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Suzy Bills Helps Editors Get More Done

Are you struggling with productivity and time management? Try these six suggestions to get focused.

Whether you are editing from home or in a company’s penthouse office, getting focused and being productive is a challenge. At this year’s Latter-day Saints Publishing and Media Association conference, Suzy Bills presented six strategies that can help you increase productivity and time management without working a second longer.

Suzy Bills Headshot
Assistant Teaching Professor Suzy Bills (Linguistics)


Identify Your Motivators and Establish Habits

First, Bills asked audience members to identify their motivators and establish habits. Often, the hardest part of a project is just getting started, so do what you need to do to get in the mood for work! Listen to some upbeat music, sit in a comfy chair, light a candle, or repeat a mantra to get excited, suggested Bills. Another way to help you get in a work mindset is setting up a pre-work routine that makes it easier. Consider reading a relevant blog post, listening to a podcast, or scrolling through an editing Facebook group. Bills promised that if “you get in a good mindset and feel empowered,” you will do your best work.

Get Focused

Second, set up a system that allows you to get focused while working. To do this, first figure out what times of the day you are most alert and effective. While you may not be able to control when you work, you can control when you do important tasks. When you schedule out your day, assign challenging tasks to times when you are alert and menial tasks to times when you are in a slump.

To enhance this scheduling, consider tracking your daily feelings over a two-week period and then use that data to schedule meetings with others when you are feeling positive and snack breaks for when you are generally irritated. For many people, getting focused also requires a certain type of work environment. Notice what type of work space gets you in the best mental space for productivity and implement that. Sometimes the background noise of a radio, a cozy sweater, or a clean desk is all you need to get focused.

If you are still struggling to focus on your tasks, then remember to take breaks! Bills recommends fifty-minute focus sessions with breaks in between. “If you can’t do the whole fifty minutes, just start where you are and build up to it.” Focus sessions with no distractions will help you increase your productivity. When you are distracted, it can take up to twenty minutes to refocus, which will make your work take longer and be of worse quality. Avoid distractions by writing tasks down on a to-do list in order of importance, blocking notifications on your computer, or turning off your phone. Consider implementing one of these tools today and see your focus and productivity increase.

Get Organized

The third suggestion is to get organized, and the first thing that needs to be organized is your time. To organize your time, try using a planner or a calendar app to schedule out everything you need to do each week at a time. While creating this schedule, make sure to build in buffer time in case any projects or tasks take longer than expected.

The second way to get organized is to make to-do lists of things you need to accomplish that day or during that work session. These lists will help keep you on task as the day progresses and are a great way to see your accomplishments each day.

Lastly, create a system to manage bigger projects, due dates, details, and payments. If you keep information for each project in the same place, it will be easier to find, access, and use when you need it. By organizing your time, tasks, and projects, you can let go of unnecessary stress by trusting in your plan.

Avoid Procrastination

For the fourth suggestion, Bills urged editors to avoid procrastination. If a project is daunting, try starting small by just skimming to get an idea of the topic, then conduct a little research, then try lightly editing just the first few pages. Especially if you are getting stuck in a procrastination rut, consider setting a time limit on your first editing session. Then if things don’t go well, you have a designated stopping point, but if it is easier than you thought, you can keep going. The most important thing to do if you are procrastinating is to just get started any way you can.

Edit More Effectively

Fifth, edit more effectively using macros. As editors, we often change the same things in every new piece of writing. Pay attention to those things and to things that take you the longest time to do; then use a macro to automate the editing and accomplish the same tasks in a fraction of the time so that you can dive more quickly into what is important.

Care for Yourself Physically

Finally, the only way any of these previous suggestions will work as well as they can is if you are sleeping, eating, exercising, and socializing adequately. Especially for editors who freelance or work from home, keeping a good work-life balance is vital to being productive. If you struggle to keep up your productivity and time management, then maybe the first thing to eliminate shouldn’t be your personal time, but some of your work. If you have taken on too much, don’t be afraid to take a step back and refocus on what is most important. Not only will this improve your personal life, but it will help you increase your productivity and time management on the projects you still have.

Next time you are struggling to keep up with a deadline, feeling run-down, or just looking for ways to improve your workflow, consider trying out some or all of these suggestions. Some, like using macros, will shave hours off your editing time, while others can save you time and mental space by helping you get to work faster, stay focused, and eventually leave work behind as you go on to enjoy your life.