How to survive a copy editor’s schedule

If you’re like every single person on my timeline/news feed, you probably wrote a Facebook status or a tweet a few weeks ago about the stupidity of New Year’s resolutions (bold stance, by the way). But secretly, you still want to get organized in 2012 and finally stop wasting so much time. Or am I just projecting here?

Time management for copy editors and other second-shifters can be tricky. Going to work in the late afternoon is disruptive. Nine-to-fivers have evenings free to run errands and socialize. Overnighters have the morning after their shifts. But when your day starts at 3 p.m., your free time is split. It sucks. Here’s how I make it work.

Do what you can after work
I’m starting with the easiest tip because, well, I want you to keep reading. In most decent-sized cities, you can find 24-hour grocery stores, Walmarts, and gas stations. So think about what tasks on your to-do list can be accomplished in the middle of the night, and do them after work. Don’t waste daylight hours on nighttime tasks.

Be honest with yourself
Are you really going to clean your house when you get off work at 1 a.m.? Even if you belong to a 24-hour gym, what are the odds you’ll work out instead of going home to mess around on the Internet and watch SportsCenter? Some people can read, write, and pay bills late at night, but I’m pretty much useless as soon as I get home. Timing matters. Don’t let yourself put off tasks until after work unless you know you’ll be up for it.

Make early appointments
If you want to get things done, you’ll have to get up earlier. I’ve promised myself a million times I’d get up at 10 to go to the post office, only to stay in bed until 1:30 because I just felt like watching one more episode of “Frasier” on Netflix. People with normal schedules get up at uncivilized hours all the time, no matter how warm and comfy their beds are, because they have to be somewhere. Then they go do other stuff after work because they’re already up. So copy their style.
You can resist the temptation to sleep in by scheduling things like doctor’s appointments, fitness classes, or lunch with friends before work. If you have to be up and dressed for an 11 a.m. appointment, you’ll be up and dressed when you’re done at noon. And that leaves you with three more hours to do what you need to do.

Accept the idea that you might go to work tired
When I first started copy editing full-time, I was reluctant to wake up early because I thought any less than eight hours of sleep would render me incompetent at work. That’s ridiculous. People who go to work at 8 or 9 in the morning are probably tired three days a week, but they show up anyway. If they can do it, you can do it.  You’re a copy editor, not an air-traffic controller. You can do your job on six or seven hours of sleep if you have to.
Of course, starting your day earlier doesn’t mean you won’t get enough sleep. If you can fall asleep by 3 a.m., you can sleep eight hours and still be up by 11 a.m. A lot of copy editors are in the habit of staying up until 4 or 5, and you might be tired at your early appointments until you adjust. But you won’t die or get fired, and you probably won’t even make a huge mistake. So don’t let a fear of being tired (which, really, is a pretty lame fear) be an excuse to sleep away your free time.

Do you have time-management tips for copy editors? Leave a comment a shoot me an email.

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