I had two methods in university.

The first was to get the syllabus on the first day of class. Read it over giving me a rough idea of when things were due. My next step was to lose the syllabus as soon as humanly possibly. Re-attend class at some point closer to the essay deadline, but hopefully not past the essay deadline. Go to the library and take out 15 books related to the essay topic. Use two different of them, maybe, but only the night before. Write the paper the night it’s due. Don’t start before 11. Print the paper off while heading to class. Drop it off on the prof’s desk, turn around and leave. Return the library books only after severe penalties have been incurred.

The second method started out by keeping the syllabus. I’d pick the most difficult essay to write because no one else was going to write that one. If we all had the same question I would choose an esoteric thesis. Read tangential information I could get my hands on. Spend as much of the semester as possible writing an outline in my head, sometimes for a few papers at the same time. Write the paper the night before. I’ve written it in my head five or six times by then. Re-read it a couple of times, catch the glaring errors. Hand it in the next morning. Stay for class.

Probably less that three times I had my essay done before the night it was due.

Once I began writing almost immediately after we got the assignment. The prof liked to tell stories so I wrote a really long family history of a Sephardic Jewish family in the disporia due to the Inquisition. I knew it would take me weeks to get it all down, so I definitely started early.