How to Survive an All-Nighter the Right Way

Why the Fu%& does the urge to do work always seems to kick in at the VERY last minute?!

We’ve all been at that point where the clock’s ticking and weeks of work that needed to get done is being currently crammed in the late hours on the final night. Left with no more time to procrastinate, you’re left with no other option but to stay up late, forget about the idea of sleep, and pull the ever-feared “All-Nighter”.

Whether you have a budget presentation for the senior VP you haven’t made, studying for an exam for a class you’ve been skipping all year, or having to hand write a couple hundred wedding invitations you promised your fiance you’d get started on last week, we all know the feeling of being under the gun with a few hours to complete a mountain of responsibilities.

Now there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing everything, and if you don’t know what’s good, you’re gonna knock-out at midnight and wake up crying in the morning.

So here are some key points to show you how to pull off an all-nighter the right way:

Determine Your Purpose

Chances are that by the time you realize that whatever needs to get done will take the whole night, you’re probably already somewhat tired. So wasted time means more wasted energy!

Find a bulletin board, dry-erase board, note book, or used receipt and write down exactly what needs to get done tonight and broken down in steps of order.

Breaking down what you need to get done before getting started on the long night helps out for two main reasons. First, you start preparing your brain for work by considering and planning for the work ahead rather than shifting gears in the eye of the storm. And secondly, you can consistently monitor how you’re using your time based on the tasks planned for, and if needed, know where to cut corners.

Asking yourself why, how, and what you need to accomplish during your all-nighter before the late-night shows kick in so that you have a plan in mind before all of your energy is gone.

Create Your Space

A big part of being able to survive a whole night of mind-numbing work without a moment of sleep, is making sure you’re in a space that can keep you awake and alert.

Keep the lights on and the AC going at all times. This will violently end any ideas of squeezing in a power nap or nodding off in front of your laptop. Keep a nice mix of music going and don’t fall into the trap of looking specifically for “STUDY MUSIC”! Sometimes I need Wu-Tang and other times I need Vaporwave. Go with the flow of your mood and have anything from music, podcasts, and TV show re-runs, to have some sort of ambient sound to fill up your space and keep you awake.

The bottom line is that a big part of staying awake and alert through the night involves making this depressing all-nighter as lit as possible and if that means creating a light-show and a mix-tape party in your office or bedroom, then so be it!

Find Your Fuel

One of the most important parts of surviving your all-nighter relies on what goes into your body during that night. Oily and greasy foods will definitely bring on a food coma so eat light and eat healthy. Small snacks can keep the munchies at bay while giving you energy to keep going. Fruits are cool and have a sugar content to pick you up.

Keep plenty of ice cold water nearby, it’s a great shock to the system and wake-up call when the eyes start to droop.

Approach caffeine with caution! Having a coffee or Red-Bull too early can lead to a burn out later on at night which is definitely not needed in these hours of need.

Your diet during this all-nighter will either keep you energized or push you even closer to your bed, so be extremely careful on what you eat and drink.

Allow Time for Fun

If you get a well-paced rhythm of productivity going, chances are you’ll finish your work with an hour or so to spare before sun rise and the 9-5. In this time if you’re scared to fall asleep and not be able to wake up on time for class, work, etc, then have a few television shows, dumbbells, and video games nearby to run the clock through. Clean up your room and provide yourself with a temporary reward for surviving this epic war with time.

And now carry that exhausted brain through twelve more hours of the day so not to lose your sleep cycle and pray to the man upstairs, that this never happens again.


As a chronic procrastinator, I know how hard it is to get things done on time let alone slightly late. But sometimes sh%# happens and we find ourselves on a messy desk cursing our horrible scheduling, vowing to buy a day-planner the next day, and swearing off parties.

For those nights, staple those eyelids back, try out these tips, and get some rest when you can… 😉

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