I work best alone. I don’t like the risk of being on a different page from other people when we have a common goal. I’m always on the same page as myself and I always have a common goal with myself. Unfortunately, I’m attending college in a society biased towards extroverts and group tasks. But as a senior, I’ve had four years to build up a method for making the task of group tasks a bit more manageable.
1. Gather and save contact information as soon as possible.
When the groups are announced in class, write down all names and mentally note the corresponding faces in the classroom. At the end of class, go up to one of them. Don’t worry about desperately trying to gather everyone; usually when even just two of the group members attempt to make contact, the others will follow suit. Have everyone write down their name, email, and phone number. Don’t try to do it all verbally; everyone takes in numbers and spellings at different paces. Immediately enter all of that information into your phone.
2. Make a GroupMe.
Don’t try to work with one-on-one texting, unless it’s a touchy issue (“Do you know if Dan has done any of the readings? He always seems to be behind in discussion.”). Most people already have GroupMe or wouldn’t have a problem downloading it to make for easy communication.
3. Break the project into tasks.
This makes the entire project less daunting. Each group member needs to present a chapter and everyone else has to ask questions as a ‘panel’? That requires everyone to: read their own chapter, read everyone else’s chapter, prepare questions for other chapters, and prepare answers for their own chapter. Those are more tangible goals to aim to achieve.
4. Delegate the tasks.
Some projects don’t require members to do the same tasks. For a poster presentation, someone needs to buy the poster board, plan the layout, print out the pictures and text, arrange and secure everything to the poster, make it look visually appealing, and bring the poster to class at the right time. Some people would be better at certain tasks than other ones. The one with a car on-campus should buy the poster board. The one with a printer would print the pictures and text. (Paying for color printing from campus computers is way too expensive!) The one with an eye for graphic design would make it visually appealing. The one who doesn’t come from band class wielding a tuba should bring the poster.
5. Set specific deadlines.
Know how long you have until the due date, even if it’s over a month away, and work towards the project slowly. Give everyone a week to read their chapter. Another week to read everyone else’s chapters. Three days to prepare questions for other chapters and four days to prepare answers for their own chapter. Take the last week to meet up (at least once) and make sure the entire presentation meshes together logically. Make sure everyone knows the specific tasks and deadlines. Repeat it out loud as if reminding yourself (when you’re really trying to remind them): “So we type our questions for each other’s chapters on the doc by Saturday. Is that the fourteenth?”
6. Follow-up on tasks and deadlines.
Don’t decide the tasks and deadlines then let everyone roam free. There’s some people who forget, then there’s some people who ‘forget’. You don’t have to feel like a mom or babysitter (“Hey Jill, did you read your chapter yet? Just checking.”). Make it casual and always make sure you have the tone of having the best interest of the group in mind: “Phil, is your outline really long like mine? I’m only halfway done and already at five pages, and I don’t think I’ll be able to cut it down by this Thursday. I hope she doesn’t take off points for extra pages.”
7. Meet in person the day before the presentation.
Give yourself plenty of time to do last minute collective catch-up, and make sure everyone knows how the presentation will flow. Run through the entire thing a few times and give each other feedback. Time the run-throughs if you’re being graded on certain time constraints. If any part of the presentation is too short or too long, everyone has time to adjust their presentation speed or material as necessary.
8. Plan to meet at the classroom at least 15 minutes before.
This ensures no one is late. It seems like a frivolous task but it’s definitely psychologically comforting to see all your group members there and ready to present. Psych each other up. Remind Tara to smile and go slow on that one sentence that gets her a bit tongue-tied. Stand at the front of the classroom together to get an idea of how it will feel up there. Remember to make eye contact, don’t read straight from your notes, and let out a deep sigh at the end.