Tag Archives: productive

How can I be more productive? Part 2

By Abi Saffrey

Keeping track of time and projects (and money)

Part 1 looked at ways we can increase our focus and reduce distractions when we’re working. This post looks at efficient and speedy ways we can keep an eye on our time and projects.

I once went on a three-day training course where the trainer told us to leave our watches behind. She took the clock off the training room wall. And we weren’t working on computers. I can’t really remember what the moral of the story was, but I do remember how odd it felt to have no idea how much time had passed, and how long it was until lunch. There was certainly some discussion about how we are all pretty much constantly aware of the time, with it in the corner of our computer screens. And that weird thing about looking at a watch, seeing the time, and then having to check again barely a minute later.

Anyway … Now I keep tabs on what I’m doing pretty much every minute of my working day, and I know what projects I have to prioritise this week and next (and occasionally next month too). Here are a selection of tools that could help you maximise your monitoring – and if you know of something good that isn’t mentioned, please do share in the comments below.

Time monitoring

It’s really important, for your business records, to keep track of how much time you spend on each task or project. Even if you’re not charging an hourly rate, you can use the time taken on one project to estimate how much time a future similar project will fill.

You can use paper and pen to note down times as you work, or Excel: a recent CIEP forum post highlighted some Excel tips for time tracking (following Maya Berger’s excellent conference session on using Excel to manage your business). The Pomodoro Technique (covered in Part 1) lets you assign 25-minute blocks to each task, and then tally those blocks up at the end of the day.

A popular time tracker is Toggl Track (previously known as Toggl), which has a web version as well as desktop and mobile apps. The desktop version pops up regularly if you’re not tracking your time to prompt you to start; the easy-to-use reports (only accessible via a web browser) can be filtered to only show specific projects or specific timeframes; and you get a weekly email summarising what you’ve been doing (free and paid plans available).

RescueTime is a desktop app that keeps an eye on what software you’re using (and which websites you’re visiting), and then categorises your activity – you can then finetune that and add more granular details if you wish. You can set goals and receive a weekly report. The premium (paid-for) version has distraction-blocking software, so can help you stay away from your favourite procrastination websites (free and paid plans available).

FreshBooks is accounting software, but all its paid plans come with a time-tracking app included. The time-tracking data can be automatically pulled into an invoice and sent directly to clients (free trial, followed by paid plans).

Work management

How do you keep track of what you need to get done today, tomorrow, next week? There’s always the classic notebook option (I do like a Collins Metropolitan Glasgow), or a physical diary (I’m trying out a BLOX one in 2021).

All laptops, phones and tablets have an inbuilt calendar of some kind or another, and they have very similar functionality.

I suspect Excel is used by most self-employed editors and proofreaders to collate the details of the work they’ve done – I use a spreadsheet to note down all the information about a project, and a summary sheet tallies up my total earnings, and my average hourly rates. Every financial year I copy the last spreadsheet, remove all the data and start filling it in again. The CIEP will soon be launching a range of Excel templates to record work, finances and CPD to accompany a new edition of its Going Solo guide. Maya Berger has created The Editor’s Affairs (TEA) – a selection of spreadsheets that will give you an insight into what you’re earning and what you could be charging (paid for, with personalisation available).

Todoist is a comprehensive but simple task manager – or to-do list – app; it allows you to add tasks by forwarding emails, and has integration with many other apps and tools (including Alexa) (free and paid plans).

Trello is based on Kanban boards, a project-management tool where tasks can be moved from one section within a board to another, or across boards. This has been the one thing I’ve tried in recent years that has really worked for me: I’ve been using Trello for about two years, and create a board for each week. Within each board I have a list for each day, as well as a master ‘to do’ list and a ‘done’ list. I start the week with all my cards (tasks) in the ‘to do’ list, and drag them across to the day on which I want to get them done. At the end of the week, I move all the things I haven’t done into the next week’s board and close down the now old board (free).

A quiet week on Trello

Sue Browning wrote a blog post last year about Cushion, an app that helps you plan your schedule, track your time and sort out your invoices (free trial, then paid-for plans).

There are lots of accounting software/app options too; QuickBooks, FreeAgent and FreshBooks are set up for sole traders, and can save you time when it comes to tracking expenses, invoicing and preparing your tax returns (all free trial, then paid-for plans).

The good news is that these two posts on productivity have barely scratched the surface of what’s available. New options appear all the time, so keep in touch on the CIEP forums, or comment below if there’s something you really rate that hasn’t been covered. We may even be able to produce a third blog on productivity. Now that’s what I call productive.

Abi Saffrey is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. She’ll try any productivity gimmick or gadget but really didn’t get on with bullet journaling. A member of the CIEP’s information team, she coordinates this blog and edits Editorial Excellence, the Institute’s external newsletter.

 


Andy Coulson’s most recent What’s e-new? post covers some other tools that can help you boost your business in 2021.


Photo credits: clock by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

How can I be more productive? Part 1

By Abi Saffrey

I looked up the dictionary definition for ‘productivity’ (on Lexico).

productivity      [mass noun] 1. The state or quality of being productive.

Oh.

productive        [adjective] 1. Producing or able to produce large amount of goods, crops or other commodities.

1.2. Achieving a significant amount or result.

Productivity is something that repeatedly comes up in online discussions and ‘build your business’ blog posts, and it’s seen as something that we all have to strive for. Certainly, as a business owner, if I can raise my productivity, I can raise my profits (without increasing my working hours).

As I started to think more about tools that can increase an editor’s or proofreader’s productivity, it dawned on me that there are two main areas where changes can be made:

  • the work itself – editing/proofreading more efficiently, and
  • the management of the work/your time.

Editing and proofreading productivity

In this category, we have tools like keyboard shortcuts, Find and Replace, Word styles and templates, PerfectIt, macros and predictive text/phrase expanders. These are covered in the CIEP’s fact sheet ‘Increase your editing efficiency in Word’, and its new course Word for Practical Editing (there are even rumours of Efficient Editing webinars in 2021). There’s a whole forum for CIEP members on macros too. Proofreaders can use stamps to add BSI symbols to PDFs (Louise Harnby’s blog – and the accompanying stamps – is a good place to start).

There’s plenty of stuff ‘out there’ on this topic, so that’s enough about that.

All the other stuff

There are huge potential gains to be made from making small changes to the ways we manage our work. In this category, productivity tools can be separated out into four elements:

  • increased focus
  • distraction reduction
  • time monitoring and management
  • work management.

(The latter two will be covered in Part 2 – coming soon.)

There are so many apps and tools that you could use to cover these four elements, some free, some with a small one-off cost, others with an annual subscription. There is of course some cross-over between these four elements, so you may decide to use something to track your time and find that it’s also a good way to keep on top of your to-do list. The tools and apps that I mention here are ones that either I’ve used myself or have been recommended by other editorial professionals – there are of course many more out there, and if you’ve got a gem that you think others may like to try, do let me know in the comments.

It’s very easy to procrastinate by searching for the ‘right’ tool to stop you from procrastinating …

The Pomodoro Technique

I’m singling out the Pomodoro Technique because it can help with distraction reduction, increased focus, time monitoring and management, and work management if you take the time to learn the whole technique. Pomodoro is well known for its tomato timer, but there’s also a book to help you master using Pomodoros (25-minute sessions) to manage your daily schedule and predict the time that future projects will take. There are printable sheets to track what you’re doing, what you’re going to do and to log any distracting ‘oh, I need to do that’ thoughts that pop up while you’re in a Pomodoro. And the tomato timer looks cool.

Increased focus

The ticking of a timer (whether it’s a Pomodoro one or any simple kitchen one) can really focus the mind. And its buzzing can really startle you out of your zone!

Several CIEP forum discussions have mentioned apps or websites that provide sounds or music that focus the mind. You can adjust the sounds in Noisli to get your ideal combination of trees rustling in the wind, rain, waves or coffee shop background burble (free and paid plans available). [email protected] offers ‘personalized focus music to help you get stuff done’ (free trial, then paid plans). Spotify divides its playlists into genres and moods: Focus, Chill and Wellness are good places to start (free and paid plans available).

Sometimes what you need to get your focus back is to take a break. WorkRave monitors your keyboard and mouse usage, and gets you to take breaks – and it can enforce a daily computer time limit too (free). The Pomodoro Technique encourages a short break after every Pomodoro, and a longer break after every four Pomodoros. My fitness tracker watch likes me to take 250 steps every hour, and it’ll buzz at ten minutes to each hour if I haven’t managed that (I can tell I’m focused when I think about making up the steps and it’s already 20 past the next hour …) Or just drink a lot of water while you’re working to encourage ‘natural’ breaks.

Distraction reduction

Is this blog post distracting you from that thing that you said you absolutely must get done today? Sorry about that. Work out what drags your attention away from what you should be focused on. Is it social media, the news, your furry companion, the notifications on your phone? Once you know what your distractors are, you can find ways to get rid of, or at least lessen, them. Pretty much all the distraction-stopping apps ask you to list distracting websites that they will block or limit your time on.

StayFocusd is a Google Chrome add-in that blocks certain websites – add a site to your ‘blocked’ list, decide how long you’re allowed on those blocked sites each day, and get on with what you should be doing. It also has a Nuclear Option so if you absolutely must not look at anything at all on the internet for an hour (or three), hit that button and get focused (free).

If you fancy growing some trees (virtual AND real) while you work, try Forest. Tell Forest how long you want to focus for, and which tree you’d like to grow, and then it won’t let you touch your phone or browse certain websites (if you opt for the Google Chrome extension) for that time. If you try, it’ll give you a good telling-off and make you feel guilty about withering a tree (free and paid plans available).

Freedom is a mobile and desktop app – list distracting websites, set times when you don’t want to use those websites, and watch Freedom’s butterfly tell you that you are free to do other things (I like this positive emphasis). It also has ‘Focus sounds’ – a London coffee shop, a busy Californian office, a beach haven and many other soundscapes can fill your IRL working space (free trial, then paid-for plans).


Keep an eye out for Part 2, which will look at time and work management tools.


Abi Saffrey is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. She’ll try any productivity gimmick or gadget but really didn’t get on with bullet journaling. A member of the CIEP’s information team, she coordinates this blog and edits Editorial Excellence, the Institute’s external newsletter.

 


Photo credits: You got this by sydney Rae on Unsplash; Pomodoro Technique timer by Abi Saffrey.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.