How to Survive an All-Nighter

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Ah, all-nighters. We’ve all done them – staying back late, downing cup after cup after cup of coffee and cans of energy drinks and supposedly keeping busy and getting lots done.

In reality, it’s far less effective than most people think it is. But, sometimes they just have to be done.

Here’s a simple guide to surviving an all-nighter.

Ask if it’s really necessary

All-nighters are an exception, not the rule. The only reason they should happen if things are NOT going well and normally.

They should only happen if say a new project needs a big push to get going, or if you’re launching a product in a different time-zone, or if a client deadline is fast-approaching and it doesn’t look like you’re going to meet it in time.

Simply put, only do it if you really need to.

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Preparation

All-nighters do not and should not “just happen”. You need to prepare both your body and mind for it.

Mentally, you need to channel your inner masochist. Because let’s face it – there is a certain degree of masochism to looking forward to staying up all night and working.

Know that what you’re about to do is mentally tough, and it helps to work out exactly what you’re going to be working on – step-by-step. What you don’t want to happen is for 3am to roll around and having to ask yourself “what am I supposed to be doing now?”

You’ll also want to dig deep and work out the really good reasons why you’re doing things – a big pay-check, customer satisfaction, kudos from your boss… whatever it is, have a good reason why otherwise you’ll be tempted to nod off early half-way through.

You’ll also need to prepare physically. Taking a nap in the afternoon is counter-intuitive but not a bad idea. Try to eat normally and stay off the junk food. Make sure you hydrate a lot – yes, this means that you’ll be taking more bathroom breaks, but it’s important.

Lots of people like to get snacks and drinks ready for the night. The healthiest choice would be a combination of fruit, protein bars and water or green tea. Only hit up the energy drinks and stimulants if you really need them. Even better – have a large dinner a little later (around 8pm) and then just drink tea or water throughout the night.

The last thing you want to prepare is a set cut-off time for when you’re calling it a day and heading off to sleep. Trust me, this is important.

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Execution

The first rule of surviving an all-nighter is DO NOT NAP DURING YOUR ALL-NIGHTER. If you do, you’re likely to fall asleep and not wake up. And that’s not cool.

To get started, just get your list out, start at the top and work your way through. Keep yourself mentally and physically busy and try to maintain a decent pace or momentum.

If you need a break, take it. Go drink some water or use the bathroom or even just stretch out. A good cycle is a 5-10 minute break every hour, with a longer 15-20 minute break every 4 hours or so.

Do NOT go off-topic and start checking Facebook or start doing something that isn’t related to what you’re pushing through on – that will make it almost impossible to get back to work after.

So when your cut-off time rolls around, if you’re 95% of the way there – just push through and finish it. Any less than that, call it a day and go to sleep.

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Handling the after-effects

All-nighters are brutal on our physiology and mind. You will not function the next day – this is normal and to be expected.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and you’ll likely suffer some of the effects of sleep deprivation for the next couple of days. There’s really not much you can do except suck it up and rest up – and you’ll return to normal in a couple of days.

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In Closing

All-nighters can be done when we really need to do them, and they’re not the end of the world. Just remember, don’t do them often because they are not good for us mentally or physically.

If you want to learn about more unconventional ways to stay productive, check out our Premium Newsletters – every month we take a topic that other bloggers don’t want to touch and give the inside scoop on it.

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