July 9, 2012

pulling an all-nighter

The Laura Chapman all-day-and-night survival kit.

This weekend I did something I have not done since college: I pulled an all-nighter.

With only a few days to go until Camp Laura and notes from someone who recently finished the novel I completed earlier this year -- not to mention a previously scheduled fort building date with the nephew -- I had a full plate. Sure the notes on my book could wait, but I was too excited to get back into that world to resist.

Though the all-nighter was not planned -- they never were in college either -- I followed a few steps to maintain my sanity before, during and after. Here they are, in hopes they might help you if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

1. Take a nap that afternoon before. After spending Friday night sleeping on the floor under a pile of precariously placed sheets while my nephew stayed up watching cartoons until 4 a.m., (and only quit when I ordered him to rest) taking a siesta was critical if I wanted to produce anything of value. I managed about two hours of sleep, and after taking a few moments to wake up and have dinner, I was completely refreshed for an evening of activity.

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Something happened to me this spring: I discovered water. Though I have always known it was good for me, this spring I forced myself to drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water every day, as recommended, and it has given me more energy and makes me feel healthier. Since coming to this realization, I've been pushing water amongst my friends adopting the mantra, "Hydration is next to Godliness." On top of that, it also means I have to pee all the time (I know, TMI). But do you know why this is good for an all-nighter? If you have to pee every hour, you aren't drifting off to sleep.

3. Get energy. I know caffeine can make you crash, but I still have to use this a little as a crutch to stay awake. Instead of having a steady stream of caffeine, though, I paced myself. I had a medium coffee earlier in the day before a began my morning and early afternoon work cycle. After my nap, I drank an energy drink before beginning the evening. Though it was tempting to have another around 2 a.m., I avoided the impulse to avoid having a big crash.

4. Make myself uncomfortable while working. I know, this sounds bad, but for me it works to ensure I stayed awake and alert. Instead of sitting comfortably on a couch with pillows, I spread out my materials on the floor, changing my position every so often to avoid getting pain in my neck of back. By never getting too comfy, my mind never wandered from the task at hand. Sitting at a desk also did the trick while writing.

5. Use entertainment that does not distract, but keeps your attention. For me, this included putting in a couple of movies I have seen a dozen times. Granted, I had the movies on during the crafting portion of my activities, but I still seldom strayed my focus from the project to stare at the screen for more than a few seconds. I also did not do this one all night.

6. Take breaks. For me, that meant a quick evening trip to the craft store to buy more letter stickers and Super Target to pick-up groceries to make my family lunch on Sunday. It got me out of the house for 45 minutes, and I also found a fantastic shirt and sweater (ON SALE!) to wear to LauraPalooza next week. As a bonus, I only spent a few minutes modeling my new purchases before buckling back down to work.

7. Avoid the Internet. I love the Internet. It's the best. You can check your Facebook and your email, update your LinkedIn (while sending out 35 suggested requests) while simultaneously watching a video of kittens cuddling in their sleep. Unfortunately, Internet is also my crack. So, I put an embargo on the Interwebs and only allowed myself to check in with the rest of the world once every two hours for nor more than 10 minutes at a time. That was still probably too much, but I'm a recovering addict.

8. Eat good snacks. OK. I caved on this a little (as you can see by the photo above) and had an energy drink and a candy bar (the first one I've purchased in weeks, thanks to my diet, which is going well, thank you very much). Other than those little indulgences, I made a point to eat healthy. That meant lots of fruit, vegetables, protein (vegetarian friendly) and a few whole grains. My new favorite writing snacks are grapes and spicy hummus on cucumber slices. (Quick fun fact: Substituting thin slices of fresh cucumber for chips is not only low calorie, but delicious.) Both are refreshing, low calorie and don't leave me feeling as crappy as the sugar in that super delicious candy bar I am still thinking about. When I took meal breaks, I also ate smaller, high veggie and protein meals.

9. Keep interactions with the kittens down to a minimum. So this probably isn't a problem for all of you who maintain healthy relationships with people instead of unhealthy ones with your two attention stealing cats, but I took a stand this weekend and told the kittens they could not dominate my life. Sometimes, that meant pushing away Mr. Bingley when he wanted to sit on my stomach while I was trying to write. It meant telling Jane to shut it when she ran up and meowed incessantly. It was hard to do, but sometimes we have to push away those we love to get a little work done.

10. Rest. Around 4:30 this morning I found myself at a good stopping place for my projects. I flipped on another episode of "Downton Abbey," flopped down on the couch and fell asleep watching Matthew and Mary play the "will they won't they game." I woke around 9 (as late as I let myself sleep on weekends) and felt fine to go about my day. It's important to get as much sleep as you can after finishing your project, because it's apparently necessary to stay alive.

Those are just a few tips, but I am sure there are more. Now it's your turn. What do you do if you have to pull an all-nighter (or at least a late work day)?

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