The premise: You have a 10 page RBA, a seven question p-set where each question has multiple parts and over a hundred pages of dense reading to do by tomorrow morning at 10:30. It’s 10 PM. The only way you can get everything done well is by pulling an all-nighter. Can you make it through the night without falling asleep? Do you even want to?
The rules: Every two hours, you will have two choices. One choice will help you get your work done, but your performance tomorrow will suffer from sleep deprivation. The other choice will result in you falling asleep. Choose wisely.
10 PM: Time to get to work!
- Start with the reading.
- Start with the p-set.
Midnight: If you picked #1, you were lulled to sleep by the autobiography of John Stuart Mill. If you picked #2, you’re still awake! You’re making headway on your p-set, but you’re stuck on a particularly difficult problem.
- Leave it and come back to it in an hour with fresh eyes. Do some reading in the meantime.
- Keep at it, you’re almost there.
2 AM: If you picked #2, you couldn’t figure out the problem and went to bed in anger and frustration. If you picked #1, congratulations! It’s easier to do the reading now since the p-set woke you up a bit. You somehow made it through all of your reading, but you still have the essay and some of p-set left.
- Start on the essay. You’re sleepy, but you’re running out of time, and you need to at least start it.
- Caffeine break. You’re in it for the long haul, and you need fuel.
4 AM: If you chose #1, sleepiness overcame you. If you chose #2, you’re more alert now, but you wasted two whole hours. It’s crunch time, and you still have a ton of work ahead of you.
- Start the essay while the caffeine is still on your side.
- Finish the p-set. You’ve put it off for way too long.
6 AM: If you chose #1, the power of caffeine wasn’t strong enough to help you. If you chose #2, you’ve finally finished the p-set! You even managed to get all of your research sources analyzed for your essay. Now you just have the rest of your essay to finish, but the all-nighter is starting to take its toll, and you really want to take a break.
- Watch Netflix to reward yourself. It’ll just be one episode.
- Write the essay. You don’t have any time left.
8 AM: If you picked #1, you got sucked into a spiral of binge-watching until you dozed off to the sound of birds chirping with not even a single page started on your essay. If you picked #2, you got through the worst of analyzing your sources, and you’re two pages into the paper itself. You’re on a roll, but you’re feeling the pressure to nap coming on.
- Keep writing. You got this.
- Nap for ten minutes. It’ll be fine.
10 AM: If you picked #2, you succumbed to the power of the nap, and you don’t wake up until you’re an hour late for your morning class. If you picked #1, you’re swept away by the Beautiful Stuff (also known as BS) you’re writing, and somehow manage to finish the essay just in time to go to class. You print the paper out on the way, wondering if staying up all night was the best choice. At least your work is done.
The results: How did you do? Do you regret falling asleep early, or do you prefer to choose sleep over stress and work? Are you proud of your all-nighter, or are you just really tired? Maybe next time the results will be different.
Contact Kiara Harding at kiluha ‘at’ stanford.edu.