The dealnews Staff's Black Friday Preparedness Guide: How We Cope
Since our site revolves around supplying you, the reader, with news about deals, you may already know that the sale-heavy times of year are our absolute busiest. Our office goes into overdrive, working 'round the clock to ensure the deals you see are piping hot, fresh, and savory. Like a shopping baguette.
Thus, this Black Friday, we're all pulling extra shifts, and we thought we'd share with you some of the items we like to have on-hand to get us through long hours, all-nighters, and no-sleepers. Hopefully you'll never have to stay up drafting deals (we like our jobs and won't be giving them up any time soon), but perhaps you'll be called upon to work on the "big presentation for the London office" or to "crunch these numbers by Monday, or you're fired, Johnson!" (even though your name is Smith). So there may come a time when you'll find yourself battling sleep in order to get a lot of work done. When that time comes, you'll be glad you read our list of expert-curated, anti-sleepiness tips!
Things That Keep You Awake
During long nights / days, our staff arms themselves with a veritable arsenal to stave off Mr. Sandman. (No, not the guy from "Sideways" and "Wings.") most of the office agrees that no extra-long work day is complete without a shot or two of 5-Hour Energy (try a 6-pack for $13.99 with free shipping, a low by $2; or a 12-pack for $20.15 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $17). Honestly, over the last few years, our offices have probably gone through gallons of this stuff. Several people here swear by it as the end-all be-all of staying up.
Concentrated stimulants aren't the only thing we imbibe to keep us alert, though. Those who don't opt to ride the 5-Hour Energy train are probably getting their fair share of caffeine in coffee or tea form. To get him through king-size shifts, Nathan Cox recommends you have a good coffeemaker handy — preferably one with a built-in grinder. If anything, the smell of grinding coffee might just wake you up on its own. But if you're more of a tea person, Alison Barretta suggests you pick up an electric tea kettle. They tend to boil water faster than traditional kettles, and as the night wears on, you're going to want to have your tea ASAP.
If (legal) chemical stimulants just won't work, how about trying one of these Anti-Drowsy Over-The-Ear Alarms (99 cents with about $2 s&h, a low by $1)? When you dip your head, it emits a loud alarm. We've not tried it ourselves — yet — but we already have one ready and waiting for this Black Friday.
That may sound like an oxymoron (unless that's some kind of As Seen On TV detergent), but most of us here at dealnews find it essential to add a bit of white-noise to the background, especially in those wee-hours, when everything is quiet ... almost too quiet.
Some of us choose relaxing classical music. As a Somogyi, I swear by these 99-track "essential" classical MP3 albums you can get from Amazon. They're cheap, provide hours of sound, and are totally relaxing, but not in a "let's fall asleep on the keyboard" way. As an added bonus, they'll make you feel more cultured. Snob.
Others among us prefer music that was written during the last century or two. Alison Barretta gets through the long hours by pumping "J-Pop". (She swears to us that "J-Pop" is not some kind of new drug the kids use, even though it sounds a tad elicit.) Nathan Cox also opts for something more up-beat, depending on the hour. And both of them can agree (along with most of the staff) that it's easy to keep music going when you use Rdio or Spotify. With each of those services offering free subscriptions in some form or another, you can keep the tunes streaming all night (even if you might have to hear an ad every now and again). Worth it.
Of course, there's also the obvious white-noise that we've not mentioned yet, and that is: White Noise. (This, not this.) Just tune your radio to somewhere between stations and turn the volume down. The static provides a nice blanket sound to edge out the noise of a dripping faucet or barking dog, without engaging your higher faculties so you can tackle the tasks at hand. You could also buy "machines" that make white noise, but that seems a bit silly.
Things to Give You Comfort
Being comfortable will mean you're more productive. Don't believe us? Try writing a year-end report while sitting in your shorts on a glacier in Norway. We're betting you won't really be able to focus before you contract hypothermia and lose the use of your typing fingers. So, keep an eye on your own personal comfort as the hours grind along. First order of business, the original Snuggie ($7 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $9).
David Wimberly suggests that you also get yourself a comfortable chair. If you're going to be sitting on it for hours on end, why torture yourself with something less-than butt-caressingly comfy? (You do not have to use the expression "butt caressingly soft" when you talk to the chair salesman. It may mean different things to different people.)
Staying hydrated is important for prolonged comfort. Lack of water can lead to all kinds of symptoms like thirst, headaches, dry intestines, and more. Kris Hains chooses SmartWater. It's like water (in that it's mostly water) but has some other stuff added — purportedly to boost your health and what-not.
Both Kris and David note a necessity to set an alarm as a reminder to get up from time to time to avoid cramping and / or something worse (like deep-vein thrombosis). Any alarm clock will do — most phones and computers even have them built in. So just set it for every one to two hours and remember to stand up, do some stretches, walk around, and drink a SmartWater. After a 12-hour shift, your non-cramped legs and back will thank you. Of note: If you are easily freaked out by medical problems, don't Google "deep-vein thrombosis," just know that it's bad. Very bad. And that it's totally worth getting up every hour to avoid.
All of us can get behind the suggestion of a dual-monitor set-up. Twice as much "desktop" space means less clutter, which also means you can easily keep track of the disparate parts of your project. Two giant screens allow us to run several browsers (each with hundreds of tabs), a chat client, calculator, the music player of our choice, and a twitter client, all open at once without any of them getting in the way of the game of solitaire we're playing.
Finally, and most essentially, is the necessary cache of empty calories we know as "snack foods." Nothing gets you through a long patch of slog-work like mindlessly chomping or slurping on something sugary with no nutritional value. And it's the perfect time to indulge yourself, too. See, you can rationalize that you're working extra hard so you deserve a "reward."
Kris Hains has slowly been converting other staff members to YummyEarth Organic Lollipops ($13.73 with free shipping via Subscribe & Save, a low by $7) for years, and rightly so; they're a great way to get a small sugary burst of flavor into your work schedule. (They're also all organic and lots-of-stuff-free, so you don't even have to feel so bad about eating 13 of them in one sitting.)
Lindsay Sakraida opts for the salty over the sweet and champions Goldfish Crackers (12-pack for $13.80 with free shipping prime, a low by $1) as her go-to snack. You can opt to get them in those prepackaged, 100-calorie bags, too, if you're worried about that sort of thing. And they're small and easy to tip right from the bag into your mouth, avoiding finger-crumbs (which can get annoying if your late-night work requires a lot of keyboarding, like ours does).
No matter what you choose, just be sure you have a healthy supply socked away before you start working on your big project. Nothing's worse than taking a break to raid the cupboard only to realized all you have to snack on are croutons and ketchup. (Though we won't say who it happened to, this is a real-life trauma.)
So that's how we keep ourselves going through the Black Friday season! The next time you have an over-nighter that needs pulling, remember our handy tips and you'll get on just fine. Or, you'll have a psychotic break from sleep deprivation. But, most likely, you'll be fine. Yes.
Front page photo credit: Micron Hero
Photo credits from top to bottom: The Overthinker, Radio Ability (first page),
SF Chronicle, and Cabel's Blog (this page)