When life’s going a million miles an hour and your brain wants to bounce from one thing to the next, it’s hard to quiet the busyness around you so you can focus on proofreading.
I’ve been proofing for years and to this day, I can still struggle with staying focused.
But I’ve found ways to help me concentrate better. It takes intention, but the results pay off!
Whether you’re thinking about starting your proofing business and aren’t sure how you’re going to be able to focus, you’re working on starting your business right now, or you’ve been at it for a while, here are some ways I’ve implemented or heard from other proofers on how they get their proofing jobs done well.
Before I dive into this focus list, I’ll be very clear: I know everyone’s life is not the same. Different phases of life mean there will be different ways you can focus. For example, if you’re a mom with a newborn or you have little kids running around or you’re a caregiver, not every one of these ideas will work for you.
So before you reply with, Must be nice to have a life where you can do XYZ, and write off everything as impossible for you, realize every single one of us has our areas that make it harder to focus, and some of these ideas may work for some but not for others. The point is to find what works for you and then make the magic happen. Saying it will work for someone else but not for you is an excuse to brush off help and continue to stay stuck where you’re at — and you can’t deposit excuses into your bank account!
Here are 18 tried and true ways to improve your focus as a proofreader.
- Start by being intentional about focusing. Tell yourself you’re going to sit down and concentrate, and then be purposeful about those efforts. While your focus plans may not always pan out like you want, you’ll be more successful if you at least make an attempt than if you tell yourself it’s never going to work for you.
- Work in a distraction-free, relaxing environment. The beauty of proofing is you can work wherever, but sometimes that means you end up in less-than-quiet places. However, if you can control your surroundings, move to a different spot where you’ll have fewer distractions. It can be a really small shift: if your dining room is chaotic, move to the living room.
- Turn off the TV. Unless you have figured out how to tune it out and you truly don’t notice it, shut it off. Your focus should be on proofing, not the news or your favorite show. You can catch up later.
- Turn off notifications. Close out of your social media apps and put your phone on DND. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Wear clothes that help you focus. Some people feel more alert when they do their hair and wear a nice outfit. Others, like myself, prefer to get a shower and then jump into stretchy pants and a T-shirt. Do what works for you.
- Use noise-canceling headphones or earplugs. I got this recommendation from a proofreading mom. She uses her headphones while her kids play so she can focus better. My husband wears earplugs to help him not get distracted when the dogs bark or I’m working on something around the house.
- Drink water. Water helps you focus better and gives you more energy. It also helps reduce muscle cramps and migraines. Plus with all the water you’re drinking, having to get up and run to the bathroom forces you to get up and move so your brain can have a mini break.
- Take supplements to help you concentrate. (I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, so consult with one before adding to your diet.) I take L-theanine and ashwagandha (affiliate links) to help reduce anxiety and relax, which in turn helps me focus better. They’re both natural products, and you can get them at places like Sprouts, Whole Foods, health food stores, or Amazon. L-theanine is my favorite, and I notice a significant difference when I take it!
- Get good sleep. Sleep helps your brain function so much better. When I get enough sleep, both my concentration levels and my proofreading efficiency are higher.
- Proof when you’re most alert. Finding when you proof best and structuring your day to work during those times will help you be more efficient and accurate as a proofer. For example, my brain is more sluggish in the morning so I usually proof later in the day.
- Do yoga or stretching. It will help relax your body and clear your mind.
- Pray or meditate. This will also help calm you. Every time I sit down to proof, I pray that I’d proofread well and efficiently. It doesn’t take long at all, but it does help!
- Get your favorite drink, snack, or pack of gum. Some people find snacking/drinking while proofing to be distracting, and some (like myself) proof best with something to drink or chew on. If I’m proofing a particularly difficult transcript, I can go through a whole pack of gum!
- Use a Pomodoro timer. Your brain isn’t meant to focus hard for long stretches of time. As counterintuitive as it sounds, taking mini breaks will help you proofread more efficiently. Use a timer to remind you when to take a break and rest your eyes, stretch, do another load of laundry, whatever besides proofing. Alternatively, you can set a certain page number (25 pages, 50 pages, etc.) and take a break after you get those pages done.
- Listen to instrumental music or ambient noise. I love listening to music to help me concentrate. I’ll turn on some genre of instrumental music on Spotify (I particularly like the Epic & Powerful Music, Whitesand Music, Focus Jazz, and Trance for Focus playlists.), or I’ll put on a commercial-free ambient YouTube video on my TV so I have something relaxing on in the background. (My favorites are Choolutter, Calmed By Nature, Cozy Apartment, and LoFi Girl.)
- Let others know you’re working. Communication is key when you work from home. It’s not fair to expect your partner, kids, or others in the home to know you need some focus time if you don’t tell them. Whether they respect that request is another matter, but it has to start with you communicating you’re sitting down to work and setting those boundaries.
- Change it up. I have my favorite place to proofread at home, but sometimes a change of scenery really helps to reset my brain. Try proofing in another area of your home, outside on the back porch, go to a local coffee shop, sit in the library, or find a comfy chair at a bookstore.
- Write your to-dos down. If your brain is always skipping ahead to the next thing you need to work on, try keeping a notebook by you when you proof. Whenever you think of something you need to do, write it down in the notebook and get back to proofing. That way it’s out of your brain but still written down so you won’t forget it. You can always transfer your notes to your planner and get them organized later.
As you’re working on focusing better, remember life isn’t always perfect and sometimes you have to roll with the punches. You can put all your concentration techniques into practice, but some days you can’t find a quiet spot or feel calm. And that’s okay. You can still get work done without the perfect proofing situation. Do what you can and make the best of it!
Now you have a lot of ways to help you focus better! You don’t have to do them all at once. Give them a try as you can, pick what works for you in the situation you’re in, and get to focusing better. I’m excited for you to get better studying/proofing time in!