Finals Week Study Plan Example 3: The False Deadline

The False Deadline (TFD) is a way to avoid procrastination and allow time for grades to be optimized and improved.  TFD can be an effective tool if you are someone who does work well under pressure and prefers doing a significant amount of work all at once.  You can think of this as a “crunch time” for academic work.

 The way TFD works is that you set yourself a fake cutoff for an assignment or test.  Ideally, it should be a week or a little more before the real deadline, but it can still be effective only a couple of days before.  You can do this for tests, but it is particularly effective for final papers and projects.

 By setting an artificial deadline, you can put yourself into an artificial crunch time.  In order to finish your studies or finish an assignment before the deadline, you work under that pressure and ultimately have it completed early.  Even if you do a ton of cramming, or stay up late, or rush through a paper, you will have met this deadline and completed the assignment.

When TFD Works Best

Where TFD brings benefit now is that the work isn’t due on that deadline.  The test isn’t the next day; the paper or project is not due. What this allows is for you to take the time then to edit, review, and improve.  You have now put in the work, but it likely isn’t the best you could achieve because of the cramming. However, TFD now allows you time to revise your work and supplement your knowledge before the real deadline.  Without TFD, you might have done this cramming before the real deadline and only been able to submit what you had accomplished during the crunch.

You can check in with your teacher if you finished a final paper or project.  Teachers often receive requests for help in the day or two before a deadline, so having something comprehensive well in advance is more likely to see your teacher having the desire and time available to help you improve it.

You don’t have to use TFD for full final deadlines -- you can also use it for partial deadlines along the way.  For example, you may give yourself a deadline where you have to have half of a paper written, or a certain amount of words completed, or a certain amount of chapters reviewed, or a practice test is taken.  There are many ways to implement this pressure of a deadline that creates a crunch time that some students thrive under.  

 Regardless of how you implement it, TFD is designed to reduce stress, reduce procrastination, and reduce the likelihood of having a poor final because of a lack of time.  The trick, however, is sticking with the false deadline that you make yourself.

It is one thing to say to yourself “I,’m going to finish this paper four days early, that’s my false deadline!”  But it is much more difficult to then implement it when you know that you don’t have to.  Aside from thoroughly tricking yourself about when a deadline is, there is one other method to help make sure you uphold your false deadline: outside accountability.

Tell Someone

Tell a friend or a family member, or even a teacher, about your false deadline an,d you plan on when something will be completed.  Ideally, have it be someone who will check in with you and give you a hard time if you aren’t making progress. That way, you will have someone expecting you to show them some completion by the time of the deadline.  You can even add other incentives to it: give them something that you value and ask them to keep it until you show them the completed assignment, or have a reward for yourself that you can only receive after you have met the deadline.

TFD can feel like tricking yourself or even feel like a childish method of treating yourself.  However, if you are someone who works most effectively under pressure, then it may be the most effective way for you to prepare while still avoiding the detriments of procrastination and submitting an assignment that isn’t your best work.

Michael C. is currently an online private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerd in Irvine and Anaheim.