Last week, I talked about deadlines.
Deadlines are usually reserved for coursework. But it helps to think about the smaller projects and preparation you need to do before class.
The deadline for seminar preparation is the day of that class. Pretty simple. But not always obvious. If you haven’t thought of it as a deadline until now, maybe that’s enough to see it in a new light.
Lectures and seminars usually rely on you having done some work beforehand. It could be some reading, a small quiz, a survey, an experiment, an exercise, or something similar.
I remember it being standard to fit prep in at the last minute. The same day was no surprise. And some people would even do the work as they walked to campus, moments before class started. A frenzy of reading and walking.
That’s not enough time to do the work. Glancing isn’t engaging.
At such a basic level, there’s not much chance to ask relevant questions and properly interact in seminars.
It doesn’t feel like so much rests on doing this work. “I can always catch up and do it in my own time,” you could say.
Problem is, the idea of preparation is to bring out the best in our abilities when the more important work does come along.
So while last-minute preparation for class is clearly a less important version of the all-nighter, it could still leave you worse off than you should be in the long run.
The way to combat this is to prepare for preparation.
What does that mean!? Essentially, it means that when you know what’s expected of you before you attend, do these 3 things:
- Plan what you’re going to do (if it isn’t already explicit);
- Estimate roughly how long it will take (and leave room for extra time just in case);
- Schedule when you’re going to do it.
It’s amazing how free you’ll feel when you prepare for preparation. All it takes is making that solid schedule and having a full understanding of what’s expected of you.
You don’t need to schedule it all in one go either. Let’s say your course is heavy on the reading. You have 100 pages to read before next week’s session. Why not find four slots in your schedule to read 25 pages each time? Or five 20-page sittings?
The more you’re in control of your plan, the better you can engage with your learning.
My worst experiences have been the times when I put off the inevitable. My best experiences have been when I have all the preparation laid out in readiness.
Think of your own best experiences. When you enjoy the work and get stuck in, the learning feels easier. The preparation seems to fall into place without effort.
Why does it feel so effortless? Put simply, your enthusiasm allows you to naturally prepare the groundwork.
And since we can’t feel as enthusiastic about everything we do, we need to be a bit more considered in our approach.
The execution is always the same. Set out what you’ll do, prepare for everything, and make it happen.
You can’t fake the excitement, but you can always stay ahead with your prep.