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Super Busy? That Might Not Be a Good Thing.

“Good, busy!”

Is the answer we normally give or receive when someone asks “how have you been?”

But sometimes we’re so busy, that at the end of the day, when someone asks you what you did that day - you might not even remember.

For busy translators - days are heavy with to-dos and trifling tasks. At the end of them, we’re often not a step closer to having achieved our goals. All we’ve done is complete another day and made ourselves exhausted enough to sleep into the next one - and repeat.

Being busy doesn’t equate being productive. Being productive means you’re doing things that are bringing you and your clients closer to a goal. You’re running toward something rather than on a treadmill or hamster wheel. This is true for both the beginner translator and the senior one.

Here’s our take on moving from busy to productive.

Having a to-do list vs setting goals

Having a long list of to-dos is suggestive of two things:

  1. You’re going to have a busy day
  2. You might not have a clear goal or priority

Take a look at your list of tasks. How many of them are related to your ultimate goal? Which one of these will take you one step closer to fulfilling them?

Before writing your to-dos, take some time to think about what you want from your translation career and what needs to be done to get there. Have this goal somewhere that’s easy for you to see on a regular basis, and let it guide your scheduling and tasks.

Your days shouldn’t only be filled with client work and admin. That won’t move your career forward. You should also be doing things that are working toward your ultimate goal, whatever that is.

Multitasking vs laser focus

We are the generation of multi-tasking.

A busy day is normal for a translator. You’re translating, interrupted by emails, Slack messages, Facebook Groups, and an excess of other things.

Even if you can find some vague connection to your translation work - even if you’re constantly checking your email to make sure you’re on top of client queries - you’re taking the focus away from the task at hand.

According to a study on digital distraction, every time your work is interrupted, it takes your brain around 23 minutes to fully focus on the task again. In other words - if you check your email 4 times an hour while you’re working, even if just for a minute, you’ve lost over 96 minutes of real focus.

Learning to outsource

Outsourcing is your friend.

It lets you focus on the work that brings you and your clients the most value, and it helps you focus on achieving your goals.

There are a lot of things you can outsource, and as you learn to focus more, your assignments and resources will increase with it. Some great things to outsource are:

  • Admin (bookkeeping, appointment making, accounting)
  • Content creation (writing, social media, image creation)
  • Prospecting (finding potential clients online)
  • Revising work (you can’t really have the final word on your own translations, anyway!)
  • Website design
  • Project management (when you start building a team, and you can have them use tools like to move projects forward smoothly)

The best way to figure out what to outsource is to write a list of all the things you do in a day. Note which ones need to be done by you and only you, and which ones bring you the most joy.

Everything else can be outsourced.

It’s an investment, not a cost.

Building systems to remove distraction

The most productive people have a system for everything.

Even for checking email.

They don’t just leave their inbox open with notifications that can pop up at any time.

No, instead they have specific hours of the day they check email.

Goals don’t mean much without systems in place to achieve them. So when you set your goals, work backwards from your goal to set up what your day-to-day needs to look like to achieve it.

Set apart time for client work, time for working on your business, time for communication, CPD and for resting and enjoyment. You can’t just work on non-translation skills or marketing when you get a chance - plan a reasonable time to do so, and stick to it. Create systems and workflows that are easy to follow and minimise the amount of work needed on your part.

Mastering your calendar

Your calendar is for more than setting deadlines and remembering birthdays.

White space on your calendar is the enemy of production and plants seeds of doubt.

Grant Cardone

Use your calendar to block off and plan how you are going to be productive and move toward your goals. Take a couple hours a week to set your goals for that week, and then plan exactly what steps you’re going to take to achieve them and when.

It can be as simple as buying a domain name or looking up the contact information of 3 dream clients. But block off your whole calendar so you know exactly what you should be doing at every moment in the day so that you can stay on track.

The more you track your time, the better you’ll understand how long it takes you to do things. This will allow you to master your calendar.

Having clear goals and systems to achieve them will also give you clear guidance on what to do during translation slow periods.

Being productive is the key to a joyful career

Being intentional about how you spend your time is how you can finish your day feeling fulfilled, instead of just another day of work you can’t even remember doing.

How do you plan out your days? Share your workflows with us!

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