Take a Break

March is a high volume editorial month in my world. In addition to the regular quarterly issue of MomSense magazine that went to print yesterday, our annual special edition went to print earlier this month. And many other departments have projects that need my editorial eyes at the same time. So some days my editorial brain is definitely taxed.

Here are some practices I have found to be useful in keeping up quality standards in a high-volume editorial cycle:

  • Taking physical breaks – getting out of my chair, walking to the kitchen for a glass of water, sticking my head outside to get some sun – sometimes even 10 minutes can refresh my brain and help keep me sharp.
  • Switching editorial style – going from the computer screen to paper-based editing is often enough to give me a fresh perspective.
  • Planning my day – I am definitely sharper in the morning than the afternoon, so I try to queue up projects in a way that uses my best time for the most intense brain work.
  • Watching my attitude – I know I need to take a break when I find myself accepting mediocre word choices or inconsistent grammar just because it would be simpler to have fewer changes in a rush project.
  • Pausing when I am tempted to push too fast to get another page done – sometimes I am tempted to start on one more page in the few minutes I might have before a meeting rather than saving the file and coming back later.
  • Saying no – this is the hardest but often the most important step to keep high quality. Rather than an outright “no,” I might suggest an alternate time: “I want to do a quality job on this extra project. I can’t have it done by 10 am today, but I can finish it by 1 pm.”

In addition to the practical tips that I often implement, the most important way to keep myself sharp is to build margin into my schedule. This is true for editorial project planning and also overall life planning. Something will go wrong during a project, and while I can’t plan for exactly what will go wrong, if I have left some space in the schedule for breathing, then I can more easily accommodate issues that come up. And after a very busy month of editing, a day off to enjoy fresh air is the best way to rejuvenate myself for the next project.

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