It’s crunch time here at SJSU — that batch of hectic weeks filled with seemingly endless deadlines before Finals Week. But thanks to your inner fortitude or the discovery of Quick Tip #3, you’re not panicking this semester. Instead, you might have discovered a slightly different problem on your hands — knowing when a task is actually complete.
Over the years, you might have grown accustomed to finishing your paper at the last possible minute, practically ripping your paper out of the printer before sprinting halfway across campus to class, terrified you’d be late and your grade would suffer, right? “Done is good enough” may have even been your motto. So, now, faced with a paper whose prompt you’ve carefully considered, outlined, thoughtfully researched, drafted, brought to the Writing Center, peer-reviewed, etc., you’ve realized that you’ve spent so much time thinking about this essay that it’s starting to feel like alphabet soup.
Or, you’ve always been a perfectionist. You are the sort of person who spent hours practicing your handwriting as a child so even your “rushed” in-class notes seem Pinterest-worthy. And, so, every time you go to hand in a paper, you feel a rush of panic thinking you forgot something – even though you looked at the paper approximately 400 times.
Either way: how do you know when your work is truly done?
First, take a deep breath. Then, look at the following checklist to see if you truly are done:
- Can each Writing Specialist recite your thesis by heart when you ask for help? (Don’t worry if they can, they are here to help! But, it may be time to consider moving to another project, skill, or assignment.)
- Have you done a check on formatting, grammar, and craft only to discover there are no errors?
- Have you checked the citations again for clarity?
- Have you printed your paper out in a different font so you see the essay in a “new” light? Are you reading it out loud and not finding any errors?
- Do you notice that the more you tweak the paper, you’re focusing only on minor details?
- Have you had multiple trusted friends peer review it? Do your friends have any final suggestions? (If they are relatively unimportant, that’s a good sign.)
- Have you asked yourself how either paragraph / sentence / idea reinforces your thesis and discovered that each of them are necessary?
- Have you had time away from your paper? When you come back to your paper, are you happy with little aspects of the paper you’d forgotten you’d added in previously?
If you’ve answered “yes” to these questions, then you are likely ready to hand in your paper. If you still feel nervous, ask yourself if you, like many others who strive for perfection, might be overthinking the assignment.
Finally, here’s a piece of advice from one of my mentors: “Consider everything you hand in your ‘last abandoned draft.'” In other words, there’s always room for improvement – that’s why you’re in school and continuing to learn. But, a deadline’s a deadline so now you can hand the paper in knowing that you did your best work in the time allotted.