Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Gotta Blog That: How to Pull an All-Nighter

(In honor of Entitled Mbughuni and J. "I'm Blessed" B.)

Drink Coffee

This may seem like a no-brainer but for some reason folks who teetotal coffee think that they can make it through the night. I've only known one person who can do it without a heavy nap during the day. If you can do it, more power to you. If you need to do an all-nighter and you've never tried to do it without coffee before--don't try it now. You'll fail.

The best method: Own an automatic drip coffee maker. It's fast and simple enough that you can reload even as the living dead. And you can start running your second cup while you finish your first.

Drink Coca-Cola (or at least have it on hand)

The caffeine to liquid ratio is perfect and the sugar will give you the extra kick you need after your body has built its tolerance to your Starbucks House Blend. Bump Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Lipton's Iced Tea. Nothing works better than Coca-Cola for a full all-nighter.

Drink Caseloads of Water and Alternate Your Stimulants with your Hydration

If you drink a lot, you pee a lot. If you are peeing you aren't sleeping--at least we hope you're not. Having to get up and use the restroom will break your concentration, but that's a sacrifice you may need to make when it gets down to 3 or 4 a.m. and your body is clamoring for Zs.

More important, you must alternate your stimulants (coffee, Coca-Cola, No Doze) with some water to hydrate. I'm no scientist, so I'm not sure why it works but in my personal experience, the water flushes out the coffee, et. al. and let's my body recuperate--before I start pumping it up again. Besides, after two or three cups of coffee, water is just easier to get down my throat.

Drink Your Stimulants WAY Before You Need Them

Again, this is from personal experience and there is no science I know of behind it. But every time I've waited until I was already yawning to start my coffeemaker, I end up knocking out before the caffeine can knock me up. (I think it has something to do with the high highs and low lows of the caffeine curve or hitting overload).

So I start with coffee early in the evening, usually right after I've had dinner (yes, I am subject to the -itis). And I keep drinking and alternating with water through the rest of the night. I've stayed awake until sunrise that way.

Snacks Are Your Friend

Choose something healthy. After all, you're already killing brain cells by depriving them of sleep. I'm partial to dried cranberries and coconut rolled dates from the local co-op. Munch on them when it starts really getting hard to keep your eyes open but on the water round not the caffeine round. Overload, again, will put you out like a light. You want to keep your body, mouth, or nerve endings busy but not push them so hard they drop from the race. Plus, they are a good change, again, when you get tired of coffee & Coke.

Resist the Midnight Hungry

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning you will start feeling like you want a second dinner. Resist the temptation. No matter how famished you think you must be. First of all, you eat a full dinner now and not only will you be packing on calories with nothing to do with them but type at your computer, but your odds of staying awake on a full stomach in the middle of the night are slim to none. HINT: Eat dinner at the normal time. Then you will have no excuses.

Naps Are Bad But...

If you must, do it at your desk. Yes, right there. Drop your head on your keyboard and take fifteen minutes. Oh, it's uncomfortable? You're right. And that will guarantee that you get up in fifteen minutes instead of sleeping through the night. My favorite part of these naps is falling asleep and waking up ten minutes later because my legs have fallen asleep and the pain is excruciating. Nothing jolts me awake better.

Don't Work in Your Bedroom

Why all-nighter proponents still try to work from their bedroom or, worse, from their bed, is beyond me. Staying bodily away from your room is the best way to guarantee that you won't succumb to temptation. If you have an office, work there. If you don't, work in the dining room. Not the living room--the sofa is just as bad as the bed. Preferably, you want to be completely out of sight of anything that looks comfortable enough to catch some ZZZs on.

Accept the Drowsiness

When it hits 2 a.m. and you feel your head begin to drop, or you find that you are going back, often, to correct misspellings, capitalization, or whatever else our fingers still type when we are falling asleep at our desks--accept it. You may not have chosen to procrastinate so badly that you have to do an all-nighter, it may just be the structural pressures of academe (*sigh) but the all-nighter still comes with its own consequences. You are inherently less productive during the midnight hours than during the day. If you need to use those hours of the day, so be it, but don't treat the all-nighter as a replacement for 10 am to 4 pm work. You will get work done, but it won't be as clear, correct or concise as you might have done during the living hours of the day.

Around 2 a.m. you are going to get drowsy. You're ability to comprehend complex ideas will decrease. You're vision will probably blur and you will probably have to do a lot of stretching (and peeing, and munching) to keep any kind of rhythm going. Just shake it off and keep plugging away as best as you can. At least something is getting done.

Do Work.

The whole purpose of the all-nighter is to get more time to get more work done. It is not to get more time to get more fun, social time in.

Turn off your phone. Don't go on Facebook. No watching movies or hosting guests. Do work. Do work. Do work. Because at 5 a.m. when you are done fighting with your boyfriend or ragging on your siblings, you will still have work to get done and you'll just be even more pissed because you won't have sleep to function on.

That said...

Take Breaks.

May seem like a contradiction, but take measured breaks. It will shake you out of the doldrums and give you a structure to get through the night. 45 minutes of work + 15 minutes of blogging.

No Email

Never. Not even as part of your breaks.

I don't know about your email inbox but mine is full of political debates, administrative concerns, and academic discussions that are never resolved in the fifteen minute break time. Which means checking email inevitably eats into my work time.

Turn off the email. No one should be emailing you past 2 a.m. anyway--and if they are, whatever it is they want can't be good. And it will wait until tomorrow.

Repeat once, but not Twice. On the Third Day--REST!

Don't do an all-nighter more than two nights in a row. The third night you'll crash or you'll feel like a crazy person. And if your work hasn't cleared up by the third night then you really need to find new organization tactics--or talk to a mentor about your work load.

Besides, if you successfully pulled off two all-nighters in a row, you deserve the break!

Happy Studying!

1 comment:

T said...

"No one should be emailing you past 2 a.m. anyway--and if they are, whatever it is they want can't be good. And it will wait until tomorrow."

I'm gonna have to disagree with you on this one. hehehe

You should also call this post "Several reasons T won't ever go to grad school"