As a 4-year veteran to the Overnight Website Challenge, I’d like to share some of my personal rules. I’m not going to tell you what platform to use, what revision control is best — well, actually I will, but at a later date. We’re here to discuss one thing: sleep, and lack-thereof.
Something new to me is that you can apparently “bank” sleep ahead of time. I didn’t know this and will be adding it to my routine next year, since I usually stay up late a few nights beforehand prepping hardware & software. In the past, the event prep. has made me very anxious come Friday night. I’ve more than once had a sleepless night contemplating trivia such as user accounts and PHP libraries which were already configured. This brings me to my first point:
Get to bed early on Friday
If you’ve found yourself up late the night before, take a sleeping pill like Unisom or some other sleep aid from the pharmacy. Don’t take it right when you go to bed, take it 2 hours before you want to fall asleep. Otherwise you’ll be laying in bed for 2 hours before it kicks in, and you’ll also be very drowsy the next morning while it’s still wearing off.
During the challenge, no matter how much sleep I’m running on from Friday, I follow this rule:
Avoid caffeine until early Sunday
Free caffeinated beverages are in abundance at the Overnight Website Challenge. Do yourself a favor and lay off of them, at least until the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Personally, besides hyping me up, caffeine makes me jittery and unfocused, as if my ADHD went into overdrive. If you really feel the prospect of free Red Bull is fleeting, then grab a couple and keep them in a cooler by your team. This isn’t Vegas folks, you don’t want to overdo it like this guy did:
I strive to stave off any desire for caffeine until most of the heavy lifting (development-wise) is done. For me this is 4-6AM or even longer if I can hold out. Also after about 4AM you’re probably doing menial tasks that won’t be derailed by some stimulants. Plus, that cup of AeroPress coffee will taste better and be more effective right before breakfast, judging, and the final awards.
The challenge is actually much longer than 24 hours. You have 24 hours to work, but factoring in awake time before you arrived, during judging & awards, and after you go home — it’s more like the 36 Hour Website Challenge. You’re going to want to prepare yourself for the long haul. That’s why the last rule is critical if you want to have a productive work day on Monday:
Get 15 hours of sleep
I’ve found that this is the amount of sleep I need to have a useful day on Monday. To time it right, I also suggest forcing yourself to stay up to a set time so you can reset your internal clock. If I go to bed at 4PM Sunday, I’ll assuredly wake up at 7AM Monday. Even if you do take Monday off of work, I suggest doing some timing just to help reset to a normal schedule. If you go to bed right when you get home at noon, I suspect you’re going to be up at 3AM, wondering why the hell you thought you could go to work after all this.
Until next year… good luck, and for God’s sake get some rest!