Language translators can learn a lot from Jerry Seinfeld

Posted on Fri, May 31, 2013 @ 11:05 AM

language translatorsA successful translation business certainly hinges on the quality of our work, but equally important is making the time to increase our visibility. Building up a roster of steady clients takes time and without an online presence, it’ll take even longer. We know this.

We also know that increasing our online visibility means blogging, leaving comments on other language translation blogs, Tweeting, using Facebook and LinkedIn. But how do we find the time and energy to do all of this when we’re so busy trying to do our job: translate?

Language translators can learn a lot from Jerry Seinfeld

We recently discovered a productivity secret called “Don’t break the chain.” Strangely enough, we have to thank comedian Jerry Seinfeld for this one. Here’s how it works:

First, set your goal(s)—and make sure they are feasible. Write them down and hang the list in a prominent place on the wall. Next to your list of goals, you’ll hang a wall calendar.

Every day that you accomplish all of your goals you get to put a big X over that day on your calendar. If you are consistent, the Xs turn into a chain that continues to grow as long as you continue to meet your goals. The goal is never to break the chain.

Seeing this chain grow is rewarding; it feels good to flip through the pages and reflect on all of your progress. And once your chain is a few weeks long, you’ll notice that you are less tempted to cheat or skip a day.  

While we prefer hanging a hard copy calendar on the wall—there’s a satisfaction in taking a Sharpie and making dark hard lines on it at the end of the day—you can find a digital Don’t-Break-the-Chain Calendar here.

If you’re looking for a few more productivity tips for language translators, check out two of our other blogs, 5 Time Management Tips Every Freelance Translator Should Know and 10 Networking Tips for the Freelance Translator.

Photo Credit: Alan Light


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Topics: Modern Language Translation, Translation and interpretation studies, time management tips for translators, Translation Classes Online, translation business

Rituals and routines: tips for language translators

Posted on Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 08:05 AM

language translatorWe wish creativity and motivation were formulaic, but every writer—or in our case, language translator—has to find his or her own way of tapping into them. We’ve always been fascinated by the creative rituals of others, so we thought we’d share a few of our own. While we can’t guarantee that these will work for you, we hope that you’ll at least find them interesting.

Dress the part
A colleague of ours—and a fellow translator who used to work a nine-to-five—recently told us an amusing story. Before she exited the corporate world and went freelance, she was expected to show up every morning in a two-piece business suit. And each morning as she slipped into it, she resented it. The first thing she did after going freelance was wad up her power suits, throw them in a black trash bag and drop them off at the local Salvation Army.

Here’s the funny thing: Working from home in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt was liberating, but she believed that—in some strange, psychological way—the new wardrobe impacted her output and quality of work. Although you won’t find her in a business suit, the wardrobe that replaced it isn’t a far cry from the one hanging on the racks in the Salvation Army. Her conclusion: “Dressing up” is a necessary ritual and when she doesn’t do it, her work suffers.

Warm up and stretch your mental muscles
You’ll never go to a professional sporting event and find an empty field. Hours before the action begins, the athletes can be found running, taping their wrists, stretching, strategizing, throwing, etc. Language translators are linguistic athletes and as with physical activity, we’ve found that warming up and stretching is a necessary part of our routine.  

Before we dive into the rigors of our daily work, we log into our Penzu account, an online journal platform that actually looks like a real journal. We may only write 100 words, but we never scrutinize it, never revise and never care how it sounds. We simply write enough to stretch our mind and ease into the day’s work.

Find an accountability partner
Our friends, spouses and partners may sympathize with the stress that comes with being a language translator, but they’ll never fully understand it. We’ve found it necessary to have an accountability partner—that is, a fellow language translator we “check in” with at least once a day. Our partner is someone we call or email in the morning and let them know what we’re going to be working on for the next four or five hours. Around lunchtime, we speak over the phone and give a brief “account” of what we’ve accomplished.

It may sound like a strange practice, but we’ve found it works wonders for our productivity and mental health.

You have a bedtime routine. Why don’t you have a translating routine?
We recently read a biography on novelist Stephen King. Amongst other things, we learned a bit about his philosophy on creative routines. For him, creative routines are no “different than a bedtime routine.” Here’s a quote from the book:

“Do you go to bed a different way every night? Is there a certain side you sleep on? I mean I brush my teeth, I wash my hands. Why would anybody wash their hands before they go to bed? I don’t know. And the pillows are supposed to be pointed a certain way. The open side of the pillowcase is supposed to be pointed in toward the other side of the bed. I don’t know why.”

Put together a morning ritual and follow it the same way every day. Like pulling back the covers on your bed before getting into it, the final step of your creative routine may make beginning your translation work a painless, almost reflexive final step.


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Topics: writing strategies, writing skills, Modern Language Translation, Translation and interpretation studies, time management tips for translators, Translation Classes Online, language translators, writing rituals, creative rituals

Write Room: A Distraction-Free Writing App for Language Translators

Posted on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 @ 15:04 PM

language translatorsThroughout the day, language translators are bombarded by distractions—some of them self-induced, some of them not. Work is progressing nicely, but then you catch a pop-up in the lower right-hand corner of your screen: It’s an email from your agency. Answering the email requires a phone call. You wrap that up, but now your coffee is cold. So you warm it up. And on and on the distractions go. We’ve found a simple remedy called Write Room; it’s perfect for language translators.

Write Room: A Distraction-Free Writing App for Language Translators

Basically, Write Room turns your screen into that beloved computer of your youth, the Commodore 64. Here’s what it looks like:

language translators 2.jpg 

Indeed, Write Room has a rather Spartanly appearance, but unlike Microsoft Word, it creates an environment that gets the computer out of the way so you can get back to being a language translator—not a YouTube browser.

Although WriteRoom won't allow you to create fancy layouts or insert tables and graphs, it will help you stay on track and get words on the page. Those of you who use can also take advantage of Write Room’s sync service to keep your translations in order. What does it cost? A mere $4.99.  

If you’re a language translator and looking for a few more tips for staying on task or managing your time, check out one of our other blogs, 5 Time Management Secrets Everyone in the Translation Profession Should Know.


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Topics: Modern Language Translation, Spanish Translation Course, Online Translation Certification Arabic, freelance translator, time management tips for translators, language translators, apps for translators

5 Time Management Tips Every Freelance Translator Should Know

Posted on Fri, Nov 09, 2012 @ 15:11 PM

freelance translator time managementMaking 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. 

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Topics: Modern Language Translation, French Translation Certification, Online Translation Certification Arabic, freelance translation, Translation and interpretation studies, time management tips for translators

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