How to Successfully Stay Up All Night-And Be Productive

Almost everyone has some experience of having to stay up late to finish a project, paper, or assignment. For those of us who are particularly prone to procrastination, or maybe just unlucky, pulling an all-nighter might be the only way to get things done. Here I’ve compiled a list of what I think are the best ways to stay up late, both in terms of productivity and the physical ability to stay up.

These tips are all written from personal experience, the tried and true ways I’ve been able to stay up through the night and get what I needed done. Remember that everyone is different and though what works for one person may not work for another—the best thing you can do is try these tips, make a note of how it worked for you and how it could work even better. Though staying up all night is not recommended unless necessary, chances are if you have to do it once you’ll have to do it again. Try to make it as easy on yourself as possible.

1. Don’t Stay Up All Night If You Don’t Have To

There are a lot of people out there who like to stay up late, troll the internet, and generally waste time for no reason. Some people may want to try to stay up all night just to say they can, perhaps just to see if they can. And to those people I say, why? Staying up late can seriously mess with your personal schedule, your day, and your physical/mental health if you’re not used to it. Use it only as a last resort.

2. Know What You Need to Get Done—and How Long It Will Take

    This is key. You can’t just say to yourself, “I need to finish my homework.” You need to know exactly what needs to get done, or you won’t know how to accomplish it. Make a list of your assignments. Reading, research, essays, studying/test prep. If you jump in blindly and start with whatever you feel like doing first, chances are one of two things will happen: either you won’t know how to properly manage your time and end up overwhelmed, or you’ll feel like you have less work than you actually do. Neither of these are good for your psyche during your night.

    So make a list if you have to—be as specific or vague as you want, as long as it gives you a realistic idea of what you’ve got to do. Now, if possible, try to gauge how long each of these activities will take you. If you have thirty pages of a textbook to read, time yourself reading a page or two and estimate the total time necessary. Knowing this will come in handy. Now, try to calculate how long each part will take you, and how long everything you need to do will take you total. Be realistic. For every hour of work you figure you’ll be doing, tack on an extra ten minutes for random delays: bathroom breaks, food runs, social networking distractions. One of the worst things you can do is think you have more time than you have and end up with most of your work left to do in the last hour or two.

    3. Break It Into Parts

      If you have more than one thing to do, alternate between them. This tip is better for longer projects or assignments that take more time. Chances are this will actually keep you more focused and alert than just overdoing it on one thing for a huge chunk of time. When doing this, it’s important to break it up by natural stopping points, not by time or when you feel like switching. If you rotate projects every 15 minutes without coming to a good stopping point, you’ll likely spend a decent chunk of that time figuring out where you were. Wait until you’re at the end of a chapter, just finished a problem set, or concluded writing a paragraph. Then, switch it up.

      4. Get Comfortable

        Relax. You’re in for the night; don’t make it any harder on yourself than you have to. Even if you have a looming deadline, or even worse, if you’re past your deadline, being stressed out won’t help you focus. Play some music, if it’s not too distracting.

        Try to set up somewhere where you’re in a sitting position and have space to work, such as the kitchen table or a desk. Feeling too cramped can stress you out more, or make you feel like you have too much work.


        5. Don’t Get Too Comfortable

          Don’t play music that will put you to sleep. If you have to, make a playlist that contains a few songs in there that will wake you up. If you’re the kind of person who likes to sing along, make a playlist of upbeat songs that you know the words to. Just make sure it’s not too distracting.

          This might seem obvious, but try to avoid the bed. If you see your bed, you’re going to want to sleep. If you have to be in your room or on your bed (college students, I’m talking to you), don’t lay down. Don’t put your head down. This goes for anyone working at their desk too. You may think you’re just resting your head for a minute, but the next thing you know, it’ll be 8 a.m., and you haven’t gotten what you need done.

          6. Know (and Take Care of) Your Body

            Here is where a lot of people go wrong. Staying up all night isn’t good for you in the first place, so you don’t want to do anything to make it worse. If you know your body, you can avoid exacerbating it unnecessarily.

            Caffeine is one trick people like to use to stay up during the night. Coffee, energy drinks, soda. From personal experience, I am hesitant to recommend these. More often than not, these are okay at perking you up for a bit, but for the long-term can really hurt you. Especially if you don’t regularly ingest caffeine products, these can really mess with your body. If you wouldn’t drink it during the day, don’t drink it during the night.

            Stay well-hydrated and keep snacks nearby. You don’t want to let yourself get too hungry or thirsty during the night because that can make you grumpy, or demotivate you. This goes along with being comfortable. If you’re stomach is grumbling, you’re probably not going to feel like working. If you’re stomach’s grumbling and you’re yawning, that’s an even worse combination. Don’t eat anything too heavy though, or anything your stomach can’t normally tolerate. The only thing worse for your stomach than being hungry is feeling sick.

            Finally, this may seem a little counterproductive, but don’t be afraid to take a nap. Even just a 20-minute power nap can be amazing at refreshing you. Set an alarm, snuggle up, and snooze for a bit. Just make sure you don’t sleep through your alarm. Then, get up and back to work. Repeat as necessary, time allotting.

            7. Learn How to Manage Your Time Better for the Future

              If you managed to stay up all night long, reflect on the experience. Was it particularly fun or enjoyable? Is it an experience you’d care to repeat? If not, try to figure out why you had to stay up all night to do everything at the last minute. Try working on your homework/work in 15-minute increments each day if they’re assigned far enough in advance. Often times you’ll end up working a little more than your 15-minutes, and this will seriously cut down on what you have to do when the deadline gets closer.

              Some final tips:

              Prepare for the worst. If you aren’t used to staying up late, there’s a chance you could fall asleep no matter how hard you try not to. If you are worried about this, set an alarm to go off every half hour or hour, just to be sure. Even if you are awake when it goes off, it will still help you stay up.

              Avoid distractions. Turn off your internet if you can. Stay away from the cell phone apps or video games. Having someone to text/talk to during night can be good, but make sure it doesn’t keep you from getting things done.