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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Burn Baby Burn

We’ve all faced days that we had what seemed, or might have truly been, insurmountable piles of work in front of us. Maybe you let stuff at the office pile up until you couldn’t ignore certain projects any more or risk being fired. Perhaps you needed to finish a manuscript, or send a submission to an agent or editor before you left to go on a much needed vacation, or maybe you just got up one morning, looked at your “to do” list and thought that it was going to be one long day.

I faced a day like that yesterday. I had to take my kids to swim lessons, get their hair cut, drive thirty minutes to pick up red-lines from a friend who still embraces good old fashion reading with the pages in her hand, pack three people for a trip, take my cat to the vet, go to the grocery store, buy Father’s Day gifts, finish edits on a book, write blurbs for three other books…I’ll stop here as the list is ridiculously long.

My point is this: I knew when my feet hit the floor at 6:00 a.m. yesterday morning that my head would not be seeing my lovely pillow again until possibly this morning. I was right. After trying desperately to get everything accomplished yesterday, I finally gave in to bleary-eyed fatigue at 1:30 a.m. this morning. Although, I didn’t get every last little thing done, which I had foolishly hoped I would, I did achieve a lot.

Therefore, here are a few little secrets I’ve learned along the way for being productive and staying up late.

1. Start the morning off with a cup of coffee and a “to do” list.
2. Go straight to the gym and get the blood flowing.
3. Drink a Red Bull while you are on the stair-master at the gym. And no, I’m not kidding. NOTHING in this world will pump you up like a Red Bull, and the people around you at the gym will stare in awe and wonder.
4. Break up your work you must sit and do around the work you need to do while on the move. For example, I had to edit a 92,000 word book of redlines. I edited five chapters at a time. After five chapters, I got up and did other things like run to the grocery store.
5. Drink a caffeinated beverage for lunch. My choice is Sobe Gold Green Tea. Don’t kid yourself that you don’t need more caffeine. You will need it come midnight. Oh yea, try to forget just how much caffeine you have consumed already. One day of caffeine overdrive is not going to kill you.
6. For this one day, if you have children, don’t be afraid to employ a babysitter or a drop-n-go service.
7. Check your to do list and see what you still need to accomplish.
8. Tackle dinner with “take out gusto” and, yes, MORE CAFFEINE!
9. Tell your husband, firmly but sweetly, “not tonight honey”.
10. Save the tasks that don’t require much brainpower for last. If you need to write a blurb and you need to do laundry, write the blurb first and save the laundry for the wee hours when you can’t remember your name.
11. When the clock strikes midnight, and you realize you have just entered the next day, and you aren’t sure whether you want to cry or laugh that you are STILL UP, remember this: at the end of every late night binge you have just accomplished what mere mortals, who don’t know these secrets I’ve shared, could never hope to achieve in a single day.

I’d love to hear your secrets on staying productive and staying up late.

Julie Johnstone, the Marchioness of Mayhem


  1. LMAO! I love your list, Julie! And the Red Bull on the stair-master cracks me up!

    Personally, I work best when I make a to-do list. Even if I don't get everything done, I can look at what I was able to tick off, and it's usually still a good amount of stuff.

    In general, though, I try to pace myself. I don't commit to too many things in a single day. At least not anymore. Having an infant has made me slow down considerably. The most harrying and frazzling weeks for me are travel weeks. There are few things I hate more than packing for a trip, and packing for my husband and infant make me want to pull my hair out. LOL! We have a two-week travel extravaganza coming up in July, so I'm sure I'll be referring to your notes again then!

    Great post!!

  2. I'm surprised it was my heart that stopped, and not yours, when I read about the Red Bull on the stair master! Good, lord, Julie, I got the jitters just *reading* about all that caffeine! Of course, I haven't had any caffeine in seven years, so it probably *would* kill me at this point - lol!
    Sounds like you are mastering the impossible, so good on ya, girl ;)

  3. LOL, Julie. I've pulled my fair share of all-nighters in my days as an older, returning college student. It isn't as easy as it was back when I was first in college, straight out of high school, either.

    Red Bulls are okay. I prefer Rockstars though. And of course, coffee.

    On the nights that I would literally be up all night, and then have to go and take three or four exams the next day, I typically drink a pot of coffee to keep me up all night, and then have a 4-pack of Rockstars to get me through the next day.

  4. No caffeine in seven years, Erin??? I can't go two days without it.

    And to give you an idea about how much caffeine my post was talking about, I believe each Red Bull has about 3 times the caffeine of your average cup of coffee. Each Rockstar has twice the caffeine of a Red Bull.

    Yes, I crash hard after one of those days. LOL.

  5. Wow! I can't imagine how hard you must crash, Catherine!!! OMG! I have to keep my caffeine levels low or I get anxiety. I do 1-2 shots of espresso in the morning and *maybe* an iced coffee or iced tea in the afternoon if I need a little pick-me-up.

    Erin, I totally went off caffeine for several years to kick my addiction. Now I'm able to drink it responsibly :)

  6. I do best when I get to bed early the night before a big day and start before my family is out of bed. I also make out my "to do" list the night prior and mentally prepare myself that it's going to be a long day.

    I probably should go work out before I start, but usually I just dive in the next morning. Then I make sure I eat at different times so I don't run out of fuel. I like my coffee, but too much makes me irritable so that I waste too much time being angry about stuff that really doesn't matter once the caffeine high is gone.

    This morning I dropped my kids at their summer program, mailed a submission, finished a chapter and now I'm on the way to pick up the kids again. We still have a dentist appointment and dance this afternoon.

  7. LOL red bull on the stair master! I have to agree with everyone here, I do better with a list. I am so forgetful that if I don't write it down early, I'll forget. I simply must force myself, probably more so than others, to be responsible. Writing lists is a must for me. I'll have to try a red bull one day though, I've never had one. I limit my caffiene to coffee but who knows I may like it. Great post Julie!

  8. Good heavens, Julie! My to do list never ends, but after reading yours I think I need a nap.