It’s easy to find plenty of talk about ways to maintain productivity when you’re writing… but what about when you’re editing?
After all, it could be argued that the editing phase is when you need to be most focused – when you have to push your scrutiny levels to their limit, yet maintain composure as you (reluctantly) dismantle your hard work.
To begin, it’s helpful to understand that you need your own space; somewhere that you can shut out the rest of the world and devote yourself entirely to refining your work. But that’s the simple baseline of your preparations – because if you want to succeed in super-quick time, with satisfying results, you need to make the best use of that space.
Here are five quick tips for doing just that.
- Stick to the schedule
Spend a few days and figure out when you’re most productive. For some of us, that’s early morning. Others concentrate better in the evenings. Night owls flourish once the clock strikes midnight.
It’s important to discover when your own best working/creative period is during the day because if you try to force it out of yourself, you’ll fatigue quickly. When you’re tired or unfocused, mistakes are more likely to happen, your editing will take much longer to complete, and you’re going to feel a constant internal resistance that makes the whole endeavor feel like a thankless slog. Nobody likes to do anything when they’re just not feeling it – and if that’s your constant working state for editing, you’ll be bouncing off the walls with stress.
So take some time to honestly examine your performance at certain times of the day or night. You know when you’re at your best. Take that time, schedule it, and stick to it.
- Don’t skip breaks
This should go without saying, but as we all know, it often goes unheeded. You need to take breaks if you’re going to keep your stamina up.
It can be tempting, at break time, to say you’ll just forge on for ten more minutes. Maybe 15. Ah, you’re nearly at the end of this chapter, so let’s make it 20. Okay, now let’s give it a quick final once-over. Wait, break was 40 minutes ago? Guess you might as well power through to the next one, then, and… oh, that power socket looks a bit weird, doesn’t it?
You get the picture!
- Remove distractions
Distraction and procrastination are your worst enemies. To drown out the noise of the outside world, try playing some soft music in the background, or using an automated service such as Brain.fm. Many people swear by playing the same song on a loop throughout the entire working session – a tactic that soon causes the music to blend into the background as the brain tunes out the repetition.
Put your phone outside the room. To help with making sure you get breaks, set the alarm on your phone at your scheduled break times, so you’re forced to get up and move around, clear your head, get a coffee, or speak to someone for five minutes – but be sure to get right back to business once your time is up.
Social media is a no-no. You might need the internet for editorial fact-checking, and especially if you’re editing with AutoCrit, but avoid heading down online rabbit holes, checking your emails, or taking ‘just one look’ at your Facebook feed.
- Lay down the law
It isn’t always easy when you have a household to take care of, but sometimes you’re going to have to play the villain.
Even family members with the best of intentions – popping in to ask if you want a drink, need some food, or are getting along okay – can shatter concentration in a split second. Most of the time, they simply don’t understand how stressful it can be when they inadvertently interrupt the free mental flow that you’ve fought to attain for almost an hour – nor how easy it is for them to have such a devastating effect. Be sure to explain it, and be as theatrical as you like so you can get the point across.
Hang a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door of your workspace when you’re on schedule, and ensure those who may intrude fully understand what it means. If you’re serious about your writing, you must lay down the law with gravity to match.
- Celebrate and prepare
Never go to bed without knowing what your tasks will be for tomorrow. This links into scheduling, but rather than knowing merely what time you’ll be doing things, know precisely what things you’ll be doing at that time.
Regardless of whether you manage to hit every single goal you’ve given yourself for the day – we often underestimate how long a given task will take – be sure to celebrate the wins and pat yourself on the back. Yes, you might be carrying something over to tomorrow because you ran out of time – but you still made progress and have a direction for tomorrow’s tasks.
That’s good work, and you should give yourself the kudos you deserve for sticking to the plan and accomplishing something more than staring out the window.
The best increase – and sustainability – of productivity can be found when tasks are systemized, and those systems and schedules are adhered to. Yes, it can be tough in the beginning, but once your body, your mind, and your lifestyle all converge and settle within the systems you’ve built, it all begins to run like clockwork – leading to creative efforts that feel much less oppressive and hard-fought than a slapdash approach affords.
These are only a few foundational ways to start maximizing your productive time. What steps do you take, and what routines do you follow to ensure you get the most out of each day of editing? Share them in the comments below!