A day in the life of a translator – Of course, I am in control

Plan Your translation project if you don't want to end up in the loony bin

Recent experiences as a translator have led me to reassess my performance in terms of productivity when faced with long translation projects. I noticed that I like to dive straight into every new translating project and, like the vast majority of what I do, I go hard at it for the most part of 3 or 4 days. My productivity is then very high. But on any project that extends more than 2 or 3 weeks, I start to get bored or interested in other activities.

Facing the problem of a big translation project

I’ve translated a few long documents recently and invariably my productivity is sky high in the first 3 or 4 days, while I get the impression that I’m going to end well before the deadline.

So I relax, start accepting other smaller translation projects. Suddenly, I’m into low productivity until finally realising that with the remaining time, it seems like it will be almost impossible for me to complete everything.

Luckily, I panic about delaying the delivery of the translation, so this always saves me.

So in a matter of two weeks, I output everything I have not produced in two months.

Happy ending, but I finish exhausted.

After some 4 or 5 recent experiences like this, I spent a year fulfilling my promise to myself that I would not face long projects any longer.

Until a good customer of mine offered me an interesting project, and then I needed to rethink my productivity and the way I work my translation projects.

Planning your translation project

And this is what works for me:

What I recommend for anyone who has ever seen panic weekends is: be pessimistic. Just because you produced 5,000 words on a great day does not mean you can keep that average for a month. I always do my best to negotiate comfortable deadlines, and in the case of my last big translation project, the secret was to establish and meet a relatively low average, which I could accomplish in half a day’s work, but with constancy. Even though I spent almost two weeks in the project, every day, I would open a worksheet I created and mark another business day, monitoring the average number of words that I would have to output, which was still viable without ending up being committing to the Loony Bin.

If necessary, weekends can be used to increase the average without increasing a working day.

Also, don’t forget that it takes time to review your work. I like to review slowly, not everything at once in the end. You can choose to review on the weekends or just at the end of the project. In this case, I suggest that you calculate a smaller number of business days for the translation, leaving a certain number of days for review only.

In short: plan yourself well and try to be consistent. Leave the adrenaline to the amusement park.

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