I am a graduate student at the University of Minnesota and we are quickly approaching mid-term. Mid-terms are more than just the middle of the semester and the beginning of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, they are a time of the dreaded mid-term test. These tests have the power to change a bad grade into a good grade but can also change a good grade into a bad grade. Mid-term tests come with a lot of stress and anxiety as we desperately attempt to cram as much information from the first half of the semester into our brains as possible…..with excessive cramming comes the possibility of having to pull an all-nighter. As a veteran of many an all-nighter I have been able to perfect my strategies to get more out of them. Here are my top five tips to pulling off a successful all-nighter!
1. Take a brain break
Every 1 ½ hours or so do a puzzle, watch a YouTube video, scroll Instagram, stare off into space, get up and move around, ANYTHING for at least 10 minutes but no longer than 20. Giving your brain a break from studying allows it time to absorb the information more effectively. But if you drift away from your studies for more than 20 minutes it will take you much longer to get your focus back – so keep your breaks short but frequent.
Get out all of those pent-up thoughts that keep creeping into your head and pulling your focus: your grocery list, other homework, what you are going to do this weekend, etc. and jot them down on an old napkin, a journal, your Twitter feed, tell them to your cat, your houseplant, the mirror – anyone or anything that will listen.
Not just on caffeine and sugar (or your drug of choice) but on actual food. Before an all-nighter stock up on blueberries, tomatoes, fish, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, mixed nuts and other brain-boosting foods to eat throughout the night (sounds delicious, right?!). Your car can’t run on fumes and neither can your brain. *In the auspice of full disclosure I definitely consume my fair share of Chai lattes when I’m cramming.
I love listening to music while I write, study, read or stare out the window – typically choosing something that fits the project at hand: I once binge-listened to banjo music while writing a paper on the disillusionment of rural women in 1930s America. It struck the right mood and had me writing far more efficiently than if I had been listening to Chopin or Pearl Jam. Find some tunes that inspire you and crank ‘em up.
5. Avoid having to pull an all-nighter at all costs!
“Never again!” I exalt each and every time I drag my ass to bed after being up all night working on a paper or studying for a midterm. Planning ahead and studying along the way can help you avoid ever having to pull an all-nighter.
However, I always find myself doing it again a few months later during finals. I have come to learn that all-nighters are unavoidable for me because scheduling conflicts, impromptu social obligations, a week of binge-watching Scandal on Netflix, or writing a blog post gets in the way of timely studying – over the years I have learned to admit and accept that procrastination is part of my “process”. Following these five steps helps me effectively survive the inevitable all-nighter and that makes my GPA happy. Good luck to all of you out there who are in the midst of cramming for mid-terms! Happy studying!