Sunday, August 28, 2011

In which Ruth teaches a lesson (and faces some disturbing truths about student lifestyle)

So, with lots of you guys going back to school, I started brainstorming things I learned in my years as a student, which turned into a list of my very many talents. It quickly became obvious that such a list was too long to be feasible, so I tried to narrow it down to specific skills that would be useful to each of you in your academic careers.

That’s right. Today, I am going to teach you about the art of pulling all-nighters.

Before I start I would like to caution you. Pulling all-nighters isn’t for everybody. Some people just can’t take it. Some GPA’s just can’t take it. It’s risky business.

That said, I think almost a third of the papers I wrote my fourth year was a result of all-nighters. That’s an exaggeration, but I think it’s safe to say that I’m actually quite an expert at it. I am certainly not condoning it as a frequent practice, but should there be extenuating circumstances and you find yourself in a situation where one is necessary, I hope my advice might be of use.

Stage 1: The Causal Stage

First: Catalyst; AKA The Assignment

All-nighters can be divided into three stages. The first stage is known as the “causal stage.” It is initiated by the catalyst, or an assignment. This task (paper, test, exam, whatever the case may be) can be assigned at the beginning of the semester or any point up until the final. This stage takes absolutely no preparation or organization, because, if you were the kind of person who prepared or organized, you wouldn’t be pulling an all-nighter. The causal stage may vary greatly from person to person, but is characterized by a general lack of conscientiousness or responsibility. Time is wasted in any numbers of ways from surfing the internet, to doing other school work that is necessary but not as pressing, to even cleaning your room.

The causal stage does not have to be a result of negligence on the part of the student. It can be a result of just plain having too much work and not enough time. As we all are aware, the majority of professors either believe that you have no other classes or believe that your other classes are all moot because they could never matter as much as the one they teach. The farther you go into your academic career, the more likely this stage will be a result of having a crazily busy life.

Stage 2: The Decisions Stage

Stage two is known as the “decisions stage.” It begins when you finally sit down and decide that you can’t put if off any longer, no matter how much else you have to do (or how much you don’t want to do it). This is perhaps the most crucial of the three stages, both because it is when the most work is done and because the point of time at which it begins is a high predictor for your final grade. Just as with the causal stage, if the decision stage begins early enough, the necessity of an all-nighter may be avoided all together.

Barring that, if you are actually going to do it, some strategizing is necessary. You will need to create an environment that discourages sleep and encourages desperate bleary-eyed productivity, with an arsenal of resources and secret weapons at hand if you want to get through the night functioning somewhat normally.

The Environment

Do not make yourself comfortable. No matter how tempting, do not sit on your bed. Even a couch is dangerous. If you are in need of a blanket, sit on the floor. If you are in the library, don't sit on a cushioned chair (also, if you are in the library, remember to take a toothbrush and an extra change of clothes for the next day). It may be occasionally necessary to change your position or move about to stay awake. Use your own discretion.

The Resources

Snacks: Preferably these will consist of non-sticky, finger food that take little attention to prepare or eat. Snacks are to be rationed and consumed at regular intervals throughout the night in order to keep yourself awake.

Beverages: Beverages serve the same purpose as snacks and should be sugary. Water works if no other option is available. Ration the same as snacks.

Alarm clock: Your alarm clock should be set every couple hours, starting around three o'clock and continuing until the morning. If you are in the library, use your cell phone or your computer with headphones.

Secret Weapons

Bathroom breaks: When you have a million different nonsensical thoughts running around, or when you find yourself staring at your screen/notebook indefinitely, take a quick break and run to the bathroom. Trust me, if you have been alternating snacks and drinks, you will need it.

The shower: The shower is like your trump card. When you have no other recourse, take a shower. Obviously, this is not possible if you are at the library (in such cases, replace with an outside jog around the building).

Stage 3: The Consequences Stage

The final stage of the all-nighter is the “consequences stage.” This is the stage that takes the most emotional resources and discipline. This is the period of time in which you have to force yourself to turn in your paper/take your test, and go through the rest of your day as normal. You have to attend your classes. You have to pay attention, take notes, and talk in discussions. Even if you make it through this day, the stage is not over. It extends at least until you receive your grade and can influence and overlap other all-nighters.

And that's all I have to say. Well, I also suggest you try as much as possible to not do this. Seriously, it's horrible. You get headaches, your digestive system is extremely angry with you, and your professors are not too happy either. So really, your life will be much easier if you can just avoid the whole vexed situation. Maybe I should have written a post on that? Oh well.

I love you all! Hope life is going well :)


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