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7+ Ways to Improve Focus and Make More Money Proofreading


Updated: March 24, 2015

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  1. Another thing that helps me stay focused is to stand for a period of time. When I’m very tired, I’ve been known to put my laptop on a kitchen counter while trying to meet a deadline. It gives me a little boost and sharpens my concentration.

    1. SO TRUE!! Just changing your location and positioning can help so much!! I also like to wash my face, do some jumps on my trampoline, or drink a huge glass of water (if it’s been a while… then I go pee. HAHA).

      1. Hey Caitlin:
        I really loved your tips today. I do no think you left anything out. I am gong to exercise in a few minutes with Jessica Smith. I feel like I am coming alive again.

        Thank you.

        P.S. I especially like the part where you said we need to answer the emails and to not to procrastinate.

        Have a great day. Can’t wait to hear from you tomorrow .

    2. Sometimes I make my daughters do their math while standing at the kitchen counter, too. Keeps them awake and helps them focus. Great idea!

    3. Caitlin, I love the journal, I gotta have it. All of them are great tips, but the headphones and free excercise sites are the other two; I will make a priority.
      Awareness for increased productivity!

      1. I recently started journaling too! I try to do it early in the morning to organize all the thoughts on my mind. Another thing I do is make a to do list. I put mine on a post it these days. You can only fit so much on those little suckers, and that tenfds to help me focus on the most important tasks!

  2. Caitlin, I totally agree with your tips. I do entry entry on-site at various locations and the only way I can focus is with my headphones on. I listen to public radio and regular music channels. When I forget my headphones, it is a struggle. Meet basic needs is a important one also. I usually like to eat a lot of times a day but I force myself to eat enough to keep me going for 3 or 4 hours. When the stomach is calling, no more work gets done. I have been thinking about taking your course and this blog entry helped me see that the ability to focus is an important skill to have. Thanks for all your insight.

    1. Sweet!! Headphones are the best. You’re spot on about the stomach. My stomach has the loudest, most disrupting “voice” of all! 🙂 Focus truly is paramount to “making bank” in this line of work!!

      1. I wonder if this idea would work to tune out my dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I love my indoor Shorkies but! They CONSTANTLY demand my attention, wanting in and out every time they see a squirrel or whatever, I can’t get anything done! It won’t hurt them (I tell myself) not to go out every 5 seconds, then I have to tune out the barking! I let them guilt me into getting up and interrupting me. This is what I need to fix to be able to focus. I could try the headphones, put them in their kennels for short periods etc.

        1. Kim, I have the same problem, and because two of my three dogs are quite elderly, I feel even more guilty if I don’t let them out every time they stare at the back door. However, my vet did say that wandering and staring at nothing in particular is typical of older dogs and that I don’t need to assume that their needs aren’t being met. Maybe I should try some headphones just to be able to ignore some of their wanderings and insistence on going in and out all day long…

        2. Kim, try the mesh screens that you attach with velcro to the door that goes outside. I use this for my dogs. This way they can go in and out as often as they want and not disrupt my concentration.

  3. Great tips Caitlin! I’m starting to learn to do things with the TV off! I find I can be more focused and get more done. Standing is a good suggestion mentioned above – I’ll have to try that!

  4. I find I can focus if,

    1. I’m in a quiet environment. Music distracts me..all kinds of music. I have been known to use noise cancelling headphones just to block out external noise. Folks assume I’m listening to something, they have no idea I just want the quiet..lol

    2. When my dear hubby is not around. He starts sulking when I’m focusing(ignoring him) on other things.

    3. After I wake up from a good sleep. During my college days, I discovered that I could concentrate better after I woke up from sleep. Guess what happened? I started going to sleep with my books beside me so I could start studying as soon as I woke up. It still works today.

    1. Joan — this wins the best comment award!! I love it. Do you have a recommendation on noise-canceling headphones? I think I’d like that more than music. Today I used music and I am pretty sure the flutes were getting a bit obnoxious. Quiet does work best for me, too. My hubby also seems to sulk when I don’t pay attention to him!! Today he was at a convention expo and it was nice to have the peace and quiet in house. And I am so intrigued by your college days discovery!! How neat is that?!

      1. Caitlin,
        I’m not Joan, but I agree with the noise canceling headphones! Those and coffee were often the only things keeping me from throwing staplers at my coworkers last year!
        I would recommend the Bose QC15 noise canceling, over-the-ear headphones. I’m currently using the next generation, the QC25’s; they’re great, but the QC15 are better, in my opinion.

  5. Thanks, Caitlin: these are great tips! I went immediately and downloaded “Relax Melodies,” and I’m hoping it might do double duty and help lull my baby daughter to sleep for her naps!! I also turned off the banner notifications on my iPad.

    I find that when I get sleepy working on the couch, moving to the kitchen table helps (assuming my husband has stopped banging around when doing the dishes!)

    1. LOL OH, wow, my husband bangs around in the kitchen, too! Haha!! Glad you found the tips to be useful for you 😀 Let me know how it works with your lil girl!!

  6. Hahaha “A Thousand Years” would be the most distracting thing for me!!! I love me some Twilight. I agree with Joan saying quiet is best- any and all music is distracting to me if I’m trying to do something else. I turned on Mary Poppins for the kids the other day so I could do some housework and I ignored the housework and just sang and danced around with my littles instead LOL.

    My mind is probably sharpest in the morning/midday but that can change from day to day since my kids may have a good or a bad day. 🙂 So I’m definitely going to struggle finding that “sweet spot.” At night I’m usually so dog-gone tired that I just want to zone out and/or pass out.

    1. Lol!! I was so sad when Twilight ended… I need MORE! Mary Poppins was my all-time favorite movie as a kid!! I LOVE the scene when they dance with the penguins. Sometimes I proofread before I even get out of bed in the morning. Somehow that makes me feel good to say, “Hey, I made money before I even got up this morning!” LOL! Really, whenever the best time is to get it done is just that — the best time!!

  7. Caitlin,
    I just read this post and had to research the difference between lollygag and lallygag. I had never seen the second spelling before. Now you’ve got me proofreading and researching everything!

  8. Caitlin,
    How do you estimate how long it will take you to do a job? What factors do you take into account? Do clients often ask for short turn around times (like 2 hours) for jobs?

    1. It all depends on how long the job is. No, clients do not often ask for that quick of a turnaround, but each client is different, each job is different, and anything can happen. Usually turnaround is two to three business days.

  9. What a great idea! I’ve often done this type of thing in the past, focusing on what I’m grateful for, and it’s wonderful! It’s time to do so again and believe I’ll do so via the keyboard as that’s less painful for the arthritis. 🙂

    With regard to music or not, in contrast to you and several writers here, complete silence for long stretches can make me sleepy, although I’ve found the degree of sleepiness directly correlates to the amount of time my husband snored the night before, which confirms I need a nap.;-) To help me work, I’ve long relied on classical music, first with headphones in the office world, then from the speakers when I began to work from home.

    As to walking with you, I’m currently having struggles with mobility but am determined to change that and increase my endurance and range of movement. (I walked for *miles* when I was younger, and really miss it.) It will get better, if for no other reason that I’m not giving up. 🙂

    1. Hi, Margaret! I am just reading your post and wondering where you are in increasing your activity level. I miss my walks from way back when too! Reading your comment has inspired me and there weren’t even any “encouragement” cliches in it. It was like you were sitting with me and sharing your authentic self! I am encouraged!

  10. For yourself, Caitlin, might you consider recording short snippets on your phone? iPhones have a “Notes” app that might fit the bill, then you can record your thoughts elsewhere once you’re home.

  11. I don’t typically have trouble with external noise but concentrating for long periods and sitting for long periods can be difficult. I have rheumatoid arthritis and completely relate with Margret.

    I also have never been good with the journaling thing. I have tried several times but guess my heart isn’t in it.

    I appreciate your taking this extra time.

  12. I live in a rural area that doesn’t have cell service so my cell phone only works when I am out of the area. I do have a land line and DSL Internet. I am wondering if this will work as I don’t keep my computer on all day.
    While working on my Master’s degree, I found soft Native American music worked best for me. I also “glued my butt to the seat’ until I finished a paper.

    1. As long as your clients know what to expect, it should be fine. I would advise, though, keeping your computer on at least during the afternoon and evening, especially if you want to build a client base. You may need to make changes to how you normally do things 🙂

  13. I have to have as much quiet as possible when I’m working. This means no TV, no music, nothing. A slight bit of white noise does help me in blocking out certain distractions of life as I know it but there is still too much of a good thing. Maybe I’m overly sensitive to music and sound in general but I cannot work effectively with background noise, not even classical music. Yes, I’m a weirdo but I know what works for me and what doesn’t! I’ve chosen to embrace my uniqueness 🙂

    Much like Elizabeth, I also reside in a rural location without dependable cell service. I have a land line and DSL connection. My cell is a smart phone and I’ve enabled email notifications so that I can receive those important things without having to sit at my computer all day. I utilize my wi-fi at home for my cell phone without burning through my data each month. There are a lot of plans out there and plenty of carriers offering unlimited everything at $xx.xx per month. If you are already paying for cell service, it’s certainly worth bumping up to a smart phone for a few dollars more and be able to get those notifications right away.

    Because of where I live, most people say job opportunities are limited but I say no so! I love working at/from home but will add that it takes real effort to remain focused on any work related task and not being tempted to do that last load of laundry. I keep an imaginary time clock for the days I set aside to work from home. I schedule myself a morning & mid-afternoon break, plus a small lunch break. Then I can choose what’s really more important. Laundry never wins! LOL

  14. I MUST have background noise to concentrate. When I was working on my Masters degree my go-to was The Big Bang Theory DVDs.

    I prefer working at home so I am looking forward to getting going with the program.

    1. Hi, Racheil!! I too must have sound, but I’m weird in that I wear the earbuds (not noise-cancelling as these sometimes produce their own little sound) but the other ones that block out sounds, and I sit outside. Something about sitting outside (in all that noise) enables me to focus like nobody’s business! I found the same thing to be true when doing homework late at night in high school. The radio was blasting music through my headphones and I became a focus/concentration superstudent! 🙂

  15. I love listening to all those nursery rhymes online as I work. They are so relaxing and uplifting. And when one gets too nostalgic, I sing along and then continue with work after the 2-minute break.

  16. I find that I can concentrate better and read about twice as fast if I am on a treadmill or recumbent bike at the gym. I believe there is research material showing that hip movement increases learning ability. They use this method and teach individuals with learning and physical disabilities while riding on horses. 🙂

    1. Cool! The office desks that allow you to stand while working made me think of the treadmill too, and I also used to read books sometimes during my morning walks without tripping, but I had to alternate hands to hold the book, so that fizzled out. Do you have any suggestions on what I can use to support the device I’m using to read?

  17. When I was attending online college, I had to teach myself to manage my time. It took a while but I finally figure it out. I would use my I-pod to block all the noise around me. Just you mentioned. And my family already knew that when I had my earphones on they knew not to bother me. Especially when I had to write my paper which had to be done by Monday. After the first year, everything else fell into place. I would take my breaks, and the good thing about being an online student was that I can be join my class at any time.

  18. I definitely agree with the timer! I constantly have to remind myself that I am not superwoman and need limits myself. Otherwise self-care goes down the drain. When this happens, I tend to binge Friends episodes by the dozens!

  19. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Suzanne Bowen and Jessica Smith! I was introduced to them through the 10 Minute Solutions workouts, and they are so good at maximizing the short amount of time. If you enjoy Pilates and yoga, I’d recommend Lara Hudson – she’s also great!

  20. Caitlyn, I am on day 3 of your free introductory course and am impressed with your comprehensive approach. Although the emails are brief, the multiple links to additional information provides a broad expanse of information. I have worked from home for many years, off and on. One thing that I think is crucial for doing that successfully, aside from the tips you provided, is to find work that brings out your passion. When I am working on a project I truly enjoy, the outside world melts away, and I am submersed in my thoughts and work. It’s still hard work, but gratifying throughout the process.

    1. Hi, Carolyn!

      I totally agree. Doing what you love is a reward all its own — getting paid to do what you love is even better! 🙂

    2. So, Carolyn, you posted this in February. Now it’s August. Did you move forward with the program and if so, how are you doing with it?

  21. Thank you Caitlyn, I truly enjoyed the read. I’m going to try these methods and see if I can stay more focused at tasks.
    I was wondering if there are ways of staying focused when one has a cold and a pretty important deadline to meet.

    1. Good question!! Depends on how bad the cold is 🙂 DayQuil usually helps me feel more like myself. When I just can’t focus, though, it’s usually a sign I need to just chill … and possibly take a nap 🙂

  22. When I worked as a technical writer, I trained myself to concentrate for hours at a time, and to block out all activity around my cube. There were days that I missed lunch because I was unaware of the time, or everyone had left for the day without me noticing. So, I know I have the ability to stay focused for long periods of time, but I am concerned about the distractions I will face at home, like my husband, his tv watching, him trying to talk to me, etc.

    1. It can be difficult if you’re not used to a home environment, but it isn’t hard to recondition yourself to do just what you did at your previous job at home. If you can find a room that you can hide away in and do your work, you should be fine. Headphones with some soft instrumental music or background noise really helps. 🙂

    2. My family and I have a “code” for when they can interrupt me and when they shouldn’t. If I’m wearing my headphones, don’t interrupt unless it involves blood, broken bones, or seizures. No headphones, ok.

    3. Oh, husbands!! I have this thing about being most focused at night after everything is done and my kid is asleep. Unfortunately, I cannot take advantage of it because hubby wants to talk and watch TV and he gets really annoyed if I tell him I have to work on something. It’s like having another kid!!

  23. I also need background noise to focus! If I’m in a room that is completely silent, my mind will wander off to distant places. When I’m at home, I’ll go to my living room where there is a lot of natural light and open the window. That way I can hear the sound of the cars, the birds, etc. However, sometimes that’s still not enough. When I really need to be efficient with my time I go to my university’s student learning center (even though I’m not a student anymore). There’s tons of light there and people moving and making background noise, yet I still get a small private space of my own. Believe it or not, I’m most efficient there.

  24. I find that it really depends on my mood whether or not I need background noise to focus. Definitely during the day, since I always have 4 kids running around making noise! My biggest challenge to focusing is those 4 kids; we homeschool, so they are ALWAYS around, and the youngest ones are not great at not interrupting me, even when I tell them I can’t be interrupted. I guess the first thing for me to do will be to train them better at that. Do you think that working in 1/2 hour and 1 hour increments can be effective for this type of proofreading? Early morning/late evening while kids are sleeping would be ideal, but I am dead tired at those times, so I’m not sure how well that would work.

    1. Hi, Lia! I have been a medical transcriptionist for about 16 years, and I find that taking 8- to 10-minute breaks after each hour really keeps me steady. During those breaks, I make sure I am doing something totally unlike sitting and typing, and I am surprised at how much I actually get done outside of work with these breaks. They have made work seem like the dessert.

  25. The way I focus is to play Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man. It’s just 4 songs but they keep me focused. As far as focusing in my life, I am very active in my local church. As far as the workout, I will do that

  26. I work best when my living space is in order. If the kitchen is a mess or the laundry hamper full it nags at the back of my mind while I’m trying to work on other things. If they are bothering me I try to blitz them- especially the quick things like throwing the laundry in the washing machine- so that I can have a mind that’s free of clutter.

  27. After 14 years of transcription work at home, I rely on noise-canceling headphones. I work early mornings best but if I have to work later in the day I do take a nap first. Then my mind is fresh and I can plow through a lot of work! Love all the comments!

  28. I was previously a medical transcriptionist and found that I could get into the “zone” by having a cup of strong coffee and playing soft classical music. Also, depending on what discipline of medicine it was, the longer I could type without a break (like psychiatry as opposed to podiatry).

  29. Thanks for all the tips and comments. I love getting practical advice from people who are having success before I start something new. I want to start out with good habits so I can be successful too!

  30. Distractions are the Bain of our existence! I’ve had a harder time since our daughter moved back home and I had to move my office to the kitchen. Here’s some of my ideas.
    Put in a doggy door for the critters. Then they can come and go as they please. Mine need a scratch or two periodically but that’s good for both of us.
    I work early in the morning on transcription (5 to 7 am) then shower and head to my day job. Sometimes I work in the evening too.
    To keep my sanity I sing in one choir and play for another.
    Husband is good at reminding me that I’m not typing. But he has his own at home job..quilting. He knows that when the headset is on, he needs to keep the distraction to a minimum.

  31. I read in an article to batch tasks and set a timer for 48 minutes to focus on one task. I do that frequently throughout the day and get up and walk around for a few minutes every time the timer goes off. It helps me to focus if I know I’m going to get a little break after 48 minutes, or just in knowing that a timer is going to mark my task time complete in 48 minutes. I don’t know what the theory is behind 48, but I’ve always appreciated off numbers 🙂

    1. Hi Michelle,

      I have heard differing amounts of time from different sources, but the general idea remains the same. We need breaks to stay sharp and focused! So I would think whatever length of time works for you, go for it! 🙂

  32. I agree that taking breaks is helpful with production and especially quality. It’s easy to get into “robot” mode when trying to complete a long task, and I imagine this would be especially true if I were working on a transcript that was rather dull. It would be easy to get into an automatic mode where you’re reading words and not considering the context, thereby missing spelling and punctuation errors. I think a short break lets you disconnect and come back reset, no longer just going through the motions.

  33. I have been working from home for over 20 years. My usual routine is: First thing, I pray, then shower and get ready for the day. Eat a good breakfast, which includes a cup of strong coffee. Walk into my office, turn on the computer. First hour and a half, I answer voice
    mails, emails, and text messages. Exercise for twenty minutes, then get into the car and show houses.

  34. I take a “comfort” break every hour / hour and a half and just step outside – give my eyes a rest for about five minutes. When I get back into reading I find that I go back into fully concentrated mode.

    I also ensure that my dogs are not in and out while I am working as this does cause an unnecessary distraction. My cat though – she sits on her own chair next to me and just has a very calming effect as she will just sit or lie there ensuring that I do what I am supposed to be doing 🙂

  35. How could you put the non-word “alright” in your post?? I know I’m fighting a losing battle with this one, but I refuse to accept that as a word. It is no more a word than “alwrong,” and people who know proper spelling and grammar should especially avoid encouraging the use of such a distortion of “all right.” It’s every bit as bad as using “alot” instead of “a lot.”

  36. Caitlin there are two things I do if I need to focus. One is to put on my noise canceling headphones and play nature sounds. I love the sound of rain and thunder. This is very soothing to me when I am reading! Secondly, when I need peace and quiet at home, I simply turn off the TV. It is very distracting when I am trying to focus on what I need to do.

  37. I am waiting for my next paycheck on August 31 to begin your full course. In the meantime, I will finish your introductory classes and read your suggested books. Anything else I can do until payday?

    1. Hi, Rebecca! Glad to hear you will be joining us! I recommend you also check out the “Blog” posts on proofreadanywhere.com. 🙂

  38. I love how these are
    **NOT**
    your run-of-the-mill ideas!

    I especially love the timer idea
    and the journal lead, thank u 🙂
    (hadn’t heard of Intelligent Change yet
    so just opened up their site to check them out…)

    Thx again for yet another thorough, thoughtful post!

  39. I can definitely relate to a bit of what you mentioned here. When I get super focused I forget to eat and it’s something I have to continually work on. I have also found that when exercise and movement in general is a part of my life, things tend to go a bit smoother. It brings a sense of grounding and accomplishment. I do not journal much but I do practice mindfulness in as many moments of life as I can so it doesn’t feel taken for granted or like it’s slipping away.

  40. My former medical transcription work was always done from home remotely, so I am used to carving out the time for it and dealing with distractions, and I suspect proofreading will require at least the same amount of focus and most likely even more, so I think I'm up to the challenge. I have learned to focus on life by shutting off my work when it is complete and am as disciplined with that as I am in focusing on work when it is time to work. I haven't done the walk yet, but I will shortly. I used to do short 15-minute walks on breaks I scheduled after 2-3 hours of work to get a second wind.

    1. That’s great, Jody!! Thanks for commenting. I still do these workouts on a near-daily basis. You’re 100% right that proofreading will require focus just like MT work. Being able to switch from work to other things without letting it totally consume your life is a skill I am still working on mastering, ha!! 🙂

  41. Considering my work requires standing for 12 hours a day I focus better when I get to sit. I focus on the more positive things in my immediate surroundings and block out the negative. I believe if you focus on the negative aspects of the day life will pass you by rather quickly. I walk at work all day so I believe I have that covered.

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