Tag Archives: time management

An interview with Paul Beverley: the man behind the macros

Paul Beverley is well known in the editing community as the ‘king of macros’. He has not only devised and developed such indispensable free tools as FRedit, but also provides training via Zoom, on YouTube and in person. Paul talked to the CIEP Information Team about his ‘total and utter obsession’ with macros, and his plans for the future.

How (and why) did you get started with macros?

I joined SfEP (as it was then) 17 years ago after editing and typesetting my own monthly computer magazine for 20 years. The magazine was dying and I was heavily in debt, so I had to find freelance editing work and needed to do that work fast.

For the previous 15 years, I had used a FRedit-like computer program with a Mac, so I got someone to write a version of it in Visual Basic for Word, and from there I set about learning to program my own macros. But I also had to learn to use Word, which I had never used before!

What are your favourite macros? (e.g. the ones you think are most helpful)

Number 1 has to be FRedit. You give it a list of words, phrases or punctuation that you want highlighting and/or changing globally, and FRedit does it in seconds. I simply wouldn’t bother editing without it.

Next it has to be analysis macros such as DocAlyse, ProperNounAlyse and HyphenAlyse, because I love spotting inconsistencies, even before I’ve read a word.

What’s motivated you to be so generous in putting together and sharing all your macros?

Putting together? See question 1 – a selfish desire to earn more quickly.

Sharing? Why not? What have I got to lose by letting others benefit?

Sharing for free? Easy! If I sold them I’d need to employ a team of technical support personnel (there are well over 1,100 macros to support). As it is, people are really grateful when I help them and, if I’m honest, I like it when people say they appreciate me.

Do you have any tips for overcoming a fear of using/reluctance to use macros?

It can all sound rather daunting but if you can get going with just two or three macros, or maybe half a dozen, you’ll save yourself time and that will motivate you to pick up a few more.

That’s the approach in our self-learning offering: ‘Macros from Square One’ (Mac or PC), where you learn how to install a macro into Visual Basic and then you use it, and then you load another one and so on.

Or another low-tech approach is that you can put a special Word file into a folder on your computer, and suddenly, without ever seeing the inside of a computer program, you will have a dozen or more macros ready to use. This is called ‘Macros Free Trial’.

Also, there’s Jennifer Yankopolus’s ‘Macro of the month’, with hints and tips as well as a suggested macro to try each month.

But to really get yourself launched there’s a paid six-session training course run by Jennifer Yankopolus for the EFA: ‘Macros A to Z’. It gets booked up quickly but if you sign up for ‘Macro of the month’ you’ll get the dates of the next course.

What question are you asked most often about macros (and what is the answer)?

Apart from ‘How do I get started?’ (see above), there’s ‘Are macros safe?’ If you are worried about viruses, there’s no need. In Word’s File–Options–Trust Center Settings, keep your setting as ‘Disable all macros without notification’.

If people are worried about messing up a document by using macros, then, yes, this can happen, but only if you misuse a given macro. Any tool needs to be used with care, so follow the instructions and don’t take on something too complicated too soon.

What is the most unusual/interesting request for a macro you’ve had?

Maybe checking, for a PR agency, the length of tweets – 140 characters max (they can be longer now).

Or, in a book about the card game bridge, changing all the special symbols (icons for clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades); the client wanted text: cx, dx, hx, sx.

In another example, someone had to check the totals at the bottoms of columns of figures in a document, and they didn’t fancy typing all the figures into a calculator. One click for each, and the macro checked the addition instantaneously.

Is there any request/need you’ve not been able to make a macro for?

Yes, occasionally, but it’s usually because the request would take too much of my limited available development time for what is perhaps a rather niche application.

The problem is more often the other way around. People want a specific macro, and within the 1,000 macros there is probably one already, but how do you find it? To help, we’ve provided an electronically searchable ‘Macro Menu’.

Have you ever tried to create macros in Google Docs? Would you?

My answers are ‘no’ and ‘no’, in that order. Again, it’s not a matter of pride or principle, just that I’ve got my work cut out trying to support the existing macros and develop new ones that people ask for.

Paul demonstrating his macros at the 2022 CIEP conference

You train people to use your macros. Where in the world has this taken you?

Physically, only to Spain and Canada, but the Spanish editors are so keen on using macros that they have translated some of the macros and some of the documentation for Spain and Central and South America.

When the pandemic hit, I discovered Zoom and so I have been able to train people all over the world. At one stage, I taught people in eight different countries inside five days. And I know of 56 different countries where my macros are being used – and not all for editing in English; there are specific macros on my website for editing in Dutch, German and Spanish, none of which I speak!

And (as a rough estimate) how many people do you think you’ve trained?

I’ve no way of knowing, actually. My YouTube channel has over 1,300 subscribers, if that’s any indication.

You’re now approaching retirement. Will you continue to create and explain macros?

As long as I can, I’ll keep creating macros – it’s a total and utter obsession. But training is not really my forte because I tend to bombard people with all the exciting and time-saving things they could do with macros. Not helpful!

When I’m gone, my macros will still be available, but I became concerned, a few years ago, that all the programming techniques I use to create new macros are locked in my brain. I managed to document many of them in my book’s Appendix 13 – ‘Word Macro Techniques’, and demonstrated some in YouTube videos.

However, in the past few years Word has become even more ‘feature-bloated’ and therefore VBA [Visual Basic for Applications, the programming language used for Word macros], has got slower. I have had to work out tricks to regain the lost speed of some of the more complex macros. These techniques are largely undocumented.

I get a kick from creating new macros but documenting the techniques is a real slog. So if anyone could offer help or inspiration on the documentation front, that would be much appreciated. It would be a shame to lose those tricks when I’m gone. Thanks.

How else will you spend your retirement?

I am now more or less retired from paid editing, but my lovely wife Sue has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so I’m guessing that I’ll have less and less time for macros (and documentation) as the years roll by, and we’re also involved in an Alzheimer’s drugs trial.

Also, please be warned that I’m planning to do another sponsored Land’s End to John O’Groats bike ride, but this time for the Alzheimer’s Society. It will have to be a local ride as I don’t like leaving Sue for too long. I can do the required 1,000 miles plus 38,000 feet of climb by cycling 200 times around Taverham, where I live outside Norwich – it’s actually quite hilly here.

I hope you’ll support me – you might say it’s 1,000 miles for 1,000 macros. Thank you, in advance.

Find Paul’s macro resources

 

About Paul Beverley

Starting in 2005, Paul Beverley’s freelance editing + SfEP + macros got him out of a massive financial hole. Now fully pensioned, he is very fortunate to be able to give the macros back to CIEP and the wider editing world. It’s great fun!

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credit: Bicycle by Deniz Anttila from Pixabay

Posted by Julia Sandford-Cooke, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

Making time for marketing and CPD

One of those age-old questions for freelance editors and proofreaders is how to find time for marketing and continuing professional development (CPD) when other work keeps getting in the way. In this post, Philippa Lewis brings together some approaches that have helped her and other CIEP members.

When I started freelancing, I had no idea how much extra work would be involved on top of actual editing work. Words are my love and joy, and I’m more than happy to spend hours deliberating over every tiny aspect of punctuation, but I found myself completely unprepared for how much time marketing and CPD would take up.

Marketing in particular has been a challenge for me; I find the thought of promoting myself very uncomfortable, and marketing takes up time which I could be spending editing. And I would much, much rather be editing. It’s easy to convince myself that marketing is a waste of time when I could be spending that time completing paid work instead, so most of my attempts at marketing have been squeezed in out of slight desperation when I haven’t had any work booked in.

At the recent CIEP conference, Kia Thomas did an excellent talk about marketing. I really appreciated how matter-of-fact she was about it: as a freelancer, you have no choice but to market your business, so you might as well get on with it. Whether or not you enjoy doing marketing isn’t really relevant, because you still have to do it.

This was a bit of a wake-up call for me, and since then I’ve tried to come up with a system for regularly building marketing and CPD into my working week.

Find what works for you

Editors often talk about setting aside one morning or day a week for CPD and marketing. Having a specific slot for these tasks sounds like an excellent approach, but I always find that when I reach the time I’ve set aside, my latest editing deadline inevitably feels like a higher priority.

I’ve finally realised that a more flexible approach works better for me. I start my week by identifying the CPD and marketing tasks that I want to accomplish. These get written on a post-it and stuck onto my computer monitor; keeping them visible means I can’t forget to do them. I try to identify a mix of quick jobs (like sending a CV to a publisher) and longer ones (like drafting a blog post) for each week. I try to break tasks into smaller units where needed: ‘check pricing page on website’ feels more manageable than ‘re-do website’.

These tasks then got slotted in throughout the week. I find it useful to do them whenever I need a break from editing – often at the end of a work day, or before lunch. I might not have the mental capacity to edit another paragraph, but I can still manage to do a marketing task or read a blog post. Cycling through tasks like this means I’m more productive, as I’m ticking something off my list despite not feeling up to completing work for a client.

At the moment, this approach is working really well and allowing me to consistently complete CPD and marketing goals. But it’s freeing to remember that this might not be a strategy that works for me long term – I’ve found it really helpful to keep an open mind rather than trying to stick to a set routine that doesn’t feel like it’s working any more. We all work in different ways; don’t be afraid to try different approaches until you find a method that works for you.

Prioritise

Marketing and CPD both sometimes feel overwhelming: the list of things I could be doing can feel endless, and when the list is so long, sometimes it’s difficult to get started on working through it.

I’ve now got a list of CPD and marketing tasks that I want to complete, with the more pressing ones near the top, and I use this list to help me identify my tasks for each week.

CIEP member Eleanor Bolton has found it helpful to think about her long-term goals, then select CPD options that relate to this. She says ‘I had quite a long list of courses that all sounded interesting and potentially useful, but there was no way I could fit them all in. Over the summer I spent some time thinking about who my preferred clients were and ended up niching quite considerably. As a result, quite a few of those courses were no longer relevant.’

Be flexible

I’m currently doing a developmental editing course, and it wouldn’t be possible to complete the assignments for this in short bursts of time, or at the end of a day when I’m already tired. Likewise, if I’ve got a complex edit booked in, sometimes setting aside a chunk of time for CPD and marketing is more effective than trying to slot in extra tasks each day. On a different week with a different workload, a different approach might work better. It’s important to stay flexible, and to work with whatever your current circumstances are.

Anything is better than nothing

I’m aware that I could improve my editing speed if I improved my knowledge of using Word. I don’t have time to do a full course on it at the moment, so instead I’ve bought a book on the subject and I’m taking ten minutes every couple of days to work through a few pages. I’m not learning as much (or as quickly) as I would on a course, but I’m still learning something. Each tip I pick up is improving my editing speed.

Maybe you don’t have time to do a course at the moment, but could you listen to a podcast while doing the washing up or when you’re in the car? Again, this comes down to taking a step back and being willing to be flexible: what would be achievable with how your working week looks right now?

I regularly have to remind myself that anything is better than nothing. It’s really easy to get caught up in thinking all your marketing materials have to be perfect, which can lead to never finishing anything – but an imperfect website will reach more clients than a non-existent one.

Get something finished and sent off or published, even if you’re not completely happy with it: send a CV out to publishers even if you’re still completing a training course that you wanted to add to it; publish that blog post even though you’re not completely happy with one paragraph in it.

Reflect

And finally, set a moment aside to think about whether your current approach is working for you.

CIEP member Anna Baildon finds monthly reflections helpful to keep her CPD and marketing on track: ‘Each month I think about what’s gone well, what’s been more challenging and what I’ve learned. A brief look through my diary and my Trello board is usually enough to prompt my thoughts and form some analysis. It’s surprising how much insight this simple task provides. It’s like having a monthly meeting with my boss to bring clarity and focus to my work.’

There’s no ‘right’ way to tackle CPD and marketing; it’s just about finding an approach that works for you, sticking to it when you’re able to, and taking small but consistent steps forward.

About Philippa LewisHeadshot of Philippa Lewis

Philippa Lewis is a freelance developmental editor, copyeditor and proofreader. She works on a mix of speculative fiction and outdoors literature, and lives in North Wales.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: unfocused lights and coffee both by Pixabay on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

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

How to 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.

How to be more productive: 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.

What’s e-new?

By Andy Coulson

At the time of writing this I am in lockdown at home and realising the changes and compromises this means. Thinking back to when I started, technology has evolved so much that it has helped with these challenges in a way I couldn’t have imagined 15 years ago. So, I’ve compiled a list of technology-based or focused resources that I hope will prove of some help.

1. Help! How do I fix my computer?

I suspect this may be something we will all come up against sooner or later. The good news is that there are lots of good resources that can walk you through common problems. Even if your PC or Mac is down you can search on a smartphone and hopefully get yourself running again. Sites like wikihow.com; helpdeskgeek.com; dummies.com; techrepublic.com and Microsoft’s own answers.microsoft.com and support.microsoft.com are all helpful.

A carefully thought-through Google search will often be the best approach. For example, ‘Word 365 normal template’ gives good answers as to why Office 365 keeps flagging the normal.dotm as corrupted. It contains the version of Word and the specific item that is causing the issue. If your computer is giving a fault code or description, include that in the search too.

I’ve written before about backing up, spring cleaning and virus scanners, and all these tips and tools are still relevant. I’ve recently been pointed towards Microsoft’s Safety Scanner, which is an additional, occasional-use virus checker. It is good if you suspect you have a virus, as you can download and run a clean copy of the scanner (if you do have a virus, that may have compromised the scanner on your system).

Finally in this section, Microsoft Word itself is a prime cause of the air turning blue around my workspace. Again, Microsoft’s own support pages can be really good – support.office.com. Our own forums are also a good source of support (forums.ciep.uk), with many experienced word-wranglers being regular contributors. One of my favourite sources of help to answer ‘how to’ issues in Word is wordribbon.tips.net/index.html, and it is well worth subscribing to their newsletter.

2. Managing your time

While I’m at home I find I am facing two opposite problems with managing my time. The first is that it can be difficult to focus and stick at what you are doing. The second is the polar opposite of that: using work as a distraction and spending too long nose to screen. But we can use technology to help in both cases to nudge us in the right direction. I’ve written in the past about approaches based on the Pomodoro technique, which encourages you to keep going for a fixed amount of time, or conversely take a break from work after a fixed period of time. The suggestions here are two examples on that theme.

Forest is an app that tries to help you focus by making a game of focusing on a task. You set the timer for as little as 10 minutes through to 2 hours. Each time you start a stretch of work the app plants a virtual tree. Complete the stretch and you start a forest. Quit and your tree dies. It’s a simple idea and strangely addictive. You could use this either to build up your focus or to remind you to take a break.

Workrave is aimed at helping people recover from RSI, but is also a useful tool to encourage you to take breaks from the keyboard and mouse as you work. It produces gentle reminders, which you can configure, to take frequent microbreaks and longer breaks to step away from the computer, and you can even set a daily maximum.

3. Staying fit

Keeping healthy is one of the key things we are being encouraged to do, and there is a massive number of resources that have been made available in response to the lockdown. YouTube is a particularly good resource, and all the suggestions below can be found there.

Normally I’m a keen swimmer and cyclist, but am not getting very far (yes, pun intended!) with either at the moment. However, the Global Triathlon Network has a number of very accessible workout suggestions, despite the elite-sounding name.

If you have kids at home (or even if you don’t), Joe Wicks’s The Body Coach TV channel has a regular PE-with-Joe session. He also has a range of other home workouts that need little or no equipment and cater for a range of abilities.

Yoga is another home-friendly exercise, and I find it also helps undo the damage done by sitting in front of a computer for long periods. Yoga with Adrienne and Five Parks Yoga both offer a range of sessions, from basic, short beginner sessions through to longer, more advanced sessions. Headspace have also put a series of Move Mode sessions on YouTube, which are not traditional yoga, but more a meditative approach to movement.

Finally, I’ve really got into meditation as a way of having a break from everything. Headspace, Mindspace and Calm all have a range of shorter (10-minute) meditations freely available on YouTube. I am particularly enjoying some of Headspace’s Meditations from the American National Parks where you are encouraged to focus on sounds or colours instead of your breath.

I hope that is helpful to you. Stay safe, and we’ll hopefully get back to some more techie stuff next issue.

Andy Coulson is a reformed engineer and primary teacher, and a Professional Member of CIEP. He is a copyeditor and proofreader specialising In STEM subjects and odd formats like LaTeX.

 

 


‘What’s e-new?’ was a regular column in the SfEP’s magazine for members, Editing Matters. The column has moved onto the blog until its new home on the CIEP website is ready.

Members can browse the Editing Matters back catalogue through the Members’ Area.


Photo credits: Forest – B NW; keyboard Christian Wiediger, both on Unsplash

Proofread by Liz Jones, Advanced Professional Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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