Uni Life

How to Spend Less time Writing Assignments

Have you ever spent so much time writing assignments that you have no time to have fun, see your loved ones or eat anything other than microwaved meat pies? Me too.

Let me tell you about myself: I’m a third year education student determined to make university as easy and fun as it can be.

In the past, I’ve spent hours staring blankly at my computer, begging words to come up on the screen, so I can submit my assignment that’s due sooner than I would like. I’ve struggled through essays before fully understanding the task and have then been forced to rewrite the assignment two hours before the due date because I found a missing clue in the task description sheets. I’ve wasted so much time trying to write when I could have been laying on the beach.

And so, I decided to issue myself a challenge for the first trimester of my third year. I would try to condense my writing time and stop word vomiting on the page to ‘get my thoughts out’. No more waffling followed by hours of editing out all the meaningless words to fit in the word count. This meant that I had to change up my method of writing and be a lot more intentional.

I’ve now finished all my written assessment tasks for the trimester and spent about 60% less time writing than I did the trimesters before. I had time to retreat to the mountains over the Easter break, head to the beach during our abundance of public holidays, visit my family, attend birthday parties, go for coffee with my friends and keep up with my favourite tv shows. All without letting my grades slip.

Here are my top tips on how to reduce the time you spend writing assignments:

1. Understand the task fully before you start to write

In the past, I would start writing before I was 100% sure of what I was writing about, or what my tutor was looking for. Not anymore. I now spend time dissecting my task description sheet, highlighting important points, and asking my tutor any questions I have before I begin the writing process. This saves so much time.

2. Read the criteria sheet

Criteria sheets are often dull and unengaging. Sometimes they can be hard to find or don’t seem to match the task description (my biggest pet peeve). However, these guys are your target goal. Generally, tutors and lecturers can only mark you on content mentioned in the criteria sheet.. I forced myself to go through the criteria sheet and make sure I had ticked every single box in there.

3. Make a brief list of the main points you need to cover

It doesn’t have to be a formal outline or assessment plan. But knowing where you are going in your writing makes getting there a lot easier. For me, this meant formatting my word document with titles for each paragraph outlining the purpose of that paragraph or what question it needed to answer. This helped keep me on task and not waste words on unimportant information.

4. Only start writing when you know exactly what you want to say

I used to sit down and just blurb all my thoughts onto paper. Then I would spend hours going through these written thoughts to weed out the bad and keep the good. I forced myself to not do this. Rather, I would talk aloud to myself to get my thoughts out and clarify what I actually need to say. I would only start writing when I knew where I was going and had made that list of main points.

I hope these tips help you reduce your writing time so you can manage to have some downtime or relaxing time during busy study periods.

Happy writing!

– Josie

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