Rosemary’s Rambles: drowning in due dates

WSS reporter Rosemary Timmer-Hackert ’23 explores the stress caused by online school in her first installment in a series of columns.

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Rosema

Rosemary Timmer-Hackert ’23 talks about the stress caused by online school.

It has been a month since we started this new school year, and I have spent the majority of that month doing homework. I’m up until midnight every day, trying to stay afloat in what feels like a never-ending stream of assignments, and for most of this month I couldn’t figure out why. Did it come with being a sophomore? Was it due to being enrolled in online courses? Tonight, I finally solved the mystery of where my healthy sleep schedule went.

I noticed the large amount of time I was spending on schoolwork right off the bat. The first week of school is well known for being easy. Your time as a student is mostly spent filling out questionnaires and creating collages. I blamed the late nights on these “get-to-know-you” assignments. I thought things would get better after I started doing actual school work instead of pondering how best to describe myself in three words. 

During the second week of school, I decided that my problem must be procrastination. I already knew I struggled with procrastination. In fact, I put “chronic procrastinator” down on many of the surveys I filled out from the first week. It made sense that the reason I was staying up late doing homework was that I was starting it late. The only logical solution was to stop procrastinating. As the self-dubbed queen of procrastination, I can’t say that giving up my crown was easy, but I managed.

I started by treating asynchronous time more seriously by removing the temptation of my phone from the room and compiling a huge list of assignments on a whiteboard. It was really helpful to be able to see what needed to get done in one place instead of having the information all over Canvas. I also tried bribing myself into getting things done using junk food, although the opened soda that had been sitting at the bottom of the fridge did not make for an attractive treat when I finally earned it. I had pretty much stopped procrastinating by the end of the week.

Unfortunately, the end of my procrastination was not the end of the problem. I was somehow still drowning in homework. At first, I tried to combat this by being even more productive. I would get half the asynchronous work done on the day it was assigned, in hopes that the extra time I saved would translate to extra free time the next day, but that didn’t work. I was still staying up until midnight doing homework each night. My change from procrastination to productivity had somehow resulted in me spending even more time on homework than I did before. 

That’s when I noticed something strange. I would always finish doing homework around midnight, but the amount of time I spent on homework each day varied wildly. It was like the assignments themselves didn’t actually matter, just the due dates. Suddenly it hit me. The thing keeping me up at night was not my tendency to procrastinate, it was perfectionism. I will work on assignments all the way up until the deadline, continuously improving them to try to meet my impossible standards. This results in me taking hours to do an assignment that the teacher probably expected to take thirty minutes. While I’ve known about my issues with perfectionism for a while, it wasn’t a problem until online school. Here the work isn’t due at the end of a 50 minute class period, so I can spend as much time as I want on any given assignment. I’ve tried to get this under control by giving myself time limits for the work, but considering I’ve passed the 30 minute time limit I gave myself to revise this it’s not really working.

Without dedicated school time to work on assignments, anything I do besides schoolwork makes me feel incredibly guilty. ”

— Rosemary Timmer-Hackert '23

Another problem that has come with asynchronous work time is how it magnifies the stress of school. It allows me to choose when to do the assignments, but there are too many assignments to ever really be done with them all. This divides my life into time spent doing school work and time spent procrastinating school work, making any time spent doing things just for myself feel like a waste of time.  I can’t pick up my phone or the Xbox controller without thinking about so-and-so assignment due sometime in the future that I haven’t started yet. Without dedicated school time to work on assignments, anything I do besides schoolwork makes me feel incredibly guilty. This was already a problem with regular homework, but it has been magnified by online school.

I’ve been getting better at navigating my way through the flood of assignments, and I can only hope that things will further improve as the year goes on. To keep the metaphor going, surviving homework is a lot like treading water. At first, it’s almost impossible to keep your head above the water, but with practice, it will become second nature.