It’s 6 PM when I know it’s going to be a twelve hour day. Maybe fifteen. Did someone say twenty?
The numbers are climbing higher and higher as I begin to respond to my 67 (!) emails.
I lean back in my swivel chair and bury my head in my hands. I take ten deep breaths.
Then I leave.
Why? If I stay at the office the outcome is predictable: I’ll sift through emails for hours, then start on a project while groggy, bleary and tired, all resulting in less efficient work and more hours at the office, a vicious cycle that leads to an entire week of late nights at the office.
Instead, I plan to stay late the next day and use this evening to prepare mentally, physically and emotionally to be an absolute creative and executional powerhouse the next day.
Here’s how you can do it, too:
Especially if the day is ending and you’re already tired, hungry and creatively spent. When the triumvirate of your mind, body and spirit is ailing, nothing inspired will result.
A few extra hours at the office tonight will probably not put a dent in your deadlines, and if anything, you’re going waste even more time working through hunger and haze. Going home, cooking a healthy dinner and going to bed early will leave you much better equipped to deal with fifteen hours of work.
Awake at Dawn
Around 5:30 AM. I run along the Mississippi River as the sun rises and each morning I see hundreds of black birds alight from tree to tree. All I can hear is my breath and their wings.
Working out - a jog, some yoga, lifting weights - will put your body at rest so your mind can go full speed. It is without a doubt that long hours sitting at a desk is not what our bodies were built to do, I’ve even heard that this marathon of sitting is the smoking of our generation, something that is killing us that we don’t even know about yet.
Combat that today, especially today, when you will be at your desk for hours and hours and hours. Run. Stretch. Breath.
Instead, caffeine-free peach tea sweetened with a touch of beet sugar.
Caffeine is extraordinary for short bursts of energy but disastrous for prolonged states of focus. After an hour of a blissed-out caffeine high, I usually find myself careening into a calamitous low, a sure way to make my day unsustainable.
I do love the ritual of preparing a drink in the morning, I think these moments are important, so I go for caffeine-free tea and to top it off? I share a cup with a coworker.
In fact, take lunch when you’re supposed to - during that full, round hour at noon when the sun is as sunny as it will be.
If you’re going to be indoors from dawn to dusk, you might as well savor the day at its height; you might as well feel the light pour on your head and spill down on your shoulders.
Go outside, talk a walk, look straight into people’s wide open faces and say, hi. You have one precious hour to remind yourself that you are not your marketing plan, power point deck or financial forecast; you are human. And everything you do, even this late night at the office, is done for other human beings.
Eat, eat, eat
I’m not talking about a roux or gumbo; save that for the post-work week celebration with a (yum) bottle of Abita. I’m thinking about hiking foods - fruits, nuts, hard boiled eggs, raw green beans and little bits of dark chocolate.
Whole, raw snacks squelch your hunger without putting an anchor in your belly, and eating every two hours keeps you in a healthy state of full without being too full. If you need to focus and get your work done, you can’t be preoccupied with hunger or a tub of lard congealing in your stomach so eat light but frequently.
Fast and efficient is surely good, but remember to take your time. When you give into a late night at work it can be a lovely thing; you have the whole day and night spread out in front of you like the wide starry sky, and it’s all yours to comb over and create in.
Late nights are about epiphanies and impossible deadlines miraculously met and ideas that come out of thin air.
There’s a reason why some of our best work comes from the midnight hour - as night gives way to day, as we lose our bearings, we stretch far and wide and deep to recreate our world into something new, a thing that has never existed before. This is your blank slate, your chance to cobble an idea from the rich soil of nothing and watch it take its first wobbling steps into the world. And this - this is something worth staying up for.