Tips To Stay Focused While Editing
Staying focused on a single task without getting distracted can be challenging—especially when you don’t have someone standing over your shoulder. Left to our own devices, this can prove to be quite challenging. And, there’s a distinct difference between the amount of focus necessary for writing and that for editing. While writing is known to flow better with music playing in the background or done outdoors, editing is a whole other ball game.
Editing requires your full, unsullied attention. People have put a substantial responsibility on your shoulders to catch all the mistakes they may have overlooked. After going through you, the final piece needs to be perfect. A mistake made affects your clients’ reputation as well as your own — no pressure! So, to ensure you put your best efforts forward while editing, we’ve come up with a few tips to help you stay focused.
1) Be in a good state of mind
Hemingway’s advice to write drunk and edit sober has some merit here. Although substances may affect your ability to get the creative juices flowing while writing, they would have the opposite effect for editing. In addition to being sober from substances, you should also be well rested to optimize on focus levels. Think of editing like driving a car: don’t do it if you’re not in the proper state — the results won’t be pretty.
2) Remove all distractions
Put your phone away, or put it on silent. Turn off your music. Close all the tabs in your Internet browser that aren’t directly related to your current task. Make sure the dog was walked. Go to a room where you’re alone. Do whatever you need to do. Once you’re completely devoted to the editing job, it’s time to get cracking. This brings us to our next tip.
3) One long break is better than many short ones
When you sit down to edit a document, it’s best to go through it all from start to finish. If it’s particularly long and arduous, take one long break halfway through (or many long breaks if the job spans over a few days or weeks). More frequent smaller breaks do more harm than good to your focus. They disrupt the flow and can cause inconsistencies. It takes some discipline to go from A–Z in one sitting, but it’s the best way to do it. That way, you’re also not dragging the job out any longer than you need to.
4) Read it over again, just to be sure
Even a professional editor can miss an error. To make sure this doesn’t happen, read through what you edited at least one more time. Every time you edit through a sentence, read it over once again to see that it makes sense and flows naturally.
The same goes for paragraphs. Re-reading as you go helps keep focus up, and ensures you’re being thorough. For even more reassurance, read through everything one last time, from start to finish, once you’ve gone through it all. Your first set of “a second pair of eyes” should be your own.