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En Route #7


Always be Prepared

So much of college, and so much of life, is about preparing. For the best, for the worst, for tomorrow, next week, even next year. Our lives ebb and flow with the passage of time, and much of that can either be helped or hindered by how diligently we prepare. Like squirrels readying their nests for the oncoming winter, college students around the world are currently preparing themselves for a bi-annual ritual called Midterms. A dry run for the hibernation period that is Finals (yes I dared to say it, well, type it). Midterms act as a check-in point for the future to come. In harrowing times such as these, I always fall back to my mother’s words of wisdom that got her through Law school and, I assume, raising me. “The busier you are, the more organized you have to be.”

Ah organization, the procrastinator’s favorite pastime. There’s nothing we love more than avoiding work by shuffling papers and labeling folders, but being organized is more than just making to-do lists. True organization requires discipline, strategy, and more fortitude than you’d think. This past weekend I discovered just how important preparation can be. As someone who’s lived through most of their oral presentations by a “wing it” philosophy, I can comfortably say that those minutes before your presentation feel like forever if you have no idea what you’re actually going to say.

In order to avoid that fate this time around we, as a senior thesis class, arranged a time to practice our presentations on the Sunday before. The run through went well enough, but we were all a good 3 or 4 minutes over the 10-minute limit. After swapping notes, we vowed to spend the rest of the day refining. As a reward for a solid amount of practice, I took a stress induced nap (almost never a good idea) and woke up an hour later to a frantic text from my friend about her presentation.

Maybe it was my sleep-addled brain, maybe it was gut instinct, but I immediately called her and offered to run through things again at 8:30. Which we did and were pleased when we saw improvement, but found that our presentations were still over the time limit. As we wrapped up our second rehearsal of the day, it was my turn to panic. I anxiously asked if it would be crazy to get on another zoom call in a few hours for a final dress rehearsal. She, and this is the reason why it’s vital to make friends with people just as crazy as you are, thought it was a great idea.

Two and a half hours melted away as I fixed, edited, then re-edited my slides before I found myself sitting face to face with my friend for the third time that day. Of the two remaining brain cells we had between us, both found the situation equal parts ridiculous and hilarious. Hysterical laughter ensued for about a minute longer than was entirely sane. Once we managed to pull ourselves together, we settled in for more practice. An hour later and victory was ours. We both had presentations at, or under 10 minutes.

For someone who started the day as a non-believer, I had undergone a rather rapid conversion to the school of preparation in less than 24-hours. Ultimately, it paid dividends and I walked into class the next morning with my head held high. It was a huge weight off my shoulders to know exactly what I wanted to say, how I wanted to transition from one slide to the next, and even felt comfortable enough to crack some spontaneous jokes. It was because I had done the hard work of preparing that the actual presentation felt considerably easier in comparison. It turns out people may actually know what they’re talking about when they advise you to practice beforehand.

The rest of the week felt like a dream after Monday as I caught up on some things that had fallen to the wayside, dishes, laundry, sleep, and the pile of homework that accumulated after an entire weekend spent rehearsing a single presentation. In all seriousness, being a procrastinator is not a life sentence nor a fatal curse and I’m still by no means perfect at avoiding it. Rather, I think it’s just something you have to anticipate and plan for in order to set yourself up for success.

Good luck!

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