Waiting Until the Last Instant
Editor’s Note: This column was originally intended for publication on December 2nd, but due to the lateness of submission, it was pushed back until this issue.
It is with varying degrees of shame that I admit that I’m a chronic procrastinator. Ask my editor, and he can tell you that I always cut it close. Whether or not I finish my article on time is often a matter of typing speed. I realize that procrastinating is a terrible work habit, but I hope you won’t blame me too much for being less than enthusiastic to leap full-faced in front of the fire hose. As it happens, I’m about to make an earnest effort to be more responsible in the future, which is why I’m milking this common thread with much of the rest of humanity for one more article while I’ve still got the chance. 23 hours after my soft deadline. We had a holiday — totally not my fault.
It is perhaps more accurate than quaint to say that blood runs through my procrastination, and what with the recent blood drive on campus, the latter is feeling even thicker than water than usual. It’s hard to know what to make of the practice of putting work off until the last minute. On the one hand, you have people who argue that they do their best work under pressure, which if you think about it, is sort of like a pilot saying he does his best flying at an altitude of 50 feet. Sure, it might be true, but no matter how many times he claims to be a leaf on the wind, good luck getting anybody to be his co-pilot. At the same time, though, as my attention span continues to diminish for reasons I don’t fully understand, even that excuse is getting hard to …
Sorry, had to alt-tab out and reply to my Facebook messages. As I was saying, even that excuse is getting hard to fall back on. On the other hand, it’s not that big of a stretch to say that I’m getting the low-impact all-nighter (if such a thing exists) down to an art form, which is not easy, since I refuse to use the assistance of caffeine or energy drinks. (I’m something of a purist). The trick is to take a 15-30 minute nap roughly every two to three hours, depending on your latency period between getting up and becoming alert. I find that it helps to remain fully-dressed and leave your room lights on, to ease the transition from sleeping to waking. Top it off with an hour or two of real sleep before class (assuming you’ve finished that which you had to pull the all-nighter to finish), and hopefully you won’t feel too bleary during the day, at least for a while.
Obviously, all-nighters should be used sparingly, if at all, to get things done — like the Ghostbusters crossing the streams of their proton packs. You could solve all your problems and be the big hero, or you could go to class feeling like every particle in your body is simultaneously exploding at the speed of light — which is probably not quite as awesome as it sounds. I suppose there’s only one way to find out (drink several dozen espresso-Red Bull cocktails), but frankly, I like keeping the blood vessels in my brain intact.
Mind you, using frequent powernaps to stave off the onslaught of slumber carries with it its own risks. I don’t know about yours, but as my body runs lower and lower on fuel, it becomes harder and harder to convince it that the wailing alarm clock is an adequate reason to get up. As you might imagine, it wasn’t long before I started sleeping through my alarm clock, mostly because the fade-up from silence isn’t quite the persuasive kick I needed to jolt me out of bed in the mornings.
Fortunately, I’ve managed to fix that problem with a little electronic twiddling. Now, instead of using my alarm clock, I set the alarm on my portable music player, hook it up to my desk speakers, and crank up the volume. Up until recently, I set the alarm to play the Top Gun soundtrack, but when you really, absolutely have to get up on time — like, for example, when you have to catch an early train to go on vacation — there’s nothing quite as explosively effective as the William Tell Overture at 120 decibels. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go down to the hardware store and pick up some glass panes. I certainly managed to catch my train, but … I miss having a window. And neighbors.