Chapter 101: How to work 15-hour days for a week straight

Headphones are the lazy man’s light wool hat.

The security guards had congregated outside of the office building across the campus from mine to smoke cigarettes and talk loudly about pedestrian affairs. I had just spent an ungodly amount of time reading research papers and my mind was operating on a plane of existence incongruous with that of the common folk. The fresh air helped a little.

It had been easy to put myself in this situation, and increasingly hard to get myself out of it. The sum of our work is due at the end of each quarter, and the quarter was in five days. I had a lot of work to do. Why had I waited until the last minute? First, prepare an office with unrestricted internet access and a door that closes. Second, throw in equal parts of the following two websites and let the pot simmer for three months:

  1. reddit.com
  2. Wikipedia

The research papers I was working through weren’t saying with what I needed them to say to make the argument I wanted to make. I was looking for a specific idea phrased in a specific way that was published more than a specific number of years ago. The going was tough.

I wasn’t done by any stretch of the imagination, but I was feeling worn out and intellectually drained. My rationale was that I couldn’t do any more good work if I wasn’t well rested, so I should go home and sleep. It certainly sounded convenient. I was about five minutes away from the office when I finally stopped walking. A thought had started to weasel it’s way into my brain of such a variety that no amount of rationalizing could convince me to continue.

This wasn’t walking home, this was conceding.

Games were a major part of my life as a youngster, and all the stupid philosophizing that I do now about random things I also did then. At the time it was about vastly important things like Magic the Gathering. In Magic, at the beginning of your turn you draw a card (the pedant in me just died not qualifying that). You could have a completely hopeless situation on the board, but at the beginning of your turn you still get that one card, that one card that could change everything and turn the game around. This lead to a mantra of mine that I use to this day:

If the only way to win the game is to draw the card you need next turn, you have to assume that you’ll draw that card.

Walking home was about getting crappy draws. The situation wasn’t hopeless, I was just frustrated because the cards on the table weren’t the cards I needed and it felt like the clock was running out.

Turning around, I walked back and worked until dawn. It damn near killed me, but I eventually drew the card I needed.

5 Replies to “Chapter 101: How to work 15-hour days for a week straight”

  1. Not every job requires this variety of insanity. I am amused by your metaphor of drawing the next card, but you have my most sincere empathy regarding the end-of-the-quarter stress/sleep deprevation. There’s an upside: at least the end of the quarter wasn’t during the week between Christmas and New Years. I’d imagine that it’s the only thing that would have sucked even harder than your last week.

    Keep the faith.

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