At the start of each quarter, many students tell themselves, “This will be the quarter where I don’t procrastinate!” Friends, I admire your optimism and tenacity, but I also won’t fault you if you find yourself scrambling yet again.
There’s nothing more terrifying than hitting week ten of the quarter and realizing that you’ve yet to start that paper you’ve put off for the past three weeks since receiving your prompt. Trust me, I know this all too well.
Of course, the best way to write your essay is to do it early and avoid the all-nighter. “Be good to your body,” my sister, Naomi, constantly encourages. “Bodies do not enjoy all-nighters!”
She speaks from experience, meaning she’s also a good person to ask about what to do when your procrastination comes to kick you in the face and you’re forced to pull that all-nighter. So here you are, dear readers — some emergency tips to help you succeed:
1. Caffeine overload is not your best friend. Most people think that chugging away at three or four Starbucks Doubleshots in a row will give them enough strength to sustain the night, but that’s not the best idea. It will just make you crash early in the night. Save the Doubleshot for the morning when you need that burst of energy to get you to class. Instead, pace yourself with caffeine (whether it be tea or coffee) and keep yourself hydrated with water. Your brain will thank you for it.
2. Snacks are your best friend. If you rely on whatever you’re drinking to do the trick, sorry, you’re out of luck. Especially if your drink of choice is coffee, you will eventually get hungry and then food will be all you think about. I’m not suggesting that you prepare a four-course meal at 2 a.m., but make sure you’ve got some snack foods to munch on throughout the night. My personal favorite: Trader Joe’s kettle corn or a bag of Traditional Chex Mix. Just make sure you’re not eating too much or mixing a weird combination of foods. Nothing ruins an all-nighter more than an upset stomach.
3. Resist the lure of the sofa. I know the couch is sometimes the best place to do your work, but as the night wears on, lying down will become more and more tempting until you convince yourself you’ll only take a ten-minute nap and then — oops! — it’s 10 a.m. and now you’re late for class. The same goes for doing work on your bed. Sit at a desk or at a table, somewhere where falling over and entering REM cycle is difficult and uncomfortable to accomplish easily. We have desks for a reason, and it’s not so our laptops have a flat surface to sit while we’re on Facebook. And speaking of that black hole of a Web site…
4. GET OFF FACEBOOK. The “I need to be on Facebook for [insert reason here]” excuse is a total lie, and you know it’s true. Unless Facebook is going to write five to seven pages for you about Descartes’ argument for the existence of God, then you don’t need to be on it. Nothing wastes more time than Facebook stalking or updating your status with complaints about pulling an all-nighter.
5. Background noise can be helpful. It varies from person to person so this may not be a guaranteed solution for you, but sometimes it helps to listen to music or watch TV, as long as it’s not too distracting or too lulling. Sometimes I’ll have late-night infomercials going as I work because overwhelming silence makes me sleepy. Infomercials are nice because it doesn’t require much concentration to follow what’s going on and they’re an amusing anecdote to keep my night from becoming too depressing, but not too amusing as to suck me into the program.
6. Check your printer early. There’s nothing more depressing than not being able to print that essay you worked so hard to churn out in a night. Make sure you have enough paper and ink just in case you need to run to the library in the morning to print at the last minute.
7. Set an alarm for the morning. It sounds dumb since your goal is to stay awake all night, but just in case you finish your paper early and take a nap, or just in case you lose track of time, you have a signal to tell you when you should be up and ready to leave.
8. Take breaks to move around. Remember in grade school when your teacher had you stand up between classes and stretch? Studies have shown that sitting down and working for several hours straight is not the best way to be productive. Throughout the night, take a break every couple of hours — and not to watch TV or check your email. Stand up, walk around, do some jumping jacks. Power napping is a good break too, but only if you do it correctly. For more information, Google “wikiHow power nap.”
I can’t guarantee you’ll get an A plus, but it’s better than giving up and not turning in a paper at all. Good luck, busy Anteaters!