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  • Writer's pictureTony Deehan

Trimming the Timeline: Effective Time Management Strategies for Video Editors

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

They say 'Time is Money'. This statement couldn't be truer for video editors. In an industry where projects are often charged by the hour, the number one question clients have is 'how long will it take?' 'Ehhhhhh' is the usual first response.

The journey of a video editor can often become overwhelming due to the multiple projects, tight deadlines, and the need for quality output. That's why effective time management is crucial to excel in this field. Today, I'll discuss essential tips and strategies for video editors to optimize their time and increase productivity.

1. Plan, Prioritize and Organize

The number one most important aspect of time management is planning. As video editors, we are sometimes so keen to jump into an edit that we decide that planning is not important. But what happens when when we decide to take a break after 3 hours editing straight and don't return to the project until next Friday? Panic stations! You should begin by prioritizing your work based on deadlines, importance, and complexity. Break down tasks into smaller, manageable chunks, and set specific, attainable goals for each. This way, you'll have a clear road map to follow and can focus on completing high-priority tasks first. Websites like Trello are excellent for tracking progress, creating new tasks and implementing a detailed project schedule.

Secondly, it is important to plan everything in detail. This includes when you take your breaks. Sure, you may feel like you're on a roll with an edit and that you could do a 10 hour marathon. But that's the point. Editing can be a marathon. It's important to keep a decent even pace. So make sure to add breaks every 45 minutes in order to avoid burnout.

2. Create Time Blocks

Following on from the last point, it is also important to know exactly what you're going to do at a specific time. This helps you to save time and avoid stress when deciding which part of a project needs your attention first. Allocate specific time blocks for various tasks such as reviewing footage, editing, color correction, sound design, and exporting etc. By setting designated time slots for each activity, you can avoid multitasking and improve concentration and efficiency.

3. Utilize Templates and Presets

OK, so you have got your s**t together, so to speak. Now let's get into the nitty-gritty. Presets are a video editor's best friend. Well, apart from paying clients! Develop a library of templates, presets, or custom settings for commonly used transitions, effects, and color grading. This will save significant time during the editing process by eliminating the need to recreate them from scratch. And if you think this is cheating and that you are a purist, that's fine too. Create your own presets by saving animations, color grades and VFX for your next project. If you're editing regularly for one client, it's likely you will need to use that preset again. However, there is a plethora of free presets and templates on the internet that most editors use to ahead of the pack. So why not use the help when it's so readily available?

4. Optimize File Organization

Something that I really struggled with when I started editing was that I was a messy so-and-so. I get it, when in the zone, it's hard to concentrate on keeping everything in it's proper place. But what happens when you are looking for a particular clip or sound effect and you have to go through 500 files to find the right one? Not in the zone anymore now, are you?

Make sure to maintain a well-organized file structure to easily locate and access media assets, project files, and export versions. Create a consistent naming convention for files and use folder hierarchies based on project type, date, or client name. This reduces the time wasted searching for files or duplicating work.

5. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

OK, maybe presets are not an editor's BEST friend. But I'd argue that Keyboard Shortcuts could be at least his best man at his wedding. Video Editors love Keyboard Shortcuts. And why not? It is a shortcut after all. And shortcuts save time and energy.

Mastering keyboard shortcuts and learning to utilize tools effectively enables faster editing and timeline navigation. And if you don't want to learn all the standard shortcuts, you can create your own. In Premiere Pro, you can decided what keys correspond to which tool. To do this go to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts. Simple as that. You could also buy a mouse with programmable buttons, which means you potentially edit only using your mouse. Technology, ay?

6. Create Proxies

Long gone are the days where 1080p was the largest resolution an editor had to deal with. And yet, it seems like it's getting higher and higher, at a faster rate, and we can't keep up with the technology. 4k, 6k, 8k and so on. Where does it end. And how are we expected to keep updating our RAM size and our processing power.

Well, luckily there is a way to avoid annoying choppy playback and that is by creating proxies. A proxy video is a duplicate, transcoded file of a project's source footage that is smaller in data size and lower in resolution than the original video file. This allows you watch the footage back at a manageable resolution, while still being to export at the original resolution settings. This saves so much time for editors as they can watch their edits in real time without having to wait for choppy playback to catch up.

To do this in Premiere Pro, choose your clips. Then right click and click Proxies > Create Proxies. The you choose the file type / resolution you want your proxies to be. This opens up Media Encoder which begins to create your proxies.

6. Collaborate and Delegate

'A problem shared is a problem halved'. And I would say that if you get to this point in your career, it's a good problem. Sometimes, when starting out, it can feel like you are never going to get any work. And then BOOM! The offers come flying in. And you are only one editor. Luckily, there are other editors who are at a place where they are in need on work.

Leverage the power of collaboration and delegate tasks where possible. If your workload becomes overwhelming, consider outsourcing some non-creative tasks to freelance assistants or utilizing cloud-based platforms for remote collaboration. Many of these editors are very talented and handle your smaller tasks. Always seek help if you are overwhelmed. There are plenty of people willing to assist you.

7. Continuous Learning and Streamlining

With the advent of AI, it's becoming harder and harder to keep up with the technology that is available to us. However, it is vital to at least make an effort because the benefits are numerous. AI websites such as Runway ML, Soundraw and Adobe Podcast can take care of jobs that used to take editors hours to complete. Why wouldn't we use this technology to our advantage.

Make sure to stay updated with the latest trends, techniques, and other software advancements in video editing. The easiest way to do this is to join an online editing community, whether it's on Facebook, Discord or LinkedIn. Being in a community where editing is constantly being discussed will encourage learning.

Also remember to regularly evaluate your workflow for areas that can be streamlined or automated to save time, using the techniques above.


Effective time management is the key to success for video editors. By implementing these strategies, you can optimize your productivity, reduce stress, and meet deadlines with ease. I know it can sometimes be attractive to live out the movie scene idea of a video editor, working non-stop for 24 hours, stuffing their face with pizza and red bull. You should know that the best editors don't work like this. They plan, prepare and execute their tasks with efficiency and speed.

Remember, everyone's workflow and preferences are different, so feel free to experiment and adapt these tips to suit your specific needs. With practice and perseverance, you'll become a more efficient and accomplished video editor. And that leaves you with time to watch the clients come pouring in.

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