Things That (Don't) Get Done in the Night

I used to spend a lot of time a few years back with a friend who was a night owl. In fact, she was a night owl in every sense of the word. We could just call her Mrs. NightOwl, actually. Not only was she most alert and happy in the nighttime hours, she was by far most productive then. When she need to clean her house or get a big project done (like redecorate the basement, for example), she would save it up, make several pots of coffee, and work like a nocturnal whirlwind. In fact, I don't even think she actually needed to coffee to keep going. When she and her family were about to go back to Tennessee to visit relatives, her husband (who we could without hesitation call Mr. EarlyBird) and the kids would go to bed, and she would stay up all night until all was packed and ready for the long drive. Then she would sleep all day in the car.

Ever since I came to know this about her, I have loved that idea of working late into the night, getting things done. I for some reason just love the idea of late-night pots of coffee and uninterrupted stints of productivity. There is such huge potential in the idea of it. It is very common for me as I go through my days to think on the evening ahead, and if there are no activities scheduled, I think, 'Oh - a long stretch of free time - after the boys go to bed I can do thus-and-so', or 'tonight will be the perfect time to stay up and get that project done', and I feel such an excitement about this. I probably mentally write things down on this imaginary Nighttime To-Do list several times a week. On the other hand, if I have an evening thing to attend (such as a late baseball game), I will think in a disappointed kind of way - "Oh, that means I can't stay have that late night time to get such-and-such done."

However, the sad truth is that's where this wonderful idea ends. In fact, my college roommate Sarah is probably laughing out loud right now as she reads this, as she can probably clearly picture me asleep any number of times back in college with my head on a textbook. When she used to awaken me from this position, I would stammer and stutter that I would going to study some more, and then I would just pass out from the tiredness of it all.

Alas, I am not much of a late-night person. In fact, I need some serious impetus to keep me awake at night any longer than I have to be. On one hand, it shouldn't come as a surprise that some things that I used to think that were worth staying up for don't even begin to make it on that list. For example, something like the idea of getting the whole house spotless in one late-night sweep would be a huge waste of productive time even if I really could stay awake that long. The further truth is that some things never were very worth staying up for. Despite what Sarah might remember, I usually didn't try to stay up late in college studying - on one occasion in my freshman year I took No-Doze to stay up for a final but it made me feel shaky and worried, so I just went to bed instead to sleep it off. I always figured (and still do) that I could A)stay up late and try to cram for an exam, or B)be rested in order to guess more effectively. Without fail, "B" always won.

These days though, even doing something I love (like creating something) is not enough to bring this great idea of late-night productivity into fruition. Once in a while, reading a good book will be enough, but it has to be really good. A sack full of new supplies from the scrapbook store won't even do it. The sad truth is that even the best laid plans (in the day time) don't look as good as the pillow does (in the night time).

I wonder about this, though. Could it be that I am just not tapping into a valuable chunk of time that could be filled with productivity? Think of all the projects left undone, the art left uncreated, the blog posts left unwritten. Or could this just be some optimistic form of procrastination - you know - oh, I don't want to do that now - a better time to do that is tonight. Or perhaps is it just me accepting that late-night productivity is just not how I'm made.

I'm not sure. I think I'll sit and ponder that after the kids go to bed -- I mean, tomorrow.

Barbara  – (30 May 2009 at 13:48)  

When I was in college and early in my life after that, if something had to be done before tomorrow, I always stayed up, because I knew I would NEVER get up in the morning to study or do whatever. I never had to take anything, because I knew if I wasn't staying awake getting something done, I'll have to drink coffee. Yuck! But as the years have come and gone, I've realized it's easier to get up in the morning, than to stay up late. But luckily, I seldom have to do either. Retirement has its good points.

Sarah  – (31 May 2009 at 05:07)  

I wasn't laughing at my memory of you -- I was thinking what a foreign concept. Working late into the night simply doesn't appeal to me. Now that you mention it, I do remember some hilarious sleep-talking conversations, but I digress.

No, I like my bed way too much to try and get something done in the night. I know myself too well!

Jen  – (3 June 2009 at 06:43)  

staying up late is pointless to me.
probably b/c i am in no way a night owl. or an early bird.
i have decided i have a few good hours during the day. period.

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