This I Believe: Projects can be simplified by dividing them.
How many times have I lain awake all night, thinking about a gigantic school assignment due the following week? Too many, no doubt. The more I meditate on a due date, the sooner it seems and the more panicked I feel. The assignment grows claws and fangs, haunting me and reminding me that I can’t truly enjoy any activity I participate in until I tackle this monster of a project. Sometimes I even dream that the due date has arrived and I am at school empty-handed.
The truth is, a project is never as large as it seems. The best way to tackle an assignment is to divide it into bite-sized pieces before it grows out of proportion in your mind. This approach to a ten-page report or a research project eliminates stress or at least reduces it to a minimum. When a teacher announces a due date that seems an eternity away, it’s important to keep in mind that due dates love to sneak up on unaware students. Seemingly before one blinks an eye, it’s the night before the project is due and the student is either forced to labor all night or sleep in guilt, wishing he had defeated the monster.
Although I often remind myself of the importance of pacing myself on large assignments, I usually end up letting the procrastinator in me take over. When I have an assignment due in two weeks, I sometimes sit down with pencil and paper in my lap, ready for ideas to pour out of my mind. I feel smug and proud of myself for getting an early start. However, at this time, my mom or my brother walks in, asking me for a favor or simply wanting to engage in conversation. For some reason, anything they say is absolutely fascinating. In fact, any distraction is far more appealing than working on the project at hand.
Chances are, anyone is probably always involved in some kind of gargantuan task. Although it’s sometimes difficult to pace the project while accomplishing one’s regular duties in the meantime, surely a solution is at hand. My personal sacrifice of late has been a half hour of sleep. I am amazed at how much more I accomplish when I get out of bed at 6:00 rather than 6:30. It isn’t pleasant, but I know that I’ll sleep more anyway, knowing that I have put additional effort into alleviating future stress.
I believe that breaking down a project into smaller, more manageable sections simplifies and shrinks the assignment. The quality of one’s work is improved when it is not thrown together at the last minute. And, best of all, a diligent student is not haunted by the monster inside a project that causes stress, lack of sleep, and fear of a late grade. Although I don’t remember ever actually turning in a paper after a due date, I know I’ve suffered plenty of unnecessary anxiety. Now that I’ve figured out the right way to accomplish a project, I hope I can stick to it.
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