Upcoming QCE Deadlines? Here’s How to Deal

By Nick McIndoe in QCE
31st of July 2019
How to stay organised through QCE

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Unfortunate facts of life: death, taxes and QCE deadlines.

You can’t really do much about the first two. Unless you have some sort of crazy invisibility cloak (#HarryPotter), you can’t escape death. And unless you engage in some backhanded illegal practices, you can’t evade taxes.

But here’s the good news: you absolutely can do something about deadlines.

“What can I do?! Tell me now!” I hear you cry – and don’t worry, I’m listening to your call.

Well, you can’t really get rid of the deadline, because that would make the deadline pretty redundant in the first place, right? What you can do, though, is manipulate the deadline. How? By adopting the n±2 rule!

Full disclosure: this is the rule by which I fundamentally live my life. I like to think it works an absolute charm, and I hope it will for you, too!


The n±2 rule: the why

The underlying rationale behind the n±2 rule is this: QCE is hard; a big part of that is QCE deadlines; QCE would be easier if we didn’t have to worry about deadlines quite so much.

Like fatigue, like hunger and like frustration, deadlines creep up on us. I mean, think about it:

If you complete a task at the last minute, it’s ultimately not going to be your best work; you’ll have less time to proof it, less time to refine it, and so on. Yeah, you might get by – yeah, you might even get a good mark – but it’s not going to be as good as it could possibly be.

It’s a pretty fundamental idea: when you have an imminent deadline, you rush. When you rush, you make mistakes. When you make mistakes, you lose marks.

If you consistently leave things until the last minute, chances are you’ll consistently lose marks – and the worst thing about that is just how unnecessary it is. The marks you receive aren’t given on potential. Instead, they reflect the quality of work actually produced: in other words, your assessment performance. Allowing QCE deadlines to creep up on you is basically saying, “You know what? I don’t even want those marks,” whilst dramatically throwing them out the window.

So the very core idea of the n±2 rule is to avoid imminent deadlines in the first place. Makes sense, right?

Back view of businessman standing on ladder and drawing sketches on wall


The n±2 rule: the when

It’s ultimately up to you, but the more you use the rule, the more effective it is.

Consider this. I don’t think of myself as a particularly organised person in most facets of life. At times, you can barely see the floor of my place, and I have unopened mail sitting around from (quite literally) several years ago. Yet, I never – not even once – submitted an assignment late in Year 12 (or my entire university degree).

In fact, I never even submitted it on the day it was due.

The latest I ever submitted an assignment (Year 12 or uni) was the day before it was due. That’s pretty whack, right?


The n±2 rule: the how

(This is the most important bit)

So how does one actually adopt this incredible thing – this game-changing but simple technique? It’s easy, really:


Part One

When estimating how long a particular task will take to complete, give yourself an extra two units of time. Think something will take you four hours? Give yourself six. Think something will take you three weeks? Give yourself five.

That’s where the + part of the n±2 formula comes in: you overestimate how long something will take you.


Part Two

When you have a QCE deadline, subtract two units of time. So, essentially, you bring that deadline forward. Have an assessment six days from now? Be ready in four. Have an assignment due in eight weeks? Have it done in six.

That’s where the – part of the n±2 rule formula comes in: you make deadlines closer.

These are self-imposed rules, of course. You give yourself longer than you need, and you get stuff done before it’s an absolute necessity. It’s almost the simplest thing on the face of Earth, but I promise you it’ll make a difference.

There’s one condition: you fully believe in the system.


The benefits

Business People Planning Strategy Analysis Office Concept

The benefits are numerous.

I mean, perhaps most obviously, you’re never going to miss a deadline. Ever.

Why is that the case? Because either way, you have a buffer period. Look at it this way:

You have a test ten days from now. But because you were clever and adopted the n±2 rule, you legitimately have in your head that you need to be fully prepared in eight days (because you’ve subtracted those two days from the deadline). If something happened to come up in that time and you couldn’t prepare as well as you had hoped, well, that’s okay – you have the buffer period of two days. You can then use those two days to finish off your revision with absolutely no downfalls.

The same thing happens when you intentionally overestimate how long something will take you. If you think something will take you two hours, don’t wait until two hours before it’s due to start. After all, we all know that things often go wrong. What I’m saying is that it’s much better to live on the safe side of life – at least when it comes to assessments and exam preparation.

Of course, the whole thing becomes redundant if you sort of adopt the n±2 rule, but don’t really do it. If you don’t truly believe in the system, you may as well not use it at all. But I promise you that if you do adopt the system (and it might take a little time to get used to), it’ll pay off handsomely in the long-run.

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