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One thing that I have learned over the years as both a student and instructor is you cannot write a good paper in one sitting. Unfortunately, that is exactly what many students do. They wait until Saturday or Sunday and find themselves in a panic because they have a 3 to 5-page paper due at midnight. They may not have done the reading for the week, either. Can you relate to this? Do you ever ask yourself, “why didn’t I get this done before now?”

Writing takes a lot of work, and it is something that cannot be rushed. It takes time to read the assigned chapters each week, to think through and reflect on what you have read, to write an outline and gather academic support. It takes time to write the first draft and then revise and write a final draft. If you wait until the last day to work on it, can you really expect a good grade for an assignment that was written at the last minute?

We are all busy and have multiple responsibilities in our life. If you are a parent of young kids, you get them up and ready for school, and then pick them up after school to take to extra activities. I get it! I have three kids, too. And if your family is like mine, you have just as many obligations on the weekend as you do during the week.

What if I told you there is a better way? Instead of leaving all of your homework for the weekend, you can spread it out over the week, write better papers, and as a bonus, have more time on the weekends to spend with your friends and family.

Consider carving out one hour each day to dedicate to your coursework. Spend one hour every day reading, reflecting, and writing. If you do this, I think you will see the pressure ease up a bit, too.

Here is my suggestion on how to structure your time to write a paper.

On Monday, look over the assignments due at the end of the week and plan out how you are going to complete them on time. This is an important step to ensure you plan for the time you need. It also gives you time to contact your instructor if you have any questions about the assignment. If you wait until the weekend, you may not get an answer before the assignment is due.

On Tuesday, read the assigned chapters and take notes or highlight key concepts that you can refer back to in your paper and online discussion. If you have the option, get your textbooks in the electronic edition (Kindle, eBook, etc.), so you can read them anywhere at any time. Now, as you are sitting in your car waiting for the kids to get out of school, you can read your textbooks. Of course, you can do this with a paper version, too, but then you have to remember to grab them as you leave. If you have your textbooks on a Kindle app, you have them with you all the time right on your smartphone.

On Wednesday, outline your paper. Begin with an introduction and a thesis statement. Then list 2 to 3 supporting points and a conclusion. Don’t worry about grammar and spelling at this point; just get some ideas typed out.

On Thursday, spend an hour writing your paper. Develop the ideas for each of your supporting points. Be sure to include a good quote or reference from your textbooks to add academic support.

Now, on Friday, work on your final draft. As you review it, ask yourself if you met the objective of the assignment. Did your supporting points help to prove your thesis? Now work on your conclusion. Does it reaffirm your thesis and summarize the main points? Now write out the final thought you want to make to wrap up your paper.

At this point, you may think you are finished. But there is one more thing I would do before submitting the paper, and that is to give it to someone to read. Sure, we have great tools for checking spelling and grammar, but does the paper make sense? Asking someone else to read it will help to ensure that it does.

Now, on Saturday or Sunday, review the comments given to you by your proofreader and make any last edits or changes. When you are done, you can rest easy knowing that you invested the time necessary to write a good paper and submit it with confidence.

If you are not already doing this, give it a try. Commit to spreading your homework over the week and see if it helps you to write better papers. You might also find you have more time to spend with your friends and family, too! And downtime, my friends, is also an important part of good time management.

Take care!