Manage Emails

Would you like to get your email inbox down to zero by the end of each day? I didn’t know such a thing was possible. You may wonder – what magic is this?

I am #Tall Tartan Talks … and I have started reading a non-fiction business book called Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott.

One particular chapter which struck me immediately was about managing your emails. His strategies were revolutionary for me. This blog post is a review of that chapter.

I *was* one of those people who had over 200 emails in each of my three inboxes. I sorted them occasionally. Inevitably, if I include my smartphone, I was prone to checking them far too often. Always scrolling through social media. Just like you.

Cluttered inbox

I starred or flagged some important or urgent emails for easy reference, but my inbox was becoming unmanageable. My professional email, annie@proofnow.co.uk was the fullest. My personal gmail account wasn’t much better.

Then, I found Ninja Email Processing, the chapter where Graham says, “Be a Ninja – take a ruthless approach to emails!” Now I adopt his strategy daily.

Interested? This is how you do it.

Reduce your inbox to zero daily

The bare bones of how to get started are:

  1. Open emails
  2. Create three new files: Action, Read, Waiting
  3. Scan the first couple of lines of each email. If it needs to be dealt with immediately, move into Action. If it isn’t important, move to Read. If you are waiting for someone else to action, move to Waiting.

I used to look at my growing email notifications, groan inwardly, feel fear and overwhelm, avoid, then stress about what might be in my inbox. When I was waiting for a particular email from a client, I would pause a job whenever a notification sounded, whether that job was proofreading, or tuition preparation. I had to check then and there who it was from.

STOP!

Graham suggests that the problem needs to be viewed in a different way: your email inbox is just where your emails land; don’t check your emails, process your emails; and don’t let your emails nag you all day.

Strategy

Firstly, look at your inbox as a landing page, not a to-do list. We tend to keep the emails in that inbox so we don’t lose them. The answer? New folders need to be created to hold actionable emails, and those emails which can be deferred.

Secondly, restrict checking emails to three times a day: first thing in the morning, or 9am (or whenever your business day starts); and 4:30pm to give you 30 minutes of reducing your email list to zero. Or later, if you don’t stop on the dot of 5pm. You may also want to check emails at lunchtime. Me … I am slowly restricting my addiction of reading of emails after 8pm … The same goes for checking social media or Slack. (My excuse is that some of my colleagues are in a different time zone.)

How to process (not check) emails:

  1. Scan the first email for a couple of seconds. Don’t hang about. Ask yourself, is it vital I action this? If yes, move to Action.
  2. Scan the next email. If someone is acknowledging they will action something you have delegated, move to Waiting. This guarantees that you will have a reminder to follow this up.
  3. If the next email is something not at all urgent but for perusing, say, a subscription which you want to read at your leisure, move to Read. Don’t start reading it now.
  4. Repeat steps 1–3.
  5. By the end of 30 minutes, there should be zero emails in your inbox.
  6. Repeat three times a day.

Subject folders

You may be like me and organise your emails into many subject or archive folders. Again, this can get out of hand. My next job is to whittle those down to more efficient descriptors. So that when I have gone through my burgeoning Read file, I will move each email to a re-named folder. Or delete it.

Graham’s theory is that if you have only three files to move the incoming emails into, it makes decision-making and sorting much easier. Agonising will be reduced to a manageable level.

If, say after a week, you look in the Read folder and email subject is no longer current or valid, delete. Or move it to an archive folder.

One of Graham’s tips is to think of a set of Ds: decide, do, delegate, defer, delete.

Cut the dead wood

Perhaps you subscribe to newsletters by email. For example, if you follow particular people for their business or subject knowledge … there are many out there. It may be time to review them and prune who you subscribe to.

Try subscribing to one for six months. Count how many of their newsletters you actually read (and follow the advice suggested) in those six months. Be honest. Be brutal. Cut out the dead wood and unsubscribe if the answer is only one or two. That is one way to reduce the number of emails you get …

If you are successful with this method, you will feel you have more control over those incoming emails.

Information overload

Information overload is a threat to our prductivity, so I recommend Graham’s book if you want to be proactive about reducing that overload. By managing your emails, and your time, by procrastinating less, you can focus on your priorities.

There you have it. If you learnt something from this post, find my other blog posts about my freelancing business here.

I look forward to finishing the book. Guess what – I have signed up for his newsletter.

Background: Graham Allcott

Founder of Think Productive (@thinkproductive), Graham Allcott is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and podcaster, coaching strategies for business and time management. He is host of the podcast Beyond Busy. His book was first published by Icon Books Publication in 2014, and totally revised in 2019 because of the advances in technology.

Other chapters in Graham’s book include:

  • The Organize Habit
  • The Review Habit
  • The Do Habit
  • Stop Messing About on Your Phone

Editing Training Part 2

Training is one of the hot topics during this Coronavirus pandemic.  You may have more time on your hands than usual. You may be thinking about using that time to do some training, also known as CPD (Continuing Professional Development).

In my original blog post about training here, I mentioned that my next aim was to apply for the CIEP Proofreading mentoring scheme. In this episode I update you on my progress.

I am #TallTartanTalks … and I  see a lot of questions on social media asking about training. If you are confused about the when, which, how and why of proofreading training, this post may help you make up your mind.

Training is VITAL to reflect that you take the owning of your editing business seriously. Especially if, like me, you have no background in publishing.

So … are you wondering about proofreading training? Or are you a prospective client wondering about my professional qualifications?

Change of path

After three decades as a Primary School teacher, I had succumbed to work-related stress and was on sick leave. I was slowly coming to terms with a daunting fact: a life I had known for 30 years was changing. I needed to find a Plan B.

Marking’s my thing, I thought. Why don’t I apply my skills to a new business?

The thought of working from home as a freelancer was in the back of my mind and very tempting.  (Read Episode 2 to find out what I did …)

If you are looking at training providers, the CIEP  and the PTC (Publishing Training Centre) offer the most creditable training in proofreading and copyediting.

Courses

So, during the time I have owned my business Proofnow Proofreader (now in my fourth year), I have completed the following CIEP (formerly Society for Editors and Proofreaders) courses and CPD:

  1. Proofreading Progress (2016)
  2. References (2016)
  3. Getting work with Non-publishers (2017)
  4. Educational Publishing Development Day (2018)
  5. Mini conference in Newcastle (May 2019)
  6. Proofreading mentoring scheme (completed May 2020)
  7. Every CIEP annual conference since 2017

These have contributed to my upgrade from Entry Member to Intermediate Member. Here is the link to the Training page of the CIEP website.

In addition, you can keep an ongoing record of your formal CPD in the section called Upgrade your membership. There you can add courses as you complete them. The system saves them, so that you can keep returning to add more information. If you are a CIEP member and haven’t explored this benefit, it’s well worth it.

Mini conference in Newcastle

Since I wrote my last blog post about training, I realised that it’s just over a year since I got the train to Newcastle for this mini one-day conference in May 2019. It was very well organised by the NE Editors group. See my blog post about the event here.

Proofreading mentoring

This post brings my training up to date – I have completed the Proofreading mentoring scheme as a mentee.

So what is this scheme? The following guidance is taken from the Mentoring page of the CIEP website.

Successful mentees can gain up to 10 points towards upgrading their membership. The number of points gained depends on the mentor’s answers to five questions about the mentee:

  1. Are they literate? (grammar, sentence structure, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation)
  2. Are they businesslike? (prompt, clear, efficient, follow brief, communicate well)
  3. Are they accurate? (spot and deal with editorial errors)
  4. Do they use appropriate mark-up? (BS 5261:2005, plus PDFs or Track Changes if used)
  5. Do they use good judgement? (level of queries, frequency and extent of intervention).

The mentor sends a variety of real jobs they have done for clients. These range in subject area and complexity. You are encouraged and supported in a one-to-one partnership. Communication and questioning are recommended.

I found that carrying out the work, following each specific brief, in a safe environment, is a good way to learn.

My knowledge vastly increased, including how to query. I learnt how different clients would expect you to deal with projects and relationships in different ways.

Of course, my confidence wavered considerably through the six months with highs and lows, as it does on any course. But, you don’t learn if it is easy. You don’t learn if you don’t make mistakes. I say that to my primary students all the time, especially when they are upset if they got something wrong. Showing you are learning from your mistakes, by applying the lessons learnt, is one of the key points.

As total commitment is necessary, there was a huge wash of positive relief when the last mentoring feedback was returned.

Why training is vital

I am fortunate that I have been able to invest in my ongoing CPD with the CIEP over the last four years of my freelancing career.

Evidence of CPD on your website and CV gives your prospective clients confidence in your skills; your professionalism, expertise and integrity will be evident. Highlighting these is imperative.

Next training opportunity?

The annual September CIEP conference attracts 3 CPD points towards upgrade. I have written some blog posts on this subject too!

In this year of the pandemic, the September 2020 conference in Milton Keynes is cancelled. However, there are plans to move it online in some form. Check with the CIEP for details.

I know I am not alone in looking forward to the alternative conference. Here’s to #CIEP2020!

 

Tall Tartan Tells About #sfep2019 Conference

Several highlights from my time in Birmingham recently at Conference Aston with the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) include great company with colleagues, lots to learn, and laughs galore.

The theme of the conference was ‘In the beginning was the word’. My chosen sessions were:

  • Speed networking
  • The art of querying
  • Mindfulness
  • Lightning talks
  • Microsoft Word styles into Adobe InDesign
  • A training toolbox for editors
  • The six habits of highly effective editors
  • Grammar amnesty (bring your grammar questions)

Speed networking

This is the first conference (out of three so far) when I have had the courage to attend the speed networking session. Fellow editors and proofreaders have five minutes to talk to the person opposite about business, ask questions, pick up tips, and share business cards. Then delegates on one side of the room rotate … I was able to promote my website blog #TallTartanTells and my weekly LinkedIn tips #TallTartanTips for newbie freelancers. One of my favourite sessions.

Quiz: #TeamKevin

Saturday ended with dinner (with a Mexican Chilli theme – not my favourite) and THE Quiz. I sat next to Matt Pinnock, a friend from Essex, and Sophie Playle (fellow Herts & Essex local group member). Team Kevin was decided as a *memorable* name. Matt and others were superb with their general knowledge and song first-liner facts. We won Heroes chocolates. (See photo. Nikki Brice is in the background.)

Sunday: Whitcombe lecture

The first prestigious speaker of #sfep2019 was Chris Brookmyre, a Scottish crime thriller writer who was hilariously interesting and entertainingly rude. Especially about his sub-editor days and the Amazon reviews of over 20 books he has written with the ‘tartan noir’ theme. I’m ashamed to say this is the first time I have come across this term. So, I have ‘bookmarked’ a couple of his less bloody books to acquire.

The art of querying

Gerard Hill led a superb workshop on how to phrase queries to clients. He presented a series of real-life texts he had copy-edited and proofread. We questioned, discussed, analysed, and decided whether to ‘stet’ (leave alone), correct, query, check/suggest/query, or ‘flag’ as a concern. He encouraged, supported and justified in a sensitive way. I can understand why he is the chartership director and why we were successful in our bid.

Mindfulness: becoming mindful with words, work and the whole of your life

I have never felt so much like I needed a session on being still and quiet. We were encouraged to sit comfortably. With our eyes closed, we concentrated on the leader’s voice giving calm instructions on how … to … be … She emphasised focusing on our breath, on clearing our heads and gently pushing against our problems or worries. One helpful tip to relieve stress was: take a mindful walk outside, admiring the beauty of nature. Something I’m aware of already through the #StetWalk. But it always slips to the bottom of my to-do pile – unwise.

Lightning talks

The feeling among SfEP members is that the Lightning talks are the most popular session, as they are so light-hearted. They also cover a wide range of topics. So, for those who aren’t aware, six sfep-ers talk for five minutes each about a topic close to their heart, accompanied by their Powerpoint presentation. Sadly, I could only be at the first of the two sessions, as I wanted to attend a different session later. But the topics that spoke to me most were Pam Smith’s editing music, and Liz Jones’ on finding a good work/life balance.

Microsoft Word styles into Adobe InDesign

Here is some background into my interest in InDesign: I edit a magazine for charity. I was taught to use Microsoft Publisher for editing purposes. I’m aware that InDesign is the modern equivalent, so I wanted to find out more. Two designers from Oxford University Press (OUP) explained how the text and images are put together on designed pages for English language teaching resources – teacher guides, children’s workbooks, indeed anything education based. The implications of how the styles in Word documents transfer and appear in InDesign were discussed by experienced colleagues. Next step for me: training in InDesign.

Gala dinner

It was my third conference, so the nerves about what to wear to the Gala dinner were a little less. Listening to the Linnets (see photo) always calms the nerves, relaxing us with impressive singing and entertaining us with clever lyrics about editing! This year they sang to the tune of ‘He who would valiant be’. Rob Drummond, our after-dinner speaker, and Reader in Linguistics at Manchester University had us laughing about our use of language versus our pedantry in the application of the rules.

A training toolbox for editors

Hilary Cadman, Australian science editor, is a visitor to our local SfEP group in Bishops Stortford, Herts, when she is visiting her family. We get on well, so, when I saw she was running a workshop on how to use our knowledge to train others, I was intrigued. As a teacher, I knew I could be a trainer. As a freelancer of three years, I knew I had free resources available on my website. So how to link the two …?  Hilary demonstrated how to make a screencast by recording her voice-over the modelling of a skill on screen. There was an audible gasp of wonder when she played back this example training video. (She presents her PerfectIt courses in this way. If you haven’t discovered them yet – I have done the Introduction to PerfectIt – there are discounts for SfEP members on the Benefits page of the website.) Next step: learning how to make training videos for newbie proofreaders.

The six habits of highly effective editors

To be effective, the habits of good editing are to be a detective, spy and linguist; to have empathy and intuition. Developing a healthy work/life balance to work effectively include: appropriate sleep, timing/timetabling, repetition of skills, and exercise. Our presenter, Matthew Batchelor, advocates using NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) methods, in other words, learn the language of your mind. Next step for me: To practice a more effective work/life balance. Even more important when I seem to have a whole year of CPD ahead of me!

Grammar amnesty

Lucy Metzger (SfEP Vice-Chair) chaired a grammar panel with Luke Finley, Annie Walker and Cathy Tingle. Bring your grammar questions was the mission: questions about grammar you have always wondered about … For example, when to use ‘that v which’ which catches me out when I am proofreading. There was an excellent discussion and exploration of language, with helpful book recommendations on display.

Closing speaker: David Crystal

Conference came to its glorious conclusion with the fascinating plenary session by David Crystal sharing about his experiences editing the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language.

At the end of the day, I was glad to catch up with edibuddies Laura Ripper, Helen Stevens, Melanie Thompson and Cathy Tingle. Sorry to those who I didn’t get a chance to chat to.

Before undertaking the three hour drive back to Essex, I decided to stretch my legs and had a pleasant walk into the centre of Birmingham in the company of colleagues heading to New Street Station. It looks so different to what my mother would have seen when she left Birmingham for the last time in the mid-1970s.

Here’s to next year

So, as the post-conference blues set in, here’s to next September and #sfep2020 (or #ciep2020) in Milton Keynes. Here’s my link to my blog post about last year’s conference (#sfep2018).

Thank you to Beth Hamer and the conference team!

 

 

27/09/2019

Proofread by Lisa de Caux, SfEP Intermediate Level Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

Tall Tartan Tells Why One-day Conferences Appeal

When I heard the North East Editors (@NEEditors) were organising a one-day SfEP mini conference in Newcastle, I was very tempted.

I mentioned to Mr Deakins that, as he had spent 4 years there studying Art and had a great affection for the place, he might want to accompany me and ‘do culture’ (art galleries, museums) while I was learning.

Thankfully, he was REALLY keen so we hatched a plan that was win-win: we would have a mini-break by train from Essex in May, and I would get some Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and upgrade points.

#SfEPNEConf here I come!

On the morning of the conference, we left the Holiday Inn really early and sauntered to the cathedral to admire the architecture. At the appointed hour, I headed to the venue – the rather stunning Royal Station Hotel – adjacent to the railway station. A perfect location.

Victoria Suite was sumptuous with huge windows through which the bright sun shone all day and impressive, glistening candelabras. Very glamorous and extremely spacious for the 68 delegates.

An interesting variety of sessions had been planned. At this point I must credit Eleanor Abraham (@EABediting) who wrote excellent summaries in her live tweeting throughout all the sessions. I have relied on some of her tweets for accuracy.

Sessions

  • Denise Cowle: Marketing Your Editing Business
  • Matt Deacon (from Wearset): The Changing World of Academic Publishing (and the ripple effects on editors)
  • Melissa Middleton: Ministry of (Business) Training MO(B)T
  • Hester Higton: Efficient Editing – How to Make the Most of Your Fee
  • Panel Discussion chaired by Luke Finley: Navigating a Course in Publishing. With Sarah Wray, Debbie Taylor, Alex Niven

Session 1 – Denise Cowle

Denise is the SfEP marketing director and she belongs to the Content Marketing Academy. Some of her points included:

  • It’s important to make the shift from ‘freelance’ to ‘business owner’.
  • Have a website. Everybody can have a social media profile, but any of the platforms could disappear tomorrow. Your website is yours to do with what you want.
  • Be brave and network with editor colleagues, including those from your specialism.
  • Like, comment and share content from colleagues.
  • Be helpful and demonstrate your knowledge.
  • Add value. Give away brilliant free stuff on your website (be like Louise Harnby!).
  • Record outcomes – “What gets measured gets improved”.

Time for coffee and CAKE! Marieke Krijnen even brought Stroopwaffels from Amsterdam.

Session 2 – Wearset

Next, Matt Deacon, Project Manager at Wearset, conference sponsors, talked about the pressures that publishers, in this case academic experts, are against. Pressures from profit-driven markets, the internet, expectations on speed of delivery, globalisation and increased competition. All affecting editors.

He asked if artificial intelligence and natural language processing apps are going to take our jobs? No. Context, style and subtlety of language need the human element. Tools (such as PerfectIt) help with mundane tasks and reduce the time taken to edit, leaving us to focus on language and sense.

Matt gave guidance on how to future-proof editing: spot change, embrace and innovate, and spearhead development. How can we as editors encourage standardisation of templates amongst publishers? He suggested that the SfEP has a role to play in encouraging cleaner formats for editing  by sharing discussions with publishing clients. Food for thought.

Session 3 – Melissa Middleton

After a quick change-over, Melissa Middleton’s session was hilarious. She runs Project North East Enterprise (PNE) promoting Enterprise and CPD. Apparently, there is one local to you – part of the National Enterprise Network. She had us eating out of her hands with her Geordie humour!

In groups, we listed all the ways we do CPD daily – many more than we first thought. Her final workshop activity had us writing our top skill on a post-it to be placed on a poster of collective skills; then writing a skill we want to improve on a separate post-it for a second poster.

By the end of the session we had created a Skill Swap Shop. Very simple, clever and effective.

As a post-script, a couple of the SfEP directors reminded us that the Forums on the SfEP website offer a similar support: members ask a question, and those with relevant knowledge answer. Many of us learn from the way different professionals answer the question with techniques they have used. Melissa finished her session by sharing an Interactive CPD Toolkit – a very useful resource.

 

Session 4 – Hester Higton

After lunch, Hester’s session was fascinating, if intensive. Her aim was to help us judge what can and can’t be done when clients are cutting costs and driving down schedules.

Given examples of non-fiction texts to discuss and prepare for copy-edit, the task was to analyse the brief and project; calculate how much time could be allocated to each task, bearing in mind the rate of pay for the job and the time scale.

Hester’s tips:

  • Can the essential work be done within budget? And by the deadline? Often, when copy-editing, there was little time to put aside for dealing with the actual text.
  • Know what your key priorities are and stick to them.
  • How often, when an editor says the text is ‘clean’, do you believe them …?
  • Use clean-up automaton routines, keep track of the project, and analyse when finished for timings and cost.

Session 5 – Panel discussion

Luke Finley chaired the last session which was a Panel Discussion: Navigating a Course in Publishing. On the panel were Sarah Wray, Debbie Taylor and Alex Niven. The panel discussed such questions as:

  • How do editors deal with …?
  • How have you tackled a ‘muscular’ (favourite word of the conference) or heavy editing job?
  • When do you get time to work on your own novel when you are an editor/publisher and enjoy writing?

One-day conferences

This is my second one-day conference. The first one I attended was the Educational Publishers Development Day in November 2018 at De Vere West One (DVWO) in London. Both conferences were hugely popular with impressive speakers and plenty of opportunities to network.

In summary, one-day conferences appeal to me for a variety of reasons:

  • Lasting only a day means they are not expensive in terms of time or money.
  • Their location may be nearer to you than the main SfEP annual conference.
  • They present more regular networking opportunities than waiting for the annual conference.
  • They are eligible for upgrade points.

The FINAL (unofficial) session moved venues and headed to a bar for well-earned drinks. Unfortunately, I had to miss it as my husband and I reconvened at the station for our train home.

Bravo and cheers to the NE Editors: Kia Thomas, Nik Prowse, Caroline Orr, Jenny Warren, et al, for a valuable day!

 

P.S. A summary of this was seen in the SfEP Blog in June 2019.

P.P.S. BitmoAnnie thought she really should wear tartan to represent #TallTartanTells. She feels a new branding concept brewing.