Question from a reader --
"I have a project that needs to be done in 5 days. I've made solid progress on it.. but definitely will need to deathmarch / burn the midnight oil as you call it to get it done.
I still need to finish content creation, create videos, and upload them to the site. As with any project.. it's hard to say "I'm Done".. though I know shipping is necessary.
On my wall I have these reminders
1. Eat properly.
2. Drink enough water.
3. Good sleep schedule.
4. Decide on the most important thing to do the night before.
5. Reviewing and working on things first thing in the morning.
6. Limit alcohol, sugar, wheat.
7. Exercise: workout, walk, jog, and sketch.
Well, a lot of the rules go out the window when you're deathmarching. Heavily dosing up on caffeine and sugar, if it's really a sprint and not a marathon, might be the solution. I've done it before. In fact, if you're off sugar most of the time, it might be particularly powerful during a deathmarch type scenario. I was all about Peanut M&M's and Red Bull when I used to.
Okay. On a more positive note, if you're going to be undersleeping (well, try not to, but if you must...) -- take large doses of Vitamin C. If you start to get a little ill, you might consider taking a small amount of Tylenol and decently flavored non-narotic cough drops towards the end. Maybe it's an old wives' tale, and maybe not, but my grandmother was a nurse and she was always recommended heavy on Vitamin C, Tylenol, and Halls coughdrops when you feel an illness coming on. It seems to work for me. The Vitamin C, at least, is darn useful. Dose up highly on it -- there's no real downside to heavy doses of Vitamin C for a few days.
You'll of course do better if you have an accountability buddy.
You might consider scheduling in a short break or two for around an hour, maybe something that's even highly useful at a scheduled time like talking to a friend who has good perspective, or a mentor.
Be able to switch between different modes of work at different times. As sleep deprivation and exhaustion comes in, natural circadian rhythyms are amplified. You'll feel (relatively) much sharper during your high-awareness and times, and (relatively) much much worse during the low times. Balance what you're doing accordingly.
Very important -- if you have low-level stuff to do (going to the printshop, etc), then make damn sure you don't do it during one of those highly creative times, since you're going to need all you've got.
Don't exercise too heavily unless you're already a highly trained athlete and know your body very well. Heavy exercise usually requires more rest/recovery, and isn't done well on limited sleep/exhaustion.
Loud enjoyable music without lyrics helps stay awake.
So does showering. If you need to think clearer, grab a shower.
Most importantly -- try not to do this, and don't do it very often. Most of life is a marathon, not a sprint. But I know it happens occasionally -- good luck and godspeed. By the way, nobody mistake any of this for medical advice, this is explicitly bad for your health, I'm not advocating any of this (just recognizing that people will and have done it in the past, and describing what I did), and definitely go talk to a physician if you're doing stupid high-exhaustion overwork stuff with any regularity.
Final two pieces of advice:
*Make a list of what bad habits you're picking up, and quit them immediately when this is over.
*Schedule a 3-5 day vacation as soon as the dust clears, literally ASAP, and enjoy it.