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My Way of “Burning the Candle at Both Ends”

I am currently prepping things for a series in February. I love doing this – I do – but I am definitely in a “mode” when I do things like this. Some of you know it as “Insanity” and some of you know it as “Burning the Candle at Both Ends” (BCBE). I have some ways that I approach this & figured I’d share because yeah – there’s a method.

Two things before we start…

One: According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “burn the candle at both ends” means…

To work or do other things from early in the morning until late at night and so get very little rest.

Two: I am from the generation of Black kids who remembers seeing this very old video (only the first 4:05 is relevant to this post)…

Prep: 3 Things You Need to Know

We only have so many hours in the day. There is no changing that.

We also NEED to sleep. There is no changing that.

We also want a purpose. There is no changing that.

BE PREPARED and PREPARATION IS THE KEY plan, prepare, perform

In the event that you’re crazy enough to INTENTIONALLY turn to BCBE to get things done and maximize your hours, you need to know the following:

  1. You need to know your key dates, times, and deadlines.
  2. You need to know the MINIMUM amount of sleep YOU personally need to function well mentally.
  3. You need to know “A” why.

These three things are essential if you’re going to successfully use this method I’m about to tell you, otherwise you’re doing more harm to yourself than good with the BCBE approach.

Using my situation as an example…

  1. I know that I want to have my blog posts ready to go for February 1, 2020 – and I also know that I have a day job that requires my attention for at least 8-hours of my day.
  2. I know that I can function pretty mentally well off of 5-hours of sleep, and even one hour less at 4-hours if necessary.
  3. I know that I want to do this because it’s important to me to share these stories with others. Do I know why I want to share these stories with others? Honestly – no – I’m just compelled to, but please note that I said you need “A” why — not necessarily “THE” why.

So, I’ve got my necessary preparatory materials. Let’s jump right into the method.

The Framework: Do This & You’ll Be Fine

This is NOT complicated or anything like that. But you do have to practice some discipline and follow through on it. I guess that’s the deceptive part of it. Discipline isn’t everyone’s thing – LOL!

Woman taking off mask from her eyes looks at alarm clock. Prevention and treatment of insomnia concept

But, hey — if you’ve got it (or trying to train it into yourself) – here’s the method…

  1. Decide the times that will help you maximize your minimums & do not deviate from them as your “drop dead times” – they’re non-negotiable.
  2. Set alarms to keep you on those times through weekdays (or whatever you “non-free” days typically are), and regardless of what you’re doing at those times – when that alarm hits — get to whatever you need to do.
  3. Make sure you eat and drink plenty of fluids. Even if it’s for short bursts – do it. It is important that you do this to keep your nutrients/health up and to avoid getting sick (yes, lack of sleep can negatively impact your immune system).
  4. Don’t set any alarms on the weekends, and sleep until you naturally wake up — letting your body catch up on rest but also, surprisingly, establishing a new internal biorhythm. (THIS STEP IS CRUCIAL) Is it pseudoscientific? Yes. But it give me a word that I can say and people will understand its meaning. Good enough.
  5. Repeat for as long as needed, but only if you stick to the above steps EXACTLY.

A few callouts…

  • This isn’t meant to be a way of life. This is a temporary measure & the “…long as needed” from Step #5 above assumes you’re working on something with a reasonable end date in mind.
  • Not getting enough sleep can negatively impact your quality of life over time and lead to some health issues you otherwise likely could’ve avoided (or at least not hastened along by not sleeping).
  • This IS NOT for everybody. If you try this and you notice that it just sucks for you no matter how long you try to adjust, it just may not be for you.
  • This is written from the perspective of a single childless person who is currently working from home.

Using Myself As an Example…

Just taking this time to call out one thing about this approach. It’s nothing super drastic. In fact – the parents of a small while may look at this and say, “That’s nothing!” And they’d be right.

The key thing that makes this less challenging than anything a parent, military recruit, firefighter, or person battling insomnia will ever experience is the disciplined/set time of it all. Over time, jumping back to the pseudoscience, your internal biorhythm will adjust to the schedule you have it on.

PLUS – and this is vital – you kind of recharge your batteries on your days off when you aren’t being woken up by an alarm.

View of concentrated talented skilled male focused on screen of laptop computer, reads necessary information for creating budget report, drinks hot beverage. Attractive male freelancer keyboards text

Now, to what I’m actively doing right now…

  1. If I wake up at 5:30 AM each morning and make sure I’m in bed by midnight each night, I’ll be good to go. And these times give me a little buffer room (which I’d recommend).
    • Waking up at 5:30 AM allows me to lightly workout and be ready for work by 6 AM.
    • I finish working around 2-2:30 PM and make sure to stay focused on keeping work time down to my day job hours – and my personal time to myself (<< funny, but true).
    • I get in a workout right after work & that’s normally over by 4 PM.
    • From then until midnight, the time is mine to maximize as much as I choose.
    • Takes me anywhere from 10-minutes to half an hour to fall asleep, so I’m normally sleep by 12:30 AM.
    • Even if it takes me a little longer than that to go to sleep, I know that I can function on as low as 4-hours of sleep.
  2. I definitely make use of my alarm & I don’t snooze it.
  3. I pretty much only drink water or fresh brewed tea & I try to make sure I’m eating healthy foods, not “food-like substances” (keeping the snacking to a minimum)…
    • I keep a water bottle by my side all day and make sure I drink from it regularly. The goal is to drink it entirely, and refill it 3-5 times a day.
    • I also only really eat twice a day – never been much of a breakfast-eater – so those times get taken care of around 11 AM – 12 PM and 6 PM.
  4. On weekends/my off days, I sleep until I wake up on my own. I even wear a sleep mask (no shame). What I’ve found is that because I wake-up so early through the week, I don’t really sleep past 7:30 AM when left on my own without any alarms. And then I have that entire day to continue working on whatever I’m obsessing about at the time.
  5. I repeat this for as long as I need until I come up on the set date/time/deadline of my project work.

Nothing super far out there, but it is an approach that some of you may want to employ. I know people who struggle with sleep regularly, and I also know people who wish that they had more time in the day to get things done. Attempting something like this may benefit some from either group more than others – but it can be extremely effective when you need to focus.

Burning the candle at both ends doesn’t have to be terrible. Just work the process.

Peace, and thanks for reading.

The soundtrack for this post provided by…

Image Credits:
– Cover Image © GoodStudio (Shutterstock)
– Body Image 1 © one photo (Shutterstock)

– Body Image 2 © megaflopp (Shutterstock)
– Body Image 3 © WAYHOME studio (Shutterstock)

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Created by Alex Volkov