Tom: The 7 stages of emotion after losing an assignment

Tom Sherson
Tom completed a Bachelor of Applied Media (Journalism) at USQ in 2013. He created a wide range of projects from a professional television show, to documentaries and short films and even his own radio show. Fast forward a few years and Tom is now working at USQ as part of the Social Engagement and Marketing team, developing his media skills further and creating even more projects, from YouTube video series to a student podcast.

We’ve all been there: up at 3am finishing an assignment, when you click exit instead of save and lose everything…

If you haven’t already suffered this inconceivable injustice yet, this is an idea of what you will experience:

Stage 1 - Shock

Like paralysis, you find yourself unable to move, just staring at the computer screen as if by some magic your assignment will reappear. (Please note, the size of the document lost usually indicates the length of this pause.)

Stage 2 – Frantic denial

Maybe you sub-consciously saved it somewhere earlier. Maybe it’s saved in your recycle bin. Maybe the computer is just hiding it somewhere, like some sort of cruel joke.

Furiously clicking through every folder on your desktop is an important part of the process, because it could save you a lot of heartache if you are lucky.

However, if you are unlucky and the file is still missing, stage 3 ensues.

Stage 3 – Blind rage

In most circumstances, a level-headed you would see insulting and cursing at inanimate object as a bit strange. But dire circumstances lead to dire decisions and you begin to question why your computer is intent on sabotaging your study ambitions.

Stage 4 – Despair

Anger turns to sadness and you begin to feel sorry for yourself. This is normally when the tears start pouring. How can you possibly be this unlucky? You were so close! Life is so unfair!

Stage 5 – Venting

In a last ditch attempt to salvage something (anything!) positive from this experience, you immediately call the first person in your phonebook. This could be a friend, your mum or your dentist. It doesn’t matter, you just have to tell someone!

For some people, this does offer comfort, but at the end of the day, it is a fairly pointless exercise because there’s nothing your friend/mum/dentist can do but share your pain.

Stage 6 – Regret

The feeling of helplessness kicks in, and once again you’re staring blankly at the computer screen just waiting for your assignment to reappear. Time slows to a stop and you are frozen by a mix of fear, anger and despair. This is the end!

Stage 7 – The reality check

It may take time, but you will eventually snap back into reality and realise you have just spent a significant amount of time doing nothing to help fix the problem.

As soon as you realise this, you open a blank document (or a draft copy of the assignment you saved earlier *wink nudge*) and start listing dot points of all the key points you remember.

Of course, you won’t remember everything at first, but you will be surprised by how much you recall when writing your assignment the second time. You will find that rewriting and rethinking your assignment could actually make it a better end product in the grand scheme of things.

The important thing to remember is that the assignment isn’t going to re-write itself. It’s almost impossible to keep your cool in this situation, but the faster you can get through stages 1–6, the more time you have to fix the problem.

Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but you can take steps to prevent the risk of this happening to you. Open whichever assignment you are working on and save it in multiple places right now!

This sort of thing can happen at the worst time and sometimes you won’t have the time to rewrite the whole assignment. If you find yourself in this situation and feel a bit overwhelmed, there are several people at USQ who can support you:

  • Your lecturer 
    You aren’t the first to lose an assignment and you certainly won’t be the last. Your lecturer will know exactly how you are feeling, so make sure you keep them informed, even if there’s nothing that they can do. 

    Please note: Some lecturers will be less than sympathetic when they are told you have no assignment and no proof that you’ve even started it. It’s worth having at least something to show, so investing in a hard drive or large USB and saving drafts there as a back-up is a pretty good idea.      
  • ICT 
    If the reason for losing your assignment goes beyond just clicking the wrong button, it might be worth giving ICT Service Desk a ring. Also, as a USQ student, you have access to the cloud. This is another way of backing up your work.
  • Student Services
    If you feel stuck in any of the stages above, Student Services can offer personal support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

Oh, and don’t forget… SAVE YOUR ASSIGNMENT!

Losing your assignment is not the only horror story can come to life when handing in assessment, imagine handing it in without the correct referencing? Or without proofing it? What about the image list? Celebrate guilt free and sleep well after checking all your bases before pressing ‘submit’. Do you have any horror stories of your own that you’d like to share? Post them in the comments below.


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