4 Stress-Free Time Management Tips to Boost Your Translation Productivity

If you’re a linguist, you’re brilliant

You work hard to maintain your languages and study your specialisms.

You provide top-notch translation services to clients around the globe.

You offer stellar customer service and support.

Your marketing is inspired.

And you still find time for the nuts and bolts of business: bookkeeping, accounting and keeping track of industry news and legal requirements – while also having a life!

And yet, you probably have one fatal flaw…

Too many linguists suck at time management.

And when time is money, it’s a mistake to neglect such an obvious way of taking control and boosting your business.

Time management may sound like a chore (right down to the corporate-speak name – yawn!), but it offers big rewards for those who get it right:

  • More money. Using your time better is all about working smarter, not harder, which automatically puts more moolah in your bank account and makes work feel like a breeze!
  • More free time. You could use your ninja-like productivity skills to make more money, but couldn’t we all use a few extra hours in the day? Good time management means no more neglected workouts, no more forgotten hobbies and no more dreaded all-nighters!
  • More YOU. More control over your schedule means you get a happier career. You’re finally earning what you deserve, you have time to grow personally and professionally, and you can connect better with what really matters: the people and things you love.

And that’s not all.

Time management may not be sexy, but it’s the one USP you can’t fake – and a sure-fire way to develop the kind of competitive edge that keeps clients coming back for more.

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So how can a time-challenged translator turn time management pro?

1. Prioritise like a boss

There’s more to prioritising than numbering your to-do list (although that can help). Many freelancers struggle to prioritise, because everything feels equally important – but that approach will soon leave you spinning out of control, with lots started and nothing finished. Not good.

The key to prioritising is knowing your goals.

Choose two or three big goals for the year that will help you achieve success. Then, take your current to-do list (I know, I know, it’s big!) and try to match each task to one of your goals. If you have a task on your to-do list that doesn’t match a goal, that’s your cue to drop it.

The same applies to translation jobs; if they don’t serve your goals, don’t waste your time! In future, refer back to your goals every time you feel that FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Finally, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Some of the tasks that keep your business going don’t earn you anything (e.g. annual accounts). Can you earn more working than it costs to outsource the job? Then hire a professional and use the extra time to chase your goals.

2. Plan backwards to get ahead

Parkinson’s law says that a task will expand to fit the time allotted to it. Ever had a small project with a lax deadline take longer than a project three times the size? That’s Parkinson’s law. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: plan your day backwards.

The trick is to build natural deadlines into your work.

You don’t have all the time in the world to finish that marketing email, you have 1.5 hours! Like to live dangerously? Try the extreme version: if you work with a laptop, unplug it and make your ‘deadline’ the end of your battery life.

A firm end of the day will improve your work-life balance – and makes you look much more professional to clients.

3. Cosy up to your CAT

There are all kinds of brilliant tools and technologies available to help you get things done, from time-tracking tools (SDL Trados Studio has an app for that) and distraction-blockers to the humble CAT tool. But are you getting the best from them?

Virtually all translators use translation software for consistency and terminology management, but few actively use them to be more productive. Basic features like good translation memories for your languages, clients and specialisms are a must and make short work of long texts. But some of the best CAT features are buried deep in the software. Spend just one hour setting up templates, black-listed words and phrases, client-specific formatting and auto-correction, and you’ll save precious time later on.

Of course, a CAT tool is only as good as the translator using it. Whether you’re new to CATs or an experienced pro, it’s well worth investing in a seminar or webinar to make sure you know how to use your tool of choice. This is especially true if you’ve updated your tool since you bought it. New features are added all the time – and if you’re behind the curve, you’ll also be behind the competition!

4. Banish time-wasting distractions

When working from home, who hasn’t been distracted by household chores, pets, mail deliveries and more? Then there’s the web – an indispensable resource and the world’s biggest time suck. I know I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole more than once while researching a translation.

Here’s the fix:

Use the one-touch principle. Need to file away that statement? Don’t add it to your growing pile of admin – just do it! It will take less time than you think and a less stress-inducing workspace will do wonders to keep you focused.

Control yourself on social media. Hop online to ask a colleague a question and you’ll find distractions galore! Allocate specific times of the day to social media or only use it during your breaks for peak productivity. If you struggle, there are now plenty of apps that block distracting sites.

Ignore shiny objects. Remember we talked about picking three goals to combat your FOMO? Now’s the time to use them! Your new mantra: if it’s not a help, it’s a hindrance!

Take a break. First, pick some easy wins on your to-do list and zip through them for a quick boost. If that doesn’t help you focus, remember that resting up can do you the world of good, especially when you’re busy.

Between making more money, impressing clients and taking control of their hours, time management is the secret sauce of successful freelancers everywhere. By following the tips and tricks above, you’ll be well on your way to a happier, more successful, more sustainable career in translation – and who’d say no to that?

Click here for 30 free resources to help grow your freelance translation business >>