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Forget the resolutions – 5 New Year practices for proofreaders and copy editors to help the working day go with a swing

03 January 2018 12:40

I’m not a great one for a New Year’s resolution. If I do make one (or more), I usually end up letting myself down disappointingly quickly – 2 January, 3 January at the latest. And that does tend to take a bit of the freshness out the New Year’s clean, white page.

So, for 2018, I thought I might scrap the word ‘resolution’ (which just seems to set me up for failure) and instead decide on some new ‘practices’ to help myself work more healthily.

Freelance proofreaders and copy editors spend a lot of time on their own, glued as much to their computer screens as to their chairs. And it can’t be healthy. In fact, I know it’s not. I have dry eye and a perpetually stiff back and neck to prove it. So here are 5 practices we can all incorporate into our working days to try to help make our desk-bound lives that little bit more comfortable this year.


1 Don’t forget to blink

There’s a famous episode of Dr Who called ‘Blink’. The central message (deliciously delivered by David Tennant) is ‘Don’t blink, or those sneaky, alien Weeping Angels will get you and zap you into the past’. However, to those of us not plagued by Weeping Angels but who stare at a screen all day for a living, I say this: Yes, blink. Blink as often as you can, especially while you’re working. I’m told by an optician that when we stare at a computer screen for long periods, we seem to forget to blink – which means we can end up with sore, scratchy and red eyes (dry eye). Blinking moisturises the surface of the eye and helps to protect it. I can testify to the perils of being so absorbed in my screen that I forget to blink. My daughter sometimes looks at me at the end of the day, horrified, and says, ‘Mum! What is going on with your eyes?’ So forget David Tennant (if you can – mostly I can’t…) and blink away. Blink, blink, blink. Put a big note on your desk to remind you, if it helps.


2 Get up and stretch

When I’m chasing a deadline, I don’t tend to move. I sit at my computer for hour after hour, with only the odd brief kettle dash to break up the day. But it’s not enough. Our bodies need to move. They aren’t designed for all that stillness. Getting away from our desks for a few moments every hour or so and having a good stretch is not only good for us, it feels fantastic too. It reminds our brains that, from our toes to our fingertips to the tops of our heads, we’re alive and kicking, and our bodies are capable of amazing things. We may have to work but we don’t have to seize up in the process.


3 Dance around like crazy

If you share a work space, anything more than a good, regular stretch might be tricky, unless you can coordinate your efforts with other users. But if you’re able to dance around the room like crazy just for 5 minutes, even a couple of times during the course of your working day, it’ll wake your heart up, send the blood pulsing around your body and refresh your head to take on the next batch of proofs. And if you can turn up the music loud, so much the better. Just get down and boogie.


4 Have a creative reading break

If you read for a living, non-work reading may not be your first choice of relaxing activity. But when you spend your days working with words, keeping up to date with writing trends, themes and styles is an important aspect of the job. Life’s busy. Work (hopefully) is busy. If all you can manage is a quick chapter of something over a 10-minute lunchtime sandwich break even 2 days a week, it all helps. It broadens your vocabulary and reminds you of neat ways to put words together. It shows you how other writers are writing. And who knows? You might discover a new author you absolutely love which will help no end to crank up your creative, editorial brain.


5 Try not to let deadlines consume your life

Oh, yes. And this is the hard one. When every project lands at once, it can be tough to shake the weight of words from your shoulders. But we work best and most efficiently if we can keep ourselves fresh. Try to set a finish-for-the-day time – and stick to it. Switch off your computer and leave the room, even if you haven’t hit your daily target. Of course, there will be times when it won’t be possible. Sometimes a job just has to be completed, no matter how many hours into the night that means you need to work. That’s the nature of sole-working and deadlines, I suppose. But in the main, if you can switch off – then switch off. After all, in the words of Scarlett O’Hara, ‘tomorrow’s another day’.


So, 5 simple practices to build into a routine to help you work more comfortably, more healthily, more productively and, hopefully, more calmly. It’s a challenge but, this time next year, I’d like to think it will have paid off. 

If there’s anything you do to help your working day move along with more of a swing, do please feel free to leave me a comment below. 

Have a happy, healthy 2018.