds are it’s 20 percent of your grade. Your time is limited, so you’ll end up writing this masterpiece the night before it’s due. Under this pressure and deadline, the real question becomes: How do you minimize your writing time while maximizing quality?
Step 1: Isolate Yourself
You won’t finish this essay unless you avoid distractions completely. Lock yourself in your room, go to your favorite library or slap in some earplugs. Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself any opportunity for distractions. Yes, this includes your phone. Unless you have a legitimate reason to have your phone on, turn it off until you crank out that essay.
Step 2: Peruse the Prompt
Your procrastination has paid off and now is the time to figure out what your professor wants from you. Whip out those highlighters and take a look at the prompt. You don’t have time to study it carefully, but at least go through it once. As you read through it your first and final time, mark all the important things such as page requirements, specific questions that need answering and required sources. Be sure to know when, where and how to turn in your essay. You don’t want to be scrambling to print last minute.
Step 3: Make a (Conceptual) Outline
You probably don’t know your specific topic yet, seeing as you just started. However, that shouldn’t limit your ability to make a plan of attack. Take a look at your highlights and generate an outline of the general items you need; “thesis” and “paragraph on context,” for example.
Step 4: Caffeinate
You’re going to need something to help you grind through the next steps, so grab some coffee or soda to boost your energy. With how little time you have, breaks aren’t an option. Get ready to burn your engines hot, full steam ahead.
Step 5: Crunch time
It’s time to add the meat to the skeleton. Take 10 to 20 minutes (no more) to figure out your argument and hone in on an approach. Develop a working thesis and your topic sentences. Focus on making your thesis functional, not perfect. You’re running out of time, so you just need a workable foundation to get you started. You can revise it later. Once you have your specific topic, write. Write like the wind, Bullseye! Treat it like a timed final and try to crank it out in less than an hour. Don’t worry about page limits, just generate as much content as you can with the material you’ve got.
Step 6: Sleep on It
Once you finish writing, the best thing to do is sleep on it. This might seem odd, seeing as your paper is due tomorrow, but I promise it’ll help. It doesn’t matter if your paper is due in the morning; I guarantee you won’t make much progress going straight into revisions. Set your alarm a little earlier than normal and go to bed. When you wake up, grab a snack and revise with a fresh set of eyes. Do another once-over to fix any awkward sentences and redundancies and to make sure you hit that page requirement.
Step 7: Celebrate
You did it! You wrote an entire revised essay in less than 24 hours. Celebrate with some much-needed caffeine and print (or upload) your newly crafted masterpiece.