Making vows to become more efficient at time management are a bit like making vows to keep New Year’s resolutions, aren’t they? On January 1, you the freelance translator, immediately spring into action to stop or start doing (insert bad habit/good habit here). You start strong, but quickly exhaust yourself. Invariably, the new habit doesn’t stick and you default to your old ways. But not this time around! To help you turn over a new leaf, we’re offering a few simple steps you can take to create a time management strategy that you start and keep.
5 Time Management Tips Every Freelance Translator Should Know
Figure out how you are spending your time
We can’t effectively change a behavior if we don’t know what’s causing it. One way to track your use of time is by keeping a time journal. It sounds hokey, but the results speak for themselves. The best way to do this is in Excel. Each day of the week and all 24 hours of the day can be segmented into half hour increments (you can segment your time into whatever increments you like). Once you’ve done that, print it and keep it with you during the day, jotting down your activities and the amount of time you spend on each one. At the end of the week, total how much time you spent on the activities you can categorize. You’ll be astonished at how much time you’re spending watching TV and updating Facebook.
Put Everything in Writing
There’s a lot crammed into a freelance translator’s head and oftentimes in several languages! Give your brain a rest: Start writing down the things you need to accomplish. Freeing up some of that space in your head will allow more room for the creative energy you need. No doubt, you have a long list of things to do, which might seem overwhelming. That’s why we keep two lists. One is a master list where, on Sunday evening before bed, you log everything you need to accomplish for the week. After you’ve done that, assign the tasks to your second list, the one where you document your daily tasks. Having separate logs will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and help you stay on schedule.
Be honest: do you really work better under pressure?
The ability to work well under pressure has become a sort of badge of honor. We put it on our resumes and brag about it, but if you’re honest with yourself, saying, “I work better under pressure” is little more than a socially-respectable form of procrastination, one that many of us picked up in college. Remember “pulling an all-nighter?” Was it ever really necessary? And was our work actually better for it? Probably not.
If you’re a freelance translator who has a habit of working “better” under pressure (i.e. procrastinating), go back and review your work once you’ve had time to get some sleep, shower and eat a decent meal. It’s not always true, but more often than not, the work could’ve been better had you given yourself sufficient time and rest.
Rethink the way you spend your idle time
Down time is essential to your health and sanity, but many of us squander it on impulsive (as opposed to substantial) indulgences. Take time-sucker websites like Facebook, Pinterest, Tumbler and YouTube. For many of us, typing in the URL to these sites has become a reflexive act: we don’t even know we’re doing it. What’s worse, we passively spend hours a week on these sites without being able to recall a single moment of it. Why not skip passive activities like this for more quality engagement with family, friends, our pets and ourselves? Should you blacklist your favorite websites and blogs? Nah, but it might be wise to figure out how much time you’re spending on them and calculate the cost/reward ratio of your Internet perusal habit.
Make that time you spend waiting around count
We spend a lot of time waiting around. Say, for example, that you get weekly allergy shots (like me). More often than not, I end up sitting in the office for at least ten to fifteen minutes, sometimes more. Instead of watching CNN (guilty) or passively soaking up the looping doctor’s-office health video (guilty) you’ve seen 300 times, bring some work with you. That’s fifteen minutes of quality time you can reclaim later on in the day when you need it most.
Every translation project is different, but as you try to make the most of your time, set goals for yourself. An experienced translator should be able to translate somewhere around 300 words an hour (2400 words a day). If you’re spending a lot of time researching terminology (which tends to eat up a lot of time), try shooting for 1600 words per day.