So yeah…I just stayed up for 38 hours straight, starting Thursday morning at 6am and ending Friday evening at 8pm. I had to get a project done and had missed too much time earlier in the week to get it done in the pace I’d have liked.

Compounding the whole thing was the fact that I didn’t know I’d be pulling the all-knighter (and all-dayer?). My document was a business case for a six-figure project, and it was only when I began to outline everything at 3pm Thursday that the enormity of it all became apparent. There were the common-sense assertions on cost savings that needed to be proven with facts and figures; rationales on user adoption that needed to be articulated and filled out; and later, verbose paragraphs that needed to transmutate into the prettier graphs and charts that PowerPoint-accustomed corporates find inherently more pursuasive.

I churned through my document, trying to funnel about 14 other windows with vendor quotes, position papers, past reports and scrap notes into something coherent. As the night wore on, my coworkers began disappear, and light after light dimmed until I was all alone in the place.

I two-wayed my boss’s boss via Nextel at 11pm and he confirmed that, yeah, that document was needed on Friday. I was in for the long haul. I pictured my coworkers settling in for the night at home and, knowing that image would recur over the next several hours, hated them for it.

By 2am, I felt practically dead. My loud music –I actually have a mini-subwoofer on my desk — became more of a distraction than a stimulant. And coffee — an absolutely wretched drink that I made drinkable with tons of creamer and sugar — only worked for so long. With every cup, I got perhaps 25 minutes of intermittent focus before my senses degenerated again.

So I drank a lot of that, taking a piss break after perhaps every two cups. I went home to change my clothes at 6am, spending about 5 minutes in the house before going straight back to work. On the way back, I picked up three energy drinks, one of them being Red Bull and the other two being brands I never cared to remember.

Those babies worked like a charm. The first thing I noticed was their tart taste, which had the immediate effect of focusing me even before the, uhh, secret ingredient kicked in. I gained maybe 90% of my usual focus after that, save for occasional spells of daydreaming, a couple of yawns and lots of stretching. I was certainly able to do much better work over the nine hours that I spent burning through those cans than I did on the coffee. In fact, my coworkers, who began to filter in at 6:30, were eventually much more of a distraction than my own tiredness.

So, yeah. Once I got my document done at 3pm, I was still so alert that I hung out for another hour, eating “lunch” (I hadn’t eaten food in 27 hours and never felt hungry overnight anyway) and BSing with folks who’d had the luxury of a full night’s sleep. Once I did leave to go home, my energy began to wane and I struggled to keep my focus on the car in front of me.

Did I walk through the door, go straight to my bedroom, climb up my loft and fall dead-tired onto the bed? Well, no. I went to the computer, of course, and checked my personal e-mail and the news headlines. It felt weird to be disconnected from the outside world for so long during a normal workday.

After that, my roommate and I played Burnout 3 on Xbox HDTV. (Very fun game, check it out.) Then I watched some Real Time with Bill Maher off TiVo before passing out at around 8pm. And unlike a normal night in which I toss and turn and slip in and out of consciousness, I only came to once, briefly, and promptly fell asleep again after turning my little digiclock over to see that it was in fact 12:10 and not 01:21.

When I finally woke up “for real,” it 5:15am Saturday, an hour before I was to leave to go to my second job. Perfect.

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One Response to Caffeine

  1. John says:

    Those “all-knighters” (as you put it) can be pretty fun and exciting. It is the equivalent to running a long distance seeing if you can beat your old record. I never hardly exercise anymore, but I see not sleeping for 24+ hours as a sort of mental exercise and concentration work out. Strangely, it is so easy to feel confident in your focus and skills with no sleep although you know you are barely half the person you were with sleep.

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