Everything takes longer than it should

There are a number of reasons why things take longer than they should.

Too much researching

You may be doing too much reading because you’re scared of missing key ideas. Or perhaps you’re trying to cover all possible angles for the assignment question. If you’ve understood the question reasonably well, it’s very unlikely you’ll miss a key idea – normally two or three relevant readings will be enough to become aware of the main issues. From there, you can supplement your main ideas with other readings. By skim reading a text first, you can gauge whether an article will be “highly relevant”, “moderately relevant” or “slightly relevant” to your purposes.

As you read further, you’ll need to develop an outline of your answer to the question – this will provide a balanced overview of the issues you need to address, how much space you can devote to them given the word limit, and when you can stop researching.

Too much planning
There is often a temptation to create the “perfect plan” before you start writing. While it’s a good idea to know where you’re going before you start, it’s not necessary to include every detail in your plan. Some change in direction or reformulation of your argument is inevitable as part of the writing process.

Too much re-writing
Excessive re-drafting of your work can be unnecessarily time-consuming. It’s usually better to aim for a rough first draft to get the major issues and arguments down on paper, followed by a second draft to fine-tune (to ensure you’ve included sufficient evidence, made your arguments clear, addressed all aspects of the question, etc). After that, you should only be doing minor editing and proof-reading.

Too many distractions
External distractions can slow you down when you’re studying.
Multi-tasking is not helpful: aim to do one thing at a time. Remove the things that are distracting you (mobile, Facebook, clutter on your desk). For more information, check the link on how to improve your concentration.

Too much studying
Things might be taking too long because you’re studying in an inefficient way. Rather than “chaining yourself” to your desk and working continuously over long periods, here are some suggestions:

  • break up tasks into achievable chunks (e.g. break a 4 hour block of study into 2 x 2 hour blocks)

  • have a 10 minute break between blocks (get a cup of tea, go for a walk, talk to a friend)

  • plan your study around your best times of the day (are you a morning person or a night owl?)

  • alternate between different types of activity (e.g. do a reading followed by online quiz)

  • set yourself reasonable goals and give yourself rewards when you’ve achieved them (e.g. call your friend once you’ve finished your draft)

  • For more help on this topic, see the links on the right...