“Good is the enemy of done.”

When you are doing homework for a class, it is nice to know that there is a solution to the problems that you solve within a given time limit (even if that time limit is the end of the semester). Since you know that the problems assigned are solvable, it is reasonable to assume that you can finish them within a certain time limit. I enjoy having a time limit as one of my fatal flaws is that I’m not necessarily motivated to study unless I have something specific to do. Further, it is great to get feedback from the professor as to how “correct” your solution was, or alternative methods to solving a problem.
Contrasting this with doing research, my experience is that you have no idea how long something will take. It is often the case that a seemingly simple problem can take months if not years to finish. This is further complicated by the fact that you do not know if there is a solution when attacking the problem. Regarding actually preparing your research to be published, you have to be fairly self disciplined to actually meet some sort of deadline, almost always set by you or a coauthora. Moreover, there is always the fear that someone else has done what you have done, except better.

Regardless of the fact I am not all that self-motivated, I feel as if my best work comes from open deadline work. My homeworks are often rushed as I have a breakthrough within the last 24 hours of the due date, and it takes me a while to figure out how to word things. But with research I find that my work is much higher quality and I am always much more confident in research meetings than I am in taking an in-class exam.

What has been your experience on time limits and course work vs. research? Any advice on becoming more diligent on completing goals by a given due date?

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