The Student's Guide to Everything

The Student's Guide to Everything: university student and graduate life from a New Zealand perspective

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Friday, October 31, 2008

How do an “all-nighter”

A particular atmosphere exists in the computer labs at uni the night before something big is due – whether it’s for one particularly hard paper or (especially) the last week or two of term. You can feel the frantic desperation all over campus: Many people thinking, “Why oh why did I leave this to the last minute?! Argh I have so much to do!”


The lines of people waiting for computers in the computer labs increase. Every second that ticks by reminding everyone of their growing workloads and wasted time, waiting to get to a computer. The bone-wrenching tiredness. The sigh of despair that echoes around the room at 3am. And again, when someone leaves at 4am, followed by extra-furious typing on the part of everyone else. At double intensity, when the birds start waking up at 5 or 6am.

Still desperate enough to want to do this? You will need:

- Lots of caffeine (either coffee or a caffeinated energy drink)
- Vast amounts of snack foods such as chocolate or nuts
- The motivation of a deadline the following day (or, why are you doing this?)
- Warm clothing for the 2-6am period

Try to have a full dinner beforehand. Always have lots of snack food such as nuts, as being tired makes you really hungry! (It’s acceptable to go to the supermarket at 9pm that night to buy it.) You’ll not only be using up lots of energy to think with, but getting up all the time to prepare food is time-consuming and distracting. Eating high energy junk foods can also help you to stay awake, though be careful not to overload your blood-sugar levels leading to a heavier crash and even more tiredness.

Similarly, more than 4 cups of coffee / energy drink over the course of a night won’t do you any good. Drugs and alcohol can affect your thinking and make it harder to write good work. Not recommended.

Many things can be done in the time between 1am and 6 am - it lasts an eternity but the next two hours between 6 and 8am go very fast. (Thanks to Ida for this one)

Remember: you shouldn’t do every assignment like this. It’s not healthy. Also, not sleeping beyond three days could kill you. If you are constantly in this state of panic, then maybe you need to rethink your lifestyle and start a few days or weeks earlier. Remember, the last two weeks of term are always going to be flat-out, so try and prepare if possible. Even if it’s just getting extra rest.

Good luck!

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Martha said...

Great tips Tina!

If, like me, you are a morning person, you might want to consider if an all-nighter is really the best way for you. If my assignment wasn't due until after noon the next day, my routine was to stop work and get to bed as soon as my brain stopped functioning at its best (approx. 10.30pm), then set my alarm early for the next morning. You can still leave yourself 7-8 hours' study time, if you start work around 5am.

Try to figure out what works best for you. Just because all your study-buddies are up doing all-nighters, it doesn't mean you are any less hard-core if you call it a night early and start at the crack of dawn the next day. You may even find you can swoop in on free computers in the lab as the all-nighters finally call it a day.

October 31, 2008 at 5:42 PM  
Blogger Brendan said...

A couple more tips:
- The hardest part of the night will usually occur about 3-4 hours after your normal bed-time. For me this was always around 3am. This is the time you are most likely to start losing motivation and contemplating giving up. BUT this period only lasts around 60-90 minutes. Get through it and you'll be fine for the rest of the night. By the time 6am comes around you'll be feeling quite normal.
- If you're going the energy-drink route, go for the sugar-free sort. With all the snacking you'll be doing, extra sugar usually leads to a sugar-crash, making the lows even lower.
- Similarly, pick snacks with a reasonable amount of fat in them. An all-nighter is no time to be watching your diet. They'll satisfy you more, and will keep your energy levels more stable that sugary treats. Nuts are highly recommended. Chips are not as the salt will wear out your mouth long before 8am comes around.
- Ignore the birds waking up at 6am. They want you to fail and mock you with their high-spirited chirping.

November 10, 2008 at 4:54 PM  

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