The All-Nighter: a panic and caffeine-fueled attempt to cobble together an acceptable academic document such as an essay, lab report, or problem set. Usually directly followed by The Mad Dash to wherever said document is due.
If you are entering freshman year or are a chronic procrastinator, this post is for you. You cannot write a quality paper in one night. It’s just not going to happen. If you were here in person I would grab your face and squeeze your cheeks together like that aunt you avoid at family gatherings, look deeply into your wonderfully naive eyes and tell you not to sell yourself short like that. OK? They sound romantic and so…college, I hear you. But it’s like trying to lose ten pounds in a day. You’re not going to reach your goal and you’ll feel like crap the next day. Shaky anxiety from too much caffeine and falling behind on everything else in life does not have to be part of your college experience, nor do you have to spend all your time in the library. Here’s how:
If you have time to get schoolwork done during the day, use it. Nighttime is full of distractions. All your friends are out of class, meal times run long, better TV shows are on. You get the point, the list is endless.
When it comes to writing a paper, give yourself ten hours for a 3-5 pager, double that for a 10-pager, and so on. If you use a calendar like Google or Ical (which I highly recommend), use those time guidelines as a rule of thumb and give yourself a day as a cushion. Any more than that is unrealistic if you’re a procrastinator.
One thing I try to avoid is scheduling huge blocks of time devoted to writing. It sets you up for dread and procrastination. Everyone operates differently, though. Pay attention to how you are most productive and use that to your advantage on your next big project. Also key is working out the finer points of your paper while doing mundane tasks. Whether that’s making your drive/walk to class every morning, or cleaning your Superhero figurine collection (I’m not judging, I swear). Keeping your paper on the backburner of your brain will keep you from pulling an all-nighter.
One last thing, and I realize this is oddly specific and personal but it took me a while to figure out and might help you, too. I find that sometimes a cup of calming tea is better than coffee or energy drinks to write. It gets you out of “HOLY SHIT I HAVE TO GET SOMETHING ON PAPER OR I’M GOING TO FAIL” mode to an “okay, let’s take this one step at a time” mindset.
Still having problems writing that “A” paper? Coming soon…. How To Write a Paper So Wickedly Fantastic Your Professor Will Try to Pass it Off As His Own Kids’. The length of that title was completely necessary, thanks for asking.