Focusing on your work
Thread poster: John Fossey

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 23:34
Member (2008)
French to English
Dec 16, 2010

Translators as a rule are an intelligent and curious lot, interested in finding out about things. This trait that makes a good translator also works against translators, since it is very easy to get distracted by anything except the job at hand, and start wandering off onto other topics. I know I'm like that and I've heard others say the same, so I don't think I'm the only one.

How do you deal with this? Do you have tricks or techniques to keep focused on the job?

The fact is that its directly related to income, since we are paid by the word and not by the hour. If a translator gets distracted 25% of the time, that's a significant reduction in pay.

Now, back to work...


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:34
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
It's not all lost time or income Dec 16, 2010

I think that we all get to know completely unrelated things out of this curiosity you describe, and that these new --apparently useless-- knowledge can be and is an advantage in the long run in the translation career.

So I don't think that is lost time at all, just a form of "scattered continuous learning", I reckon.


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Frances Leggett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:34
Italian to English
+ ...
planned distractions... Dec 16, 2010

If I get too distracted, I risk missing deadlines and actually that is probably the main thing that keeps me focused - i.e. the fear of missing my deadline!

But otherwise I have plenty of planned distractions... I see something that looks interesting on web page while researching a term and bookmark it and once I get through another, say, 6 paragraphs, I can have a look.
I find that working with a small objective of, say, n paragraphs and then a quick break and another n paragraphs (or pages) and a quick break means that it all seems that little bit more possible...
But that's more about time management than overcoming the temptation to look at other things...

I think distraction is kind of inevitable... it's not a mindless job where you can do the same thing over and over again for 8 or 10 hours without really thinking about anything... I don't think I could produce more than I do currently even without distractions because my brain still goes fuzzy by the end of the day!

It's rule N°38 of someone's wonderful "You Know You're a Translator When..." list:
38- It takes you at least 10 minutes to look up just one word in a dictionary, because you find at least 10 other interesting words before the one you need.


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Michal Glowacki  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:34
Member (2010)
English to Polish
+ ...
distractions? where? Dec 17, 2010


So I don't think that is lost time at all, just a form of "scattered continuous learning", I reckon.


On one hand, I agree. On the other - I'd say it's a rationalization of that distraction (otherwise known as excuse)

There's always something interesting - what's on Proz? What's on my email? Anything new in the world? Oh, there was that word that I wanted to know, but I forgot...what was it? I know! . Like Frances, I try to set myself little goals that make it possible for me to do what I have to do during the day. I also think some sort of a "routine" helps - make a plan during your day, "plan" time for distractions (only call them "breaks") and plan that you'll work 9-11, then have a 15 minute distraction brake, then work until lunch, have lunch + 10 minutes of distraction, then work some more, then 30 minutes of distraction or something. If only I wasn't too distracted to do this every day...


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Simone Linke  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:34
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Pomodoro Dec 17, 2010

John Fossey wrote:

How do you deal with this? Do you have tricks or techniques to keep focused on the job?
...


As Frances has already indicated, if you have trouble focusing on your work, you'll need to split it up into smaller segments. I think the official term for this technique is the Pomodoro technique, and it does work indeed.

Basically: you work for 25 min, then it's time for a 5-minute break, then on to the next 25 minutes. Do it 4 times, then take a longer break. And then the cycle starts again.

The important thing here is that each 25-min segment has its particular purpose, i.e., you don't do 10 min of translation, then 5 min of e-mails and then 10 min of surfing. Nope, you do 25 min of translation - everything else will have to be postponed to the next segment. And if you have a lot of e-mails to answer or administrative things to handle, you'll set aside a 25-min segment just to do this.

This is much more effective because it takes you longer to translate, switch to your e-mail program to write a quick mail, go back to your translation and reread your previous sentences to remember where you stopped, etc. If all these 25min segments are dedicated to specific tasks, less time is lost by switching back and forth.

[Edited at 2010-12-17 11:04 GMT]


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 05:34
English to Croatian
+ ...
Attention span Dec 17, 2010

Are you talking about attention span? Or you are saying when something interrupts your train of thoughts relating to your translation material, you find it hard getting back to it mentally? This could be an indicator you need some time off ( like a holiday/vacation or similar, or simply to slow down for a while).

Like Simone suggested, it's always useful to take shorter ( and longer) breaks from work during the day. Even one-minute breaks are useful if they are constructive ( typical with visualization techniques).



[Edited at 2010-12-17 12:46 GMT]


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Dan Bradley  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:34
Japanese to English
Kitchen timers and Pushups Dec 17, 2010

Hey John,

I have a few things that keep me on track.

1 - Every evening I write a bullet point list of things to do for the next day, putting the most important things to do in the morning. I avoid checking my email before 11am as this starts me flitting around blogs, etc, and getting distracted.

2 - I 'time box' many tasks. Jobs tend to expand to fill the time you have to do them (whether it be a translation project or just cleaning the flat), so I like to give myself a limit and focus completely on what I'm doing. I actually like to use a ticking kitchen timer as it gives me a little adrenaline buzz when I'm doing things like sending out CVs and it really helps me zone in. To make sure I don't burn out I rarely work for more than 30-45mins without a short break.

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2004/10/timeboxing/

3 - I go to the gym 5 days a week including fitness classes at fixed times and have a busy social life which keeps me motivated, refreshed and reduces how much time I have to get things done. This ensures that I really have to work when I'm at my desk.


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Michal Glowacki  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:34
Member (2010)
English to Polish
+ ...
move move move! Dec 17, 2010

I can confirm everything said, but particularly:

I go to the gym 5 days a week including fitness classes at fixed times and have a busy social life which keeps me motivated, refreshed and reduces how much time I have to get things done. This ensures that I really have to work when I'm at my desk.


It's actually true that the less time you really have, the more you really do since you need to focus on doing something and then you need to go on to doing something else. I've noticed that if I have gym or other classes to go that I really enjoy, I'm much more motivated to keep myself focused until then.

I can also recommend physical activity - gym, jogging, cycling, swimming or any other sport. Even if I sit in front of the computer for 10 hours and I go to the gym for some hard-core spinning I always feel fresh and well afterwards. Any active sport (unlike chess) or cardiovascular training is good. Creates all the nice hormones and lets you sweat out the whole day. Worst case scenario - I go for a walk.

[Edited at 2010-12-17 16:25 GMT]


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Evonymus (Ewa Kazmierczak)  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 05:34
Member (2010)
English to Polish
+ ...
@Frances Legget Dec 18, 2010

Frances Leggett wrote:

It's rule N°38 of someone's wonderful "You Know You're a Translator When..." list:
38- It takes you at least 10 minutes to look up just one word in a dictionary, because you find at least 10 other interesting words before the one you need.



this one is excellent!


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Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:34
English
+ ...
Removed because I misread a post. Sorry. Dec 18, 2010



[Edited at 2010-12-18 11:35 GMT]


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sailingshoes
Local time: 05:34
Spanish to English
No mails till 11? Dec 20, 2010

I live in Italy, where everybody needs you to reply in 30 seconds to offers for jobs they will pay you for after 120 days.

I wasted so much time fielding unwanted jobs that I retreated... first no mobile, then no phone, finally mails checked c. every 2 hrs. It has worked wonders.

Next step is switch off the computer and hide under the desk.

I find rewarding myself helps. I'll buy myself something off iTunes if I get those 2500 words done by 16:00. Pat on the head and a doggy biscuit does not harm either.

You know you're a translator when you write like this.

[Modificato alle 2010-12-20 15:19 GMT]

[Modificato alle 2010-12-21 15:03 GMT]


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Jeweliana
Local time: 06:34
English to Arabic
Finally? :) Thanks all :) Jan 25, 2011

Dear translators,
I've been trying to find Aything about the point you discussed here: focusing on work while translating. But I didn't find any topic around the area throughout the web!
And now- as I've been feeling guilty for not being able to focus on translation for a long time (an hr for ex)- now and after I read about ur personal experience , I feel much better. And many translators feel the way I do. So thanks to you ALL from all my heart, you gave me awsome ideas about how to deal with my issue =) and inspiration as well.
Good Luck Guies


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