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Help me get through the day. The long day. The month of long days.
June 9, 2010 7:35 PM   Subscribe

For the next month I'll be working 13/14 hr days between two jobs, and taking an online college course. What can I do to make it through each day?

My typical day looks something like this:

2:30a - 3:30a : Wakeup
4:30a - 10a : Job 1
11a/12n - 6/8p : Job 2
Then home, tend cats, sleep.

This varies slightly throughout the week without much regard for weekdays/ends. No days off. Thankfully, neither job requires critical responsibility nor overly strenuous work, and I don't have any kind of social schedule to keep up. However, my class assigns about ~40 pgs of reading per weekday and coherent participation in online discussions. Eventually there will be papers and tests. Today is the first of these long days, and at this point my brain is complete mush. I'm nodding off, and dreaming of June being over.

I'd like to remain alert throught the day and capable of intelligent discussion, without relying on huge doses of caffiene and/or sugar (moderate doses are a given) and/or controlled substances (no thanks). What can I do/take/make/be to get me through each day and eventually through June without completely burning out?

Taking time off from one or the other jobs isn't an option, as the extra dough I'm making this month is going towards paying for another course next semester (then one more, then I'm done!).

FWIW: Job 1 is $bux; Job 2 is Library Clerk. Oh, and I'll be paring down the MeFi reading/participation... right after this question, of course.
posted by carsonb to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh yeah, I can do much of the reading and class participation during downtime at Job 2.
posted by carsonb at 7:36 PM on June 9, 2010


Well balanced meals, vitamins, as much sleep as you can get. If you can't cook for yourself.. see if you can't get someone to do it for you. A friend, family member, service, or budget a restaurant into your life. Focus on protein with dark leafy greens and other veggies. Not too much starch.

Try not to spend the month on fast high fat or calorie foods. By the time june is over.. you'll be worn out and you'll feel like crap.

Spend at least an hour or so a week in utter relaxation (yoga, bath, listening to the rain fall, etc) or full of laughter (insert your favorite brand of comedy here).
posted by royalsong at 7:45 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Snack frequently to keep your blood sugar up. Go for natural sugars and proteins, fruits and vegetables; processed sugar will make you crash.
Get a bit of exercise now and then to keep your metabolism up - jumping jacks for a minute, run from one location to another - just keep your body awake. Especially important towards the end of the day when you least want to do it.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:46 PM on June 9, 2010


1)30 pairs of clean underwear and enough clean clothing so that at the end of all of this you'll have to do an epic mountain of laundry, but in the mean time you won't need to go to the laundromat.
2)Cook big pots of food (beans and rice work well), and then freeze individual servings.
3) Buy the big bag of coffee at costco, and the big bag of filters.
4)Get enough sleep.
5) Schedule "get in touch time" with the people you love.
posted by pickypicky at 7:49 PM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you have a lunch break, take it. Walk outside when the weather allows. Have lunch with another human being and talk about something other than work or school.

I am working. I am in school - also in an online class so I hear you on the reading+online discussions thing. Small mental breaks have been crucial for me during times of busy-ness at both (which always seem to come at the same time). If you feel yourself getting exhausted and run down, sometimes a 15 minute "smoke break" (walk around the building) can help to get your blood going and your brain cranking.

You can do it!
posted by kellygrape at 8:14 PM on June 9, 2010


Avoid completely all crap food. No fast food, no junk. Avoid caffeine as much as you can; you want your sleep to be truly restful. Don't drink alcohol to excess--a glass of wine here or there, particularly coupled with an hour of relaxation as suggested above, is a good thing.

Eat LOTS of fresh fruit and vegetables, keep heavy meats and highly processed grains to a minimum. Drink lots of water.

Get at least 6 hours of sleep a night. 8 is probably pushing it with your schedule.

And book yourself a week off when this is all over.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:25 PM on June 9, 2010


Do as much of your classwork ahead of time as possible. I'm taking an online class right now, too, and I was a little surprised and overwhelmed when I saw how many assignments/discussions/etc that I would have. Three weeks in, I've found that I can bang most of them out early in the week and then have some breathing room for the next few days.
posted by sugarfish at 8:32 PM on June 9, 2010


well, I did this for almost 6 years, and let me tell you.... I tried to avoid the caffeine, but after a few weeks it was the only thing keeping me alive. Also - what everyone else said - no junk food. good luck. sleep as much as you can. on breaks, in your car, whatever.
posted by bradth27 at 9:00 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It probably seems crazy to cram some exercise into your schedule, but it can really help with the mental clarity. I was in a similar situation for 3 months, and on days when I got my heart rate up for 20 minutes or so, I was alert and 'with it'. And I slept like a log on those nights.
posted by jenmakes at 9:00 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Try not to think of all of your long day at once, but rather compartmentalize and go from meal to meal. This way you won't be overwhelmed by how long your day is.

I did this in USMC boot camp, and it works really well. Although I hope your days now are better than mine were then...
posted by elder18 at 9:02 PM on June 9, 2010


OMG laundry! Fuck. Fallas Paredas it is, ASAP, for all the boxers.

Also, yeah, I'm soft. Haven't been in school in forever, and while I've had these two jobs for a while, they've provided far fewer work hours up to now. So this is probably comparable to boot camp given my circumstances and baseline abilities.

Great suggestions so far, though I don't need Cosco for copious amounts of coffee, thank Zod. Please do keep them coming, the more specific the better. Thank you.

Now I sleep.
posted by carsonb at 9:16 PM on June 9, 2010


EXERCISE. It really really helps. If you don't have time... you can find ways to exercise while you are doing other things. Buy a magazine or two to read during breakfast.
posted by An algorithmic dog at 11:36 PM on June 9, 2010


I'm a huge advocate of napping on tens and lunches. Some people are nap averse, so this may not be the best advice, but on my longest days I feel like taking a nap refreshes me just enough to keep going.

Also, on long days I like to make my last partner beverage (I sling coffee, too, woohoo) a caffeinated iced drink, without ice. This way I can sip to keep my energy up, or save it for later in the afternoon when I'm slowing down. Maybe if you did this and brought it to your library clerk job it could keep you from falling asleep in the stacks.

Pay a friend or a laundry service to do your laundry for you. seriously.

Snacks throughout the day? Big meals make me sleepy, but snacks keep my energy up.
posted by sherber at 11:48 PM on June 9, 2010


L-theanine is good for helping with the stressed-out feeling and caffeine jitters without making you sleepy (although it will help relax you enough to sleep if you take it at bedtime.) I take it alot at work, and it helps take the edge off my stress level.

Try a warm shower right before bed if you can't unwind. It will help you relax, and once you get out of the shower the drop in body temperature signals your brain to get sleepy.

The nutritional advice above is great, but I have to mention that the only thing that got me through a tough school schedule was snacking on candy while I worked on my assignments. (I should have bought stock in Altoids.) Later I read a study that showed that the brain uses a ton of glucose while concentrating on difficult tasks and that sugar can help with focus. So you might try it occasionally if you find you are having trouble settling down to your work. Probably best to have some protein and a little fat first to help ward off a sugar crash.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:45 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you can find a spare hour or two here or there, even just once a week, try to do something stress-relieving and fun like watch a good movie, go for a walk with some music, etc. You'll feel refreshed for what lies ahead.

I'm not a napper--naps just make me feel groggy and gross--but squeezing in a short burst of activity when you're exhausted (running up and down stairs, whatever fits based on where you are) perks the body and mind up pretty well.

Also, write out the days somewhere and check each one off as you go! Then when you're in the thick of it and feeling rough, you can see what you've already accomplished and that you're that much closer to being finished.
posted by tetralix at 6:08 AM on June 10, 2010


Get as much as possible of your morning stuff sorted out the night before - put your clothes out, get everything ready that you need to take with you. This can be done as a slowing down, last thing before you go to bed routine, and then you start the morning efficiently and knowing where everything is, which hopefully carries through the day! And you get another 15 minutes sleep in the morning....
posted by Lebannen at 6:38 AM on June 10, 2010


I work this sort of schedule fairly regularly, and usually about a month at a time. In my line of work, we have a saying:

"Never stand when you can sit; never sit when you can lay down; never lay down when you can sleep."

Other than that, try as much as possible to be pretty much military in your sleep schedule. The more regular you are, the faster your body will adjust to getting up at 3ish am. At this point in my career, within two days I'm able to wake up at 3am, after 5 or 6 hours and after an 17 hour workday the day before, feeling pretty refreshed.
posted by nevercalm at 6:55 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you don't have to be at Job 1 until 4:30 a.m., can you consistently sleep later than 2:30 a.m.? Unless you're using it for "you time," (which you will eventually need at some point), I'd sleep as late as is doable.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:14 AM on June 10, 2010


Having stuff ahead of time at places helps. For example, I have my towel hung on an over the door hanger on the bathroom door so that in the morning when I am too groggy to remember I need to have a shower, I look at the towel and realize that "oh I need to shower".

Functions both as a reminder + use for after shower.
P.S: I have the towel on the front of the bathroom door and not behind the door (i.e. inside the bathroom)

Also would recommend eating subway but being smart in your choices of meals even at subway.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 8:46 AM on June 10, 2010


I work terribly long days too.
The way I usually make it through is to compartmentalize them as elder18 says, for each part of the day I think about ways I can make it more bearable. For example, the long drive to work, I will listen to my favorite satellite radio for X time, and then listen to educational lectures for X time. When I get to work always take the stairs all the way to wherever I'm going for exercise, even if I'm late. During the first task I need to do I can check my e-mail periodically. During the second task, I can grab a vitamin water and graham crackers (if things are getting bad, I walk to a place where I know there is free coffee and have a cup). During the third task, I can call my husband to see how his day is going. During the fourth task, I can take a break and walk up and down the stairs a bunch of times for aerobic exercise. I think about ways I can take my daily to do list (like cashing checks, mailing things/filling out forms for personal reasons, making phone calls for my volunteer organization) and fit it into the workday, so I don't have to do it on personal time. It can be like a game.

Anyway, it doesn't matter precisely what your tasks or your escapes are, but I think the key is breaking the day into tasks and escapes, and maximizing your time, by which I don't just mean getting a lot of busywork done, but also getting moments of personal enjoyment fit in.

The second key is ensuring that your escapes are not things that will undermine your health and well being, because the most tempting thing is to just eat a bunch of junk or unhealthy foods when you are on a schedule like this, and never to exercise. Sometimes when I have to work an extra shift unexpectedly or some other huge despair sets in for a day, I will let myself forget about being alert and good to myself and just eat the junk food and take the elevator, but I don't like the way it makes me feel afterwards, so I don't necessarily recommend that.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:41 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you able to take public transportation for any of your commuting? When I had my long bus ride to UCLA I would use the time to get my reading done. Usually I'm not able to read in moving vehicles, but I found if I held the book up at eye level I was ok.

For the times in my life when I had no time, I still tried to make a point to exercise a few times a week (that was also for my mental health). And I ate a lot of those frozen pre-made bags of pasta or risotto from Trader Joes supplemented with frozen veggies.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:34 PM on June 10, 2010


As I begin my third day of work after two all-nighters, I am reminded of the awesome might and power of OATMEAL. Not that nonsense in packets, but the five-minute Quaker Oats or whatever. Use the five minutes cooking time to do some dishes or stretches or exercise.
Nothing in the world is as good as fresh-cooked oatmeal for helping the little lights turn back on in your brain when you are otherwise kaput.
Add milk, brown sugar, fruit, jam, whatever floats your boat.

/finishes bowl of oatmeal
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 12:04 PM on June 11, 2010


Alright, I made it and in one piece! I got an A in my first college class in years and worked enough hours to pay for the next course. Which starts tomorrow!

Thank you so much for the advice and recommendations. Some of the things that made a real difference for me:

- Snacking, specifically on nuts and fruit. It helped so much to keep my mind in functional order, especially later in the day.

- Exercise. I made concerted efforts to get my heart rate up for 20 minutes or so per day, and I felt great every time.

- Preparation. It was awesome having everything ready to go each morning, food and clothes and work stuff, and made starting my day as easy as turning the ignition switch on a well-oiled machine. It was definitely worth resisting bed for 15 more minutes each night.

- Calendar. At the beginning it was a huge rush of accomplishment when I got to cross off a day, but by the end of the month I'd adapted well enough that I didn't need it so much.
posted by carsonb at 9:20 AM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


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