The Chronicles of a Witty Observer

How to Properly Challenge and Conquer the Elusive All-Nighter

It is a dreadful fate that most sane people strive to avoid at all costs. It creeps up on you when you’re least ready for it, and hits you in the face like a ten-page paper on the theories of Thomas Sowell due by Friday. Only the young, fit, and mentally prepared can conquer it. Those with weak constitutions and early bedtimes better beware as it’s looming presence stalks closer to you than your own shadow.

 I’m talking, of course, about the hellish all-nighter.

Yours truly is a veteran of attacking the all-night homework session, and as such, I feel I have finally discovered the proper methods to ensure maximum concentration and productivity, minimal weariness, and reduce the pain from the mentally-decomposing-agony to a more tolerable lightheaded throb. And I am willing to share my infinite wisdom with you, in 7 easy steps.

1- Make 150% sure an all-nighter is necessary. All-nighters should and must be an absolute last resort and an act of desperation. Think of all you’re trading for a finished paper: valuable sleep, the ability to focus and make it through the next day, that toasty, luxurious wonder that is your bed. You’re compromising your energy stores, and if your body isn’t used to staying up so late, you’re asking a lot more of it than you think. Now, bear in mind that I am no doctor, but it’s essentially common sense to say that all of this is worth more than just a five-pager due in three weeks. Be skeptical and be smart about deciding to throw away a night’s sleep for work. It really shouldn’t be a choice to make lightly. Your health is always more important than a class.

 2- NEVER spend an all-nighter alone. If you have decided to go through with battling the late-night monster on your own in your room, you might as well give up right now. Finding a partner or two who need to catch up on work will be vital to the success of the adventure. You are less likely to crash in front of company, let alone go completely bonkers and hang yourself by your laptop charger cord. The time will also pass quicker and less painfully. Don’t think your accomplice will be a distraction, the benefits of a partner far outweigh the liabilities.

 3- Caffeine, while convenient, is not your best/only option. Most all-night amateurs go right for the coffee maker when they begin their quests. While its true that caffeine in moderation will keep you from falling asleep, too much will make you too jittery to concentrate properly on your work, and too little will be ineffective. Not to mention after about three hours that downhill spiral as you come off the high is brutal unless you have an endless river of coffee flowing by your window. Surprisingly, snacks of any kind can get the job of keeping you energized without the jitters and 3AM crash. Simple carbs like the natural sugars found in fruit are a wise choice. It’s healthier, people! Plus, who can deny that Clementines are nature’s candy?

 4- The power of foreign films is fantastic. Another common method of keeping awake and focused during an all-nighter is the background noise. Most people go right for the iTunes, but the reason I shrink away from music is because you can get hooked on a catchy tune and lose focus. Especially when you’re tempted to fall asleep in the middle of a powerpoint construction, having a gentle, catchy, or all-around awesome tune running over and over in your head will just lull you to sleep faster. Movies are a better option, and your best bets are foreign language dramas. Dramas by nature have less variation in volume change, and if it’s in a language you don’t recognize, you won’t be bale to follow the plot and care anyway. But the background noise that keeps you alert will still be there. 

 5- Migrate. This is surprisingly, but also logically, effective in keeping you and your fellow night-owls concentrated on work and wide awake. Keeping nearby valid working areas in mind, every three hours or so, pack up camp and move to a different spot, unload, and keep working. The change in setting will keep you from getting bored of your setting, which does make a difference. If you can move to different buildings on campus, that’s even better. But don’t just go back and forth between two places. Make every spot new and relatively unfamiliar, but also comfortable and spacious.

 6- Go by the Golden Break Ratio: 1:1/3.  This pertains to the hours of work time to subsequent break time. Small, frequent breaks keep you awake and motivated. They’re a necessary part of the all-nighter process. For every hour you study, schedule an adjacent twenty minutes to eat, take a quick shower, or even just get up and move around. I’ve been to group all-nighters where the group would play a few hands of poker or go fish during breaks to keep the mental juices a-flowing. One subsection to this rule: don’t use this break time to check Facebook. You’ll quickly learn that this twenty minute period every so often is too precious to just stay in the same spot you’ve been in for the past hour.

7- Twice a week is the absolute limit. This one pretty much goes without saying. Giving up too much sleep will compromise your health. Also, if you absolutely need to pull more than two all-nighters in a week, you’re probably better off getting an extension on the assignment altogether, or sacrificing some recreation time during the day.. Pulling an all-nighter two nights in a row is also ill-advised (and pretty dumb, if you ask me). If you need to do it more than once a week, do it at least 2-3 days apart. Give your body a good amount of time to recover before doing it again. By the time you go in for a second subsequent all-nighter, you won’t have the strength to go through it no matter what you do.

This isn’t really my style to be so formal and full of advice. But, being a veteran, and having just last night executed what was not only a successful, but also thoroughly enjoyable all-night experience, I felt it was the least I could do to share my tips with anyone who might need them tonight!

*DISCLAIMER: I am in no way a professional. If these tips don’t work for you, please don’t sue me. I’m poor enough as it is. Thank you, and have a nice, lawsuit-free day!  

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One response

  1. Fannie Farkle

    Some good advice. I like the roaming part..wandering around with laptops and apparently tangerines.

    November 4, 2010 at 2:03 pm

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