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Achieve a Qualification with Minimum Stress

Achieve a Qualification with Minimum Stress
26 July 2013 Anne-Marie Daly

Exponential is all about helping Managers, Coaches, Consultants and Organisations to improve performance and productivity.

This aim is also about supporting individuals in preparing and submitting great assignments when working towards a qualification.

I consider the preparation and completion of assignments to be a key part of the learning process and NOT purely for the purpose of assessment. The process of planning, drafting and crafting a well structured, clear and concise assignment which is easy to understand and is supported by great examples and appropriate references is an essential part of the manager’s role.

Just as in most aspects of management and leadership, there are many tools and techniques that can be used to take away some of the pain involved in planning and completing a task or a project. Whilst the old maxim, ‘no pain no gain’ is true it does not mean you cannot work ‘smart’. Here are some of my top tips and ideas for achieving a qualification with the minimum amount of stress.

Avoiding Procrastination:

Procrastination is the thief of time, so here are some top tips to make effective use of your time:

  1. Use a planner and schedule what and when you will work on your qualification
  2. Set small, achievable goals and remember to break up a large task into smaller tasks
  3. Assess what motivates you and what are your causes of procrastination, then tackle the cause before you work on your assignment – remove your ‘blockage’
  4. Figure out what people or pursuits are wasting your time and figure out how to avoid them
  5. Set yourself clear boundaries such as when you will work on your assignment and for how long and keep to them
  6. Reward yourself for achieving your benchmarks
  7. Learn to say ‘no’ to extra commitments
  8. Make appointments with your Exponential Management Advisor to discuss your plans, assignments and progress

Time Management:

Time management is like money management – you have a limited amount therefore you must plan how you will spend it. It is a great idea to keep a record of how it was used. Here are some simple and effective strategies for managing your time effectively:

  1. Use a planner
  2. Set goals
  3. Plan for today, tomorrow, and later in the future. Subdivide goals into immediate, short term, and long term benchmarks
  4. Divide your 24-hour day into appropriate chunks: sleep and leisure, work, study/activities
  5. Focus on what is essential in the development of your schedule: work, study, read, rest, exercise, and social activities
  6. Schedule no more than two hours of study per subject at one time
  7. Begin studying as soon as possible – little and often is a great way to work when completing your assignment
  8. Create a short and simple ‘to-do list’ and cross out tasks as they are accomplished
  9. Record due dates in red for tutorials and assignment deadlines on your calendars

Improving Concentration:

If you find it difficult to stay focused on the task in hand, here are some suggestions to help you to achieve your goals:

  1. Select a place to work that is free from common distractions. Find ways to eliminate common distracters such as mobile devises, social networking sites and e-mails popping up on your screen. If you are unproductive after 30 minutes, find a way to change your environment
  2. Take planned breaks rather than waiting until you feel burnt out
  3. Decide exactly what you will try to accomplish when you start a task and remember to set small goals
  4. Work on larger tasks first and then smaller ones, but do not let the task overwhelm you so that your energy is used in worrying rather than in doing
  5. Accept that you must do some unpleasant tasks and plan to work on them with a ‘spring in your step’
  6. Reward yourself for working and the progress that you make
  7. Remember: Improving your concentration skills will reduce your stress level!

Avoiding Plagiarism:

Copying or plagiarism can easily be prevented by taking a few simple precautions such as:

  1. Do not wait until the last minute to write your assignment because you will be tempted to copy and paste to save time and are less likely to pay attention to detail and make the work your own
  2. Whether it is a summary, paraphrase, or direct quotation, a citation must follow. Document your sources as you include them in your assignment otherwise it can be a difficult and unpleasant task to do at the end
  3. Take careful and accurate notes while doing research and mapping out your ideas and plans
  4. Decide on which referencing method to use such as the Harvard method and just use it
  5. Avoid the ‘paper mill’ research paper sites: purchasing someone else’s work constitutes academic dishonesty
  6. Cite any information that you take from a website
  7. Do not ‘recycle’ your work. If you have written and submitted an assignment for one part of your qualification and you want to include parts of it in another assignment make sure you contextualise it for the assignment
  8. Be aware of ways that plagiarism can be identified

Editing and Revising Your Written Work:

When you edit and revise your rough draft of your assignment, look at your work in four ways: organisation; content; documentation and style and grammar. Editing takes time and it might take several readings until you can put the stamp of approval on your final draft – you need to plan time for editing and revising your work. Nevertheless, strong editing and revising skills will make the difference between a great assignment and a weak one! Ask yourself the following questions when editing and revising your assignment:

  1. Did you follow your outline or draft plan?
  2. Will the reader clearly identify and understand your core arguments?
  3. Did you develop your argument or analysis?
  4. Did you provide supporting details, such as examples, facts, reasons, or statistics?
  5. Did you use any quotations or reference sources and if so have you referenced them fully?
  6. Have you left out any vital pieces of information?
  7. Did you check style and grammar?
    • Use transitional expressions appropriately
    • Try to vary the structure and length of sentences
    • Use active voice as opposed to passive voice
    • Check mechanics, such as comma splicing, apostrophe usage, etc
    • Double-check spelling. Spell check can only pick up particular errors. If you are not a good speller, find a friend who is willing to assist
    • Use adjectives and adverbs to describe and add depth to your ideas
    • Look at word usage and remember not to overdo the use of the thesaurus and complex language as keeping it simple is usually better!

If this story has tempted you to think about undertaking a qualification in Management & Leadership, Consulting & Business Support or Coaching & Mentoring please feel free to have a look at our distance learning/ online qualification programmes.

Not sure which qualification is right for you? Click here.

If you would like to download a copy of our Guide to Completing Your Assignment, please click here.

Anne-Marie, Assessment and Moderation Manager at Exponential Training, has 10 years experience of supporting Managers, Coaches and Consultants. A qualified assessor, trainer and performance coach, Anne-Marie works with students and organisations both in the UK and overseas. You can contact Anne-Marie or connect through LinkedIn.


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