The Power of Pulling an {Occasional} All-Nighter

Pre-plan, over-plan, and never at the 11th hour. Deliver on time or ahead of time.

This was my game and I played it well.

In college, I never stayed up all night finishing a paper or cramming for an exam. In my career, I rarely asked for an extension on a project. I just planned my work and worked my plan, and then freaked out whenever life stepped in and something happened requiring that I flex it.

Now life steps in all the time. As moms we have little choice but to learn to roll with it and pivot often. Since priorities shift non-stop, we form a general shape of the plan and then work like a dog constantly shuffling the items on our list every week.

If you’re like me, you rarely feel you can keep up–let alone get ahead–these days.

Of course, this has all been to my betterment and honestly it feels a bit better. Being flexible and adaptable has its advantages, like exercising creativity, panicking less, and demonstrating greater understanding of others. I feel like I’m experiencing more life rather than just marching along to my plan.

But, if I’m constantly flexing, how and WHEN am I supposed to get anything with a firm deadline done? Or anything requiring a high degree of focus or creativity?
ANSWER: Pulling the occasional all-nighter.

Forever an early riser, this is not in my nature, nor do I believe this is a long-term solution or good for anyone’s health. The two reasons the all-nighter method works for me right now, and I’m guessing most mothers would agree, is that:

  1. I need the QUIET to first shed the day, tend to frayed nerves, and soothe.
  2. I need the security that a BIG BLOCK of interrupted time offers.

That security, usually 5-7 hours, allows me to shift gears, work effectively, and still manage one REM cycle.

(NOTE: Now I know why my mom fell asleep on the couch early in the evening. Spoiler Alert: Twilight sewing sessions.)

Here’s the breakdown of how I do it…

Pre-Game (9pm-12am)

I put in a solid 2-3 hours of activities that help me move out of mom-mode and return to myself.

I nap on the couch, take a bath, or sit with some tea. This part is a must because otherwise I “swirl” around the house trying to cope and “Game Time” becomes just more of me swirling.

Game Time (12am-2am)

It’s all about boundaries. I put down the plan designating set amounts of time to each part of the task.

I get started and stumble a bit. Still I’m enjoying my work, not just ticking it off my list. Then I find my footing and enter the flow. I can get myself unstuck more readily because I’ve loaded up my reserves during the Pre-Game.

Post Game (2am-5am+)

I shift out of the task and breathe and relax. I recoup and recover, and I feel good laying my head down knowing I’ve dedicated the right amount of time to myself and to the task. From there it’s Sweet Dreams!

(Except mom-somnia… and then adequately rested and now waking children… and the fact that clearly one REM cycle is not enough)

So then there are afternoon naps, too.

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