“When facing down an overwhelming task, we’re typically told to break it into smaller, more easily managed pieces. When writing a book, for example, we might start with a single statement, giving us just enough insight and motivation to begin brainstorming the main characters. … The biggest mistake we make in this process, however, is laboring under the delusion that 100 small tasks take less effort than one large task.”
For four of the past five days, I’ve stayed off email and text after 12:00 p.m.
On Friday, I tried an experiment. After dinner, I got online and browsed entertainment sites for an hour: Pinterest, Buzzfeed, et cetera. After watching a few episodes of Ripper Street, I went to bed at the normal time, and guess what? My mind was ping-ponging on all sorts of subjects without my consent. I tried to quiet it down but couldn’t. Sleep was fitful.
My plan is to still keep it turned off unless absolutely necessary, but now when I’m out on a hike, I can take a picture or listen to a playlist without seeing that new work is coming in. Freedom!
This weekend I was inspired to continue with the idea of less by three things: this article, this website, and a conversation with my boss, who doesn’t own a smartphone and yet somehow manages to still, well, manage.
After spending the weekend boxing up even more things I don’t need, last night I finally deactivated my Twitter account (I haven’t been on Facebook for years). This morning, I ordered hard copies of Merriam-Webster’s dictionary and thesaurus: the two most important tools of my trade (after CMS).
The goal is simple: to stay offline as much as humanly possible.
I have homeschooled my son since he was in kindergarten. There have been many challenges, some of which I’ve documented, but overall, learning at home has helped my son thrive.
With so many changes this year, however, homeschooling began to feel impossible. Over the summer, I researched local school options heavily, asking questions and reading whatever I could get my hands on. Of course there would be trade-offs, but I had to be realistic. Working and homeschooling? I’m not Wonder Woman.
Learning the realities of the options I wanted for my son (a small, private school experienced in twice-exceptional kids) vs. what I could afford (the local public school and an IEP) was gutting. On top of that, my son was adamant about continuing to homeschool, no matter how much I explained that because I would be working in between teaching, we would not only have less frivolous time together during the week but he would also be more responsible for learning what was required of a 4th grader—and for keeping a good attitude toward schoolwork.
For me, working was no longer an option; it was a necessity. And we would both have to adjust accordingly. Continue reading
As an editor, I have always had a method:
- Do a quick run-through of a project, catching all the obvious errors.
- Go through it again, a little deeper.
- Spelling and grammar checks.
- Final read-through, just in case.
No one taught me to work that way; it’s just the way I’ve always done things. Consequently, larger projects could take several weeks, something I considered normal.
Two weeks ago, however, my boss introduced me to a different method, one I’ll call the “once-through.” Basically, you work the project once, slowly and methodically . . . And then you’re done.
I was skeptical, to say the least. There seemed to be too much room for error, especially without the double- and triple-checking. But I tried it anyway.
My last project was nearly 150k words plus cover copy. I finished it in a week and a day. Then I absolutely panicked, thinking I must have missed a million things. I mean, come on. A week and a day? It would have taken me three to four times that using my original method.
So I spent the past few days running spelling and grammar checks, cross-referencing quotes and song lyrics, and even spot-checking every chapter, just in case. Guess what? Everything was fine.
The once-through not only allowed me to finish faster but also lessened the amount of stress and anxiety I usually feel while working. How? Well, obviously the deadline wasn’t nearly as scary. But forcing myself to work slowly and with more precision brought back the enjoyment of editing while eliminating the frenzy.
I liken it to walking meditation, where you are in motion but still focused, still paying attention. Call it “editing meditation,” if you like.
Because of this new practice, I was able to take off in the afternoon on both Saturday and Sunday to go hiking: something I would never and could never have done before. I would have felt too guilty, knowing the deadline was looming and that I still had so far left to go. But the once-through has given me more time and energy to focus on things that matter beyond my work, like homeschooling. I’ve also been able to take small breaks during the day to look after myself, reading and resting and getting out into nature.
In short, the once-through has changed everything. And I am falling in love with the process of editing again.
Try it. See if it works for you. And enjoy the ability to work smarter, not harder!