The Anatomy of An all-nighter

You’ve got 15 hours to start, and finish, that paper. First time at the rodeo? Before you panic, we offer survival tips.

So it begins

It doesn't matter how it happened: personal emergency, your dog consumed your carefully prepared but not backed-up thesis or maybe you just spent the last three weeks every night levelling up in Diablo 3. Whatever, we all have our own special brand of procrastination (see page 24). Here we are now in the same place like equals, staring deadlines in the eye and trying not to suffer a nervous breakdown. The extensions have all run out and excuses fallen flat. There's no one left to blame but yourself. Don't despair. We have one night left to redeem ourselves and we're in it together.

Cue up the Gloria Gaynor.

Getting ready

First things first, while you still have the presence of mind, now's the time to do the little bit of preparing that might have saved you a couple of days ago. We need snacks, beverages (see page 28), to-do lists and internet-blockers, STAT. Don't forget the energizing playlist---this is not the time for that Sleepy Indie channel on Songza. This is a job for whatever hypes you up. If that means Justin Bieber singing "Baby" on repeat for the next 12 hours then so be it. But for god's sake use your earphones, there's no reason to drag your roommates, neighbours, family or pet down with you.

We've procured the supplies and established a game plan. (If you don't know where to begin, I can't help you there, this is a guide for surviving an all-nighter, not holding your hand and writing your paper for you. Although, let's be honest, there's probably an app for that). Now it's down to you and your computer screen, here's where a few savvy tech nuts have saved your lackadaisical ass: If you don't need the internet (looking at photos of kittens to soothe your anxiety doesn't count) then unplug it now, from the router, and put your router somewhere out of reach or inconvenient to fetch. You'll thank me later. If you actually DO need the internet then download and install SelfControl ( if you have a Mac or enable the Chrome browser add-on Strict Workflow. Both are the big brother of the internet and will allow you to block certain sites (insert side eye here) for a period of time allowing your poor easily distracted mind to focus on the task at hand. Better program it for the entire night. We both know you'll be too weak to enforce this later.

Lastly, turn off your phone and put it in the same hidey spot the router's in. Or better yet, a different one. Like a squirrel, it's probably best not to have all your procrastination treasure in one place.

The hard part

Now, get to work. Type type type. You can do it! If I could offer but one piece of wisdom from my glory days of coasting by, then it would be this---you are smarter than you think you are. There is no sentence too convoluted, no idea too small. Dress it up with some fancy words and really commit. Be the dog with a concept-bone. Your passion for the project has to earn you a couple of points, right? I can practically see the genius flooding from your brainy bits now. Don't stop, get it, get it.

Breakdown central

Real talk: At some point during the night, no matter what, everything will be really and truly fucked. This usually occurs around dawn, when it begins to feel like you'll never know happiness again. Hold onto that feeling like a rope dangling from a cliff: it's called motivation.

You'll hit bottom on snacks. The caffeine will stop working. You may fall into a series of crying fits. Despite what a doctor might say, this is totally normal, this is just the part of the exercise when pure fear of failure and instinct have to take over and in a flurry of stubborn effort you ride it through.

And when in complete and utter doubt remember this: any completed assignment is better than not turning in an assignment at all. We're striving for bare minimum, guys--- scraping by with a pass is the new A. Stick your head out a window, the cool air will do you good. Now get back to work, what do you think this is? Extra credit?

Almost there...

So, you're nearing the end now, putting the finishing touches on what is obviously a masterpiece of last-minute academia, now's the most important part---for the love of god don't go to bed. Not for "just a quick second," not to "rest your eyes," not while you're "waiting for your paper to print." That's like saying you're going to hop into a lion's cage with a rare steak just to see if it likes the smell.

Close your eyes for a moment and you'll lose your hand. There's no rest for the wicked until that shitball of a paper is in your prof's mailbox, right on time, like you always knew it would be.


Good job, friend! You've officially survived a university rite of passage. If you have any energy left at all now's the time to celebrate. I suggest skipping class (because that had nothing to do with what just happened at all), a greasy breakfast and a well-earned cat nap. Not necessarily in that order. We'll see you again before you know it.

Support The Coast

At a time when the city needs local coverage more than ever, we’re asking for your help to support independent journalism. We are committed as always to providing free access to readers, particularly as we confront the impact of COVID-19 in Halifax and beyond.

Read more about the work we do here, or consider making a donation. Thank you for your support!

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment

Get more Halifax

Our Thursday email gets you caught up with The Coast. Sign up and go deep on Halifax.

Recent Comments