It’s that time of year again.
Time has a habit of getting away from us, and I find it useful to take stock of all the significant moments that have made up my year and take a moment to think about the kinds of things I’d like to try to manifest in the year ahead.
Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a month. We overestimate what we can do in a year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.
I’m experienced enough to know by now that a lot of the plans I make will never be completed. I have not reached all the goals I set myself for 2018. I think I overestimated how much I could get done in a year. We think of years as such long stretches of time, but when we factor in all the demands life makes of us, we actually have fairly little time to dedicate to our work and projects.
This is something that was made very clear to me while I was planning out all the projects I’d like to complete in 2019. I started laying them out into a month-view calendar and quickly realised that, realistically, I couldn’t fit everything in.
Knowing this, I’m going to make a conscious effort to not beat myself up for not completing all the projects floating around in the back of my mind. Instead, I’ve selected a few projects I’d like to bring to fruition – but I’m not making them my goals. Not really. Not this year.
Instead, I want to focus on the method, not the outcome.
I want to change my daily and weekly habits so that I’m more focused and productive on a consistent and regular basis. Then I’ll see what comes of that.
But before I talk about the methods I’m going to try in 2019, I’d like to look back at 2018 and think about the lessons I’ve learned.
2018 Goals – How Did I Do?
I had eight goals for the year. I only completed three of them. The rest of them I failed, I decided to delay or are still in progress.
1. REFINE MY BRAND & BUILD A CUSTOM WEBSITE (in progress)
This has been taking me much, much longer than I anticipated. I started working on the new design in February, and though I would set aside time to keep working on it, I kept letting client work swallow that time I had set aside.
Lesson: Guard time for business development.
2. UPGRADE MY SFEP MEMBERSHIP (complete)
Completed in February. I am now an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. What does this mean? Well, the SfEP has a vigorous application process that looks at an editor’s experience, training and abilities. By being awarded the highest membership tier, it’s a stamp of approval from a highly reputable source.
Lesson: External validation is good for confidence if it comes from the right source.
3. WORK WITH TOR (delayed)
I never got round to pitching to fantasy and sci-fi publisher Tor, mostly because I never had a break in my schedule that needed filling. I did buy several of their novellas, though, and I’ve been immensely enjoying reading those – while making sure to soak up details of their editorial style. I think I’ll still pitch to Tor at some point in the future, but I’m happy to wait until the time feels right.
Lesson: Sometimes the timing just isn’t right. Recognising that means we can move forward without beating ourselves up.
4. CREATE AND RUN TEA AND COMMAS (delayed)
Sigh. I’m quite annoyed that I didn’t managed to carve out the time to make this course. I’m determined to do it in 2019, though. DETERMINED!
Lesson: A year can only hold so many big projects.
5. START A PENSION (in progress)
My other half (who is also self-employed) is way better at doing this kind of research, so he’s offered to look into this for the both of us. I think we’re close to getting this sorted, but choosing a pension provider is proving to be quite a difficult and complicated affair. It actually took me the better part of the year to get over my grumpiness and resistance at sorting out a system that was going to take more money from my pocket (even though I knew it would benefit me in the long run).
Lesson: Money is an emotive issue, and a what can appear to be a simple task might have a lot of emotional work attached to it.
6. TAKE 20 DAYS OF HOLIDAY (complete)
I’ve actually managed to have around 30 days of holiday this year. This is a record for me! It might even be slightly more than that because I’ve taken a handful of half-days, too. I feel so much better for it. Last year, I barely took any time off and felt completely frazzled.
Lesson: Time away from work is essential to both productivity and sanity.
7. BLOG ONCE A FORTNIGHT (fail)
I’ve only written seventeen blog posts this year (including this one), which is shy of the twenty-four I was aiming for. This is mostly due to lack of planning or client work or student assignments taking up more of my time than expected. Still, seventeen isn’t too bad! Quality over quantity, and all that.
Lesson: A ridged schedule doesn’t work if it’s based on the outcome rather than the method for achieving that outcome.
8. WRITE A LIMINAL LETTER ONCE A MONTH (complete)
I’m pretty sure I managed to do this, at least roughly. My newsletter continues to be a place that I share the intimate details of running an editorial business and trying to live a meaningful life.
Lesson: When something feels meaningful, we’re more likely to stick to it.
2018 Review – What Happened?
Work-wise, I’ve worked on nearly two million words of client projects this year, and I’ve spent more than 250 hours running my courses and providing feedback on assignments. I’ve had a nice balance between returning and new clients. I’m still enjoying the variation in my work – the mixture of creating and running courses, and offering big-picture and sentence-level editorial services.
As we approached the end of the year, I started to feel burnt out with running my developmental editing courses (Developmental Editing: Fiction Theory and Developmental Editing: In Practice). I’m really happy that these courses are in demand, but giving a large proportion of my time to them has meant other projects have been put on the back burner – most notably the fiction copy-editing course I want to create.
I will certainly offer my developmental editing courses again in 2019, but I’ve decided to run them only four times (twice for each course) throughout the year, and set the dates that they will run in advance. (Previously, I would see where I could fit them in around my client work, which made for an erratic schedule.)
Time Tracking and Raising Rates
This year, I’ve been much better at tracking my time when conducting manuscript critiques. Previously, I was a bit sloppy doing this – and yet it’s something I tell my students to make sure they’re doing!
Through properly tracking my time, I learned that my hourly rate for this service is roughly £10 less than it is for line and copy-editing. Developmental editing should earn an editor slightly more per hour than sentence-level editing because of the specialist knowledge needed, so this was a clear indicator to me that I should increase my rates.
It’s important to me that I feel I’m providing good value to my clients, but obviously I also need to be fairly compensated for my time, effort and hard-earned knowledge. Using concrete data makes me feel much better about setting my rates than taking a stab in the dark and hoping that I’m not under- or overcharging.
Keeping Skills Sharp
I’m a firm believer in Continual Professional Development, and I’m also a big nerd who loves formal education. This year, I kept my editorial skills sharp by attending a handful of events.
I attended ‘Key Concepts in Developmental Editing’ – a webinar from Copyediting.com, led by the wonderful Tanya Gold. I bought a recording of the ‘Inside Bloomsbury’ event, in which a panel of Bloomsbury publishers talked about their publishing processes and how they work with freelance editors. And I also made my way into London to attend a talk on ‘Plot and Structure’ by Emma Darwin, which was excellent.
Friends and Adventures
This year has been quite a year! One of the benefits of having a location-independent business is that I can pack my laptop into a rucksack and spend time working abroad, which is something I do quite often.
I spent February in Valencia, Spain, and the first week of March in Palma, Mallorca – where I had the pleasure of meeting Nicky Taylor, a fellow editor. In May, I took a short trip to Norwich to meet up with my good friend Louise Harnby and attend one of the city’s literary festival events. And the day after that, I jetted off to Bali for the month of June! Despite contracting a bacterial stomach infection midway through the trip (not fun), that was quite an adventure.
In August, I saw one of my childhood friends get married. In October, my best buddy, Karen Marston of Untamed Writing, came to visit and we carved pumpkins and made way too many Halloween cupcakes.
In November, my fiancé surprised me with a holiday to New York for my birthday. I was absolutely blown away by the gesture. It was an unforgettable trip – and my first time in America! Then we spent the rest of the month in Crete, clinging desperately to the last rays of European sun before the winter set in. On our way home, we stopped over at Athens for a couple of days and soaked in the history.
In December, I managed to make it to the local editing group’s Christmas lunch, despite being over an hour late because of the trains. I was also honoured to attend a formal ceremony in which my other best friend joined the Royal College of General Practitioners. I can’t express how proud I am of her.
The year hasn’t been without it’s challenges, too, of course. There are a few health issues that my partner and I will continue to tackle in the New Year – and for the rest of our lives, in fact. My health is something I’ll likely talk about in my newsletter.
What’s in Store for 2019?
So, as I mentioned above, instead of setting out a list of goals (the outcome), I’m going to focus on daily and weekly habits (the method) and see what I achieve.
I’m still aiming to complete my new website. In fact, I’m setting aside time in January to finish the design, and I’m hoping to have it coded up in February. I’m also still aiming to create my new fiction copy-editing course, Tea and Commas. I’ll use those outcomes to direct my work on a day-to-day basis.
But here’s my plan:
Wednesdays are for Writing and Learning
On Wednesdays, I won’t do any client work or assignment marking. Instead, I’ll use this day to work on blog posts, newsletters, work-related reading and any online courses I’ve decided to take. I’m hoping it will be a good way to break up the week, too.
Eight hours a Week at the Local Co-working Office
Last year, a new co-working office opened up in my town. I took them up on a free trial membership but ended up not joining once the trial ran out. However, working from home can be quite isolating, so I’m going to try joining the co-working office again, this time for just a handful of hours a week. I’ll try four hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Take Twenty Days of Holiday (Minimum)
This is something that worked well for me this year, so I’m going to make sure I schedule in days off again. Time completely away from work gives me so much clarity and perspective, and definitely reduces my anxiety.
No Looking at Emails Outside Working Hours
I used to be pretty good at following this rule, but over the past few months I’ve become really bad at it. I will not look at my emails while in bed or at the weekend – or even in the evenings! As soon as I close my laptop for the day, that’s it. Emails can wait.
Use Social Media in Predetermined Time Slots
I’m certain that social media has eroded my ability to concentrate, and though it can be a source of entertainment and discovery, I think it also makes me feel quite anxious. From now on, I won’t look at social media during my working hours and will only give myself a short, predetermined time in which I can use it.
And that’s it.
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Here’s to a meaningful year!