Working from home sounds like an ideal situation: no commute, no need to change out of your pajamas, nobody popping into your cubicle to “pick your brain.” But many editors who have recently started working remotely for the first time might be finding that it’s not what you expected. Your home is full of distractions: Tiger King is streaming on Netflix, your cat managed to shut down your laptop when you were rooting for snacks in the kitchen, and—Oh, I think I’ll just reorganize the pantry shelves before finishing this blog post.
Whether you run your own editing business or work remotely for your employer, here are some tips to remain productive throughout your workday.
Set up a dedicated work space.
This can be a corner of your dining table or your desk in a home office—any place you can park your work and everything you need to get that work done. You might have visions of editing on your laptop in bed or sitting on your couch with your page proofs, but I find that I am less easily distracted while I’m at my standing desk, which has an external monitor for my laptop. I usually have my reference materials handy, as well as a notebook, a pen, proofing pencils, my planner, and my water bottle.
For a change of scenery, I might work in another room of the house or outside if the weather is nice. But having a physical space I call my office allows me to separate work from the rest of my life and “clock out” at the end of the day.
Have a plan with your family or roommates.
If you find that suddenly both you and your partner or roommates will be sharing your home work space, talk about what your expectations are. Where will each of you work, and when? Will you have any conference calls today? Who will make lunch for your child?
Making your work situation known to family members or friends who don’t live with you may also be helpful, in case your mom thinks that you’ll have time to gab now that you’re home during the day.
Turn off social media, the TV, and other distractions.
You’ve probably been there. You open your browser to check something in the Chicago Manual of Style Online but end up scrolling through Facebook to see what your friends are doing. Before you know it, an hour has gone by and you still have no idea whether you should add a comma in that sentence. Logging off social media sites and turning off the TV will allow you to resist the temptation and have more focused work time.
People who’ve worked in offices know that even though you’re there from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., you’re not working eight hours straight. You might go out for coffee or lunch, or chat with your coworkers, or grab water from the kitchen. Don’t forget to take those kinds of breaks at home. Get outside for a few minutes, stand up and stretch, or refresh your cup of coffee. Pulling yourself away from your desk for even just 15 minutes will help you feel refreshed and ready to dive back into your project.
And if you need time to relax or recover from an illness, remember that you can take a day off.
Talk to your coworkers and editing colleagues.
For many people, a downside to working from home is the social isolation. When you’re used to talking to your coworkers throughout the day, suddenly working alone at home can be a challenge. Take advantage of your company’s messaging system, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, and check in, not just on your projects, but about other things you might talk about in the office. Schedule a Zoom call with your coworkers or other editor buddies. I know people who even get together online to do editing sprints, where they work for, say, 45 minutes at the same time.
Block out the noise.
Sometimes our house gets a little noisy: the cats might be chasing each other or the neighbor might be running his leaf blower. Put on your headphones and play music that you won’t sing along to, or use one of several apps and websites to drown out that sort of noise. Some of those apps and websites can play sounds of the ocean or rain, or even cat purrs and coffee shop white noise.
Know what works for you.
The glorious part about working from home is that you can usually dictate how you work. If you feel you’re more productive starting the day by getting dressed as you would for the office, then do so. But if you feel more comfortable wearing sweats, don’t let anyone stop you. If you are not employed by a company that requires you to maintain set hours, then work when you’re most productive. (For me, that’s between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m.) Working from home is a huge adjustment, and it’ll take time to figure out the best arrangement for you.
Christine Ma (@mschristinema) has been running her own editing business from home since 2009. She is a copy editor and proofreader specializing in children’s and young adult books. She is also a member of the ACES Executive Board.