Life Lessons from the Library: Start How You Plan to Finish

I admit that I am something of a procrastinator. I have finished more research papers on Thanksgiving weekend than I care to remember. And even now, I am much more likely to be scrambling to get something completed right before deadline than having it finished early. I usually make it, but it’s not a pretty sight.

From working in the library and watching students, I realized that the really successful ones are those who make a running start. They are the ones who are in the library before the semester begins: checking out the syllabi, looking for various versions of the textbooks, or even just checking out the locations of their classes.

They view the semester as a long-distance run, balancing out their time and energy over an entire semester period, instead of a last-of-term sprint. By starting out strong, these folks give themselves many advantages:

  • By keeping up with assignments or even staying a little ahead, they know immediately when they have a problem in a class and can solve it while it’s still small.
  • If a problem pops us (illness, work conflicts, or problem cars), they have enough time to still get class work done.
  • They don’t have to emotionally gear up halfway through the semester to get a mountain of work done. They are already there, and the amount of work left is more like a hill than a mountain.
Now, I’m sure that a list of advantages will not change a procrastinator’s ways. It’s not even going to change thus author’s ways completely. But, over the years, I’ve discovered that momentum is much easier to maintain when started early. Often, it’s not the amount of work itself that weighs us down, but the amount of it unfinished with its attached emotional tonnage that makes it so hard to get started.
So start early, start strong, and you’ll find it’s much easier to finish that way as well.

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