The All Nighter
University prepared me for life but not in ways it intended. It was during my final year in engineering that I had bit off way more than I could possibly handle and that meant multiple overnighters to get things done.
Part of the issue was just not knowing what I was doing. I was not a programmer but had committed to coding a messaging service. There was no stackoverflow or github back then, which meant using actual books to figure out what I was doing.
Things would work once, then break, then messages would be formatted incorrectly. However, I learned a few things from that experience:
- It was possible to stay up all night until the morning.
- It was possible to get things done during that time.
- You could use the all nighter as a quick sprint.
However, the all nighter had some draw backs:
- You could only use it sparingly.
- It had long term health consequences.
- There were better ways of dealing with projects tasks than all nighters but it meant being as extreme in other ways.
To that last point, many years later, I’d be invited to present for chairs of electrical engineering departments. It was nerve wracking and I had a limited number of days to prepare. However, I locked myself in my hotel room and did my 20 minute presentation close to 25 times over the course of a day. It was exhausting, but it didn’t mean I was up all night. The result is that I could, and did, do the presentation in my sleep and when I gave the presentation, it seemed as though I was speaking off the cuff although every single line was planned and rehearsed.
Hard work (and doing the hard thing) can prevent long work.
Oh, and here’s that presentation.