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Here’s My Advice About An All-Nighter: DON’T!

January 13, 2010

Note: It’s still Tuesday, but this post will have Wednesday’s date.

It’s early Tuesday morning. I did not get home from work until almost four a.m. and I’m too tired to sleep. At this point, I’ve been up for almost two days with a forty-five minute catnap in the middle of the night on Sunday. Why? I was simultaneously working on a big project that was due along with several other smaller tasks that were also due as well as some other little things like planning for class and reading those Faculty Senate minutes that I’ve admitted I’m prone to read right before the meeting. This week I’d promised myself to do better and read all the documents before I arrived at the meeting.

With everything converging and some small inconveniences like meetings and teaching in-between, I was somehow unable to overcome the limits of space and time and create the kind of plastic/elastic time I needed to get everything done and get some sleep too.

You know how it happens. You plan your time carefully and your plans get shot to hmmm by a variety of “life happens” kind of stuff. The two hours you set aside to finish up an essay get consumed by a call from a friend who really needs to talk. The time you planned to spend getting ready for a test is interrupted by unexpected visitors from out of town, friends you haven’t seen in ages and with whom you really want to reconnect. You reach for a book and the whole bookshelf collapses and suddenly it’s three hours later and you’ve done nothing but get yourself back to where you were three hours earlier. The bookshelf is fixed and looks great, but you haven’t even begun looking at the book. The toilet overflows. The pipes freeze. You get the flu. Or it could that you’ve just had to spend way too much time fighting with your technology. It’s always something.

Or maybe I am alone in this. Perhaps your life is a perfect place where there is always enough time to do everything you need to do. Perhaps you are never ambushed by the unexpected. Perhaps you never put anything off. Perhaps everything you planned to do turns out perfectly the first time. Perhaps you don’t misplace a crucial piece of information that you know you put in a safe place where you would be certain to be able to locate it and now that you really need it you can’t find it. Anywhere. Perhaps. But I doubt it. I suspect that you, like me, will pull the occasional all-nighter and feel like a huge pile of doggie poo the day after. Just like I do now.

So here’s my advice. Don’t follow my bad example. Accept the reality that almost everything you plan to do will probably take at least twice the time you’ve set aside for it, and if you finish early, you’ll have given yourself a lovely gift of time. If you must stay up all night, drink lots of water, eat healthy, and avoid heavy, sleep-inducing foods. My cure for an all-nighter? Sleep. If only I weren’t so tired.

What’s your all-nighter advice?

Don’t let yesterday use too much of today. • Will Rogers

One may go a long way after one is tired. • French proverb

Life is one long process of getting tired. • Samuel Butler

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