Tricks of the Trade


Oh, conference paper. WOE, conference paper. Five pages currently sit in an open Word document on my desktop. Well, let’s be honest. More like four and one quarter pages. My plane leaves in less than 12 hours.

In the famous words of Scooby-Doo, “Ruh-roh.”

This is the thing about procrastinating. It’s awful. I spend the time I should be working fretting about (not) working, and then when I do work I am constantly second-guessing myself. People tell me that my writing is getting better. “Yeah, right,” I say. “I used to be able to write. Now, every word is like…well, it’s like passing a kidney stone. It’s like every word I write is passing a mental kidney stone.”

Is that too graphic?

My writing abilities seem to have an inverse relationship to my actual ability to produce words, sentences, paragraphs, and coherent arguments. The more I’ve learned, the less confidence I have. The more I’ve learned about writing, the less I feel like actually writing. Maybe it’s performance anxiety. Maybe it’s my delayed realization that going to grad school in a discipline I’ve learned to value less and less with time was probably not the wisest way to spend a year. Maybe it’s just that I’m burned out.

I don’t know.

In any case, this blog isn’t all about the weeping and wailing that takes place when you have a deadline looming and an argument that seems to be crumbling with each letter you type. No, this blog is about how you actually manage to get these last minute papers written. Because let’s face it: we’ve all done it. The trick I’m currently trying is called something like the timer trick. I set an online timer for 30 minutes, and then I start writing. The rule is I cannot stop typing during that time, and I have to remain focused on my paper. It isn’t easy, at first. I wanted to quit sixteen minutes in on my first go, but I soldiered on and after 30 minutes had produced a solid page of writing. Then, you take some time off. I spent my time throwing in laundry and wishing I didn’t have to write a conference paper. The really difficult part, though, is convincing yourself to do it again. So you set the timer for 30 minutes and sit back down to write. This time, you manage to get nearly three pages.

Alright. It seems to be working. So wish me luck, because I have to be on a plane in ten hours, and I’m really hoping I can get some sleep tonight.

What are some tricks you use when you’re trying to get something written last minute?

PS: Obviously the real message of this post is don’t procrastinate, kids. No, really. Don’t procrastinate. It’s a mistake. I have never met someone who told me that their best decision was to procrastinate on a huge project or paper or…anything, to be honest. Learn time management skills and improve your intrinsic motivation because otherwise, someday this might be you.

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1 Comment

Filed under Academic Advice, My Experiences

One response to “Tricks of the Trade

  1. Great post thanks. I really enjoyed it very much.

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