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Translating in Altered States of Consciousness
Thread poster: Peter Gleason

Peter Gleason  Identity Verified
Poland
Member (2008)
Russian to English
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Jul 15, 2013

I've noticed that I'm able to concentrate with laser-like focus during some translation sessions and get easily distracted during others. My concentration seems to be the strongest late at night and very early in the morning (just before dawn, basically). I am also able to concentrate for long periods of time without distraction for rush jobs.

Does anyone else experience the same thing? I think what's happening is that we're going into the alpha state, as I explain on my translation blog, where I list ways I use to get into this altered state of consciousness.

What I need are other ways of entering this state without staying up late or taking on a rush job. What about non-rush jobs during the day?

Do you recommend entering altered states of consciousness while translating? If so, what methods do you use?

[Edited at 2013-07-15 10:11 GMT]


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Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 12:36
Member (2011)
English to German
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Interesting topic Jul 15, 2013

I find the same thing happening to me - when time to finish a project gets short, the necessary focus is there and I keep going effectively for hours in a row. If I could work on non-rush jobs with the same efficiency, I could do my work in half of the overall time (wasn't there a principle to that - like "80% of work gets done in 20% of the time"?)

I found also that getting up very early helps me immensely to be clear, focused and very happy, but I prefer using these hours for outside work, as there is no better time for gardening or riding than the fresh and quiet early morning hours.

Very late I am not too good at anything anymore - I prefer to sleep relatively early.

The worst hours are after lunch. I am still trying to figure out how long I should nap after lunch - if I exceed time only a bit I am practically dead (half asleep) during the rest of the afternoon.

When I get too distracted I try some yoga exercises - they help to relax and stretch my body and refresh the mind.

I would also welcome other suggestions how to manage my mind at work.

Best regards,
Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro


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Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:36
Romanian to English
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To alter or not to alter Jul 15, 2013

I too noticed that my focus is better when I work on rush jobs or when I'm quite tired but must concentrate (probably the body compensates for something, dunno).

Without having any qualification or more than just common-sense intuition in this field, I believe there is a good reason why the body works as it does, and I think I shouldn't force this "productive" state of mind, but just go naturally with the reactions of my body to stress, burden, etc. I haven't read anything scientific about this, but I suspect that the long-term effects of this super-dooper focus can't be good.


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Peter Gleason  Identity Verified
Poland
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Thanks Anna Jul 16, 2013

Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro wrote:

I find the same thing happening to me - when time to finish a project gets short, the necessary focus is there and I keep going effectively for hours in a row. If I could work on non-rush jobs with the same efficiency, I could do my work in half of the overall time (wasn't there a principle to that - like "80% of work gets done in 20% of the time"?)

I found also that getting up very early helps me immensely to be clear, focused and very happy, but I prefer using these hours for outside work, as there is no better time for gardening or riding than the fresh and quiet early morning hours.

Very late I am not too good at anything anymore - I prefer to sleep relatively early.

The worst hours are after lunch. I am still trying to figure out how long I should nap after lunch - if I exceed time only a bit I am practically dead (half asleep) during the rest of the afternoon.

When I get too distracted I try some yoga exercises - they help to relax and stretch my body and refresh the mind.

I would also welcome other suggestions how to manage my mind at work.

Best regards,
Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro


Yes, I suspect that the 80:20 principle does apply here and that 80% of the value of a translation comes from 20% of the work put into it. I could probably also double my productivity by working on non-rush jobs with the same efficiency. I wonder if we're on the right track?
Regarding what to devote early mornings to, I was watching some "success video" on youtube and the guy said that you should make some progress on something you love or a dream project before accomplishing anything else that day. Sounds like that means gardening or riding for you. I also feel wonderful when I get up extremely early. It's something about the hours before dawn.
I wonder what the ideal length of a siesta is - some are so refreshing! Maybe the time right after a siesta is conducive to working in "alpha state," which I understand to be a transitional state between sleep and wakefulness.
I had never thought of yoga as a means for going into alpha. I now see that this makes sense though as yoga is often said to be a way to prepare the body and mind for meditation. Are there any positions that you find particularly refreshing and conducive to subsequent translation work?


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Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 12:36
Member (2011)
English to German
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Yoga Jul 16, 2013

Sorry, I don't know any exercises to reach alpha waves especially - I started to do yoga against back and neck pain and found that it does a lot more than just relieve the pain. I also tried some exercises said to help against sinusitis - not sure if they really improved the situation, though.

Working on things I like before doing the rest sounds counterproductive - we are brought up believing we should only do the things we like after we have accomplished something. But the success guy from that video seems to have a point - doing the nice things first gives the day a "special flavour" - I keep remembering what I did in my garden or with my horse throughout the whole day and it brings a smile to my face!

I tried to work with binaural beats yesterday - I will try again today. Let's beat 80-20!

Annamaria, I am aware that one needs to be careful not to get overexited and use any newly found extra efficiency to work even more than before - reminds me of CAT tools, meant to enhance our efficiency and therefore make us earn more but achieving exactly the opposite. So if agencies start to offer Binaural Beats CDs and Yoga lessons, we should be watchful For me it's more about those days when I find myself sitting on the computer after hours and find that I didn't really didn't get done so much - if I had been working efficiently I could be out in the sunshine already...


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Peter Gleason  Identity Verified
Poland
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Yoga, Pomodoro Technique, and Binaural Beats - What Else? Jul 17, 2013

Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro wrote:

Sorry, I don't know any exercises to reach alpha waves especially - I started to do yoga against back and neck pain and found that it does a lot more than just relieve the pain. I also tried some exercises said to help against sinusitis - not sure if they really improved the situation, though.

Glad to hear about your success. Maybe the right asana will do a lot more than improve translation productivity I'm wondering which ones can be properly performed during ten-minute translation-session breaks?
Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro wrote:
Working on things I like before doing the rest sounds counterproductive - we are brought up believing we should only do the things we like after we have accomplished something. But the success guy from that video seems to have a point - doing the nice things first gives the day a "special flavour" - I keep remembering what I did in my garden or with my horse throughout the whole day and it brings a smile to my face!

Yes, working on personal projects before other people's projects is counterproductive - for those other people I'm still unlearning the practice of only pursuing my hobbies after I've "accomplished" something that day. Granted, monetizing them does seem to help me to let myself indulge in them. Glad to hear that your morning pursuits bring you happiness throughout the day.
Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro wrote:
I tried to work with binaural beats yesterday - I will try again today. Let's beat 80-20!

Amen to that! I've been using them all week and seem to notice an uptick in productivity. The time I spend working seems to go by faster.
Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro wrote:
Annamaria, I am aware that one needs to be careful not to get overexited and use any newly found extra efficiency to work even more than before - reminds me of CAT tools, meant to enhance our efficiency and therefore make us earn more but achieving exactly the opposite. So if agencies start to offer Binaural Beats CDs and Yoga lessons, we should be watchful For me it's more about those days when I find myself sitting on the computer after hours and find that I didn't really didn't get done so much - if I had been working efficiently I could be out in the sunshine already...

Hahahah now that would be an interesting agency! I could see binaural beats integration into some online translation platforms used by certain agencies. Mandatory youtube yoga before each session might cut their costs!
p.s. Implementing the Pomodoro Technique (i.e. 25 minute intense work sessions) in combination with the binaural beats seems to be improving things. The yoga asanas would fit nicely inside the breaks between work sessions.

[edited for a typo]

[Edited at 2013-07-17 16:00 GMT]


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Iván Luchiano  Identity Verified
Dominican Republic
Local time: 06:36
English to Spanish
NLP Jul 19, 2013

I improved my sleep with Neuro-Linguistic Programming, it should also work on improving concentration. This method yields results only after several weeks (or even months) of daily practice.

Another thing I am doing is intense exercise. Every day I run until I get really tired. At first I used to feel weary at the end of the day but now I am getting used to it. On the other hand, my concentration has notoriously improved.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 12:36
English to Polish
+ ...
A frenzied mode of work Jul 20, 2013

I know that somewhat frenzied mode of work, which I could jokingly refer to as the berzerk state (or zombie state, depending on the rates), though I'm not sure I'd go as far as calling it an altered state of consciousness.

To me, it's more like accelerating to the final gear (6th, which most cars don't have!) and maintaining that break-neck speed over an extended period of time, which is probably why I like car racing games so much. Basically, I speed that car up to the max and then guide it under the principle of minimal intervention. I study the car's reaction and my own to discover the minimal stroke or brush of the computer's keyboard that will produce the desired effect of taking a corner or passing a tricky section in the optimal way, i.e. with minimum time lost and preferably no damage taken. At times I will correct the course, drift, drift out of the current drift to enter into a new drift, enter corners sideways and do all other sorts of things to conserve time, avoid damage, and overall achieve a flawless run.

Translation is very similar. I will type as I think, often go back (I use backspace heavily), retype a phrase as I forge it into a new shape, sometimes start over but usually just go back a little until I'm satisfied. I'll avoid both excessive literalness and excessive fantasy, just like you avoid the left and the right edge of the road (especially if it's rock... or thin air with an abyss below). My concentration rises to a very high level, and I can't immediately answer any questions or other interruptions from the outside (it will take a while before the communication is processed by my brain). With no distractions, I can sometimes go up to about 1,500 words per hour, though I've done more, while I typically do less. Night-time is somewhat more conducive to this, as distractions are minimal, ambient is usually lighter, there is nothing else to do, most people are asleep, and sometimes tiredness and want of sleep produce additional motivation to finish as soon as possible. It may be similar when the job is dull and odious and I want it out and away with.


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Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 12:36
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
Great description Jul 20, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

I know that somewhat frenzied mode of work, which I could jokingly refer to as the berzerk state (or zombie state, depending on the rates), though I'm not sure I'd go as far as calling it an altered state of consciousness.

To me, it's more like accelerating to the final gear (6th, which most cars don't have!) and maintaining that break-neck speed over an extended period of time, which is probably why I like car racing games so much. Basically, I speed that car up to the max and then guide it under the principle of minimal intervention. I study the car's reaction and my own to discover the minimal stroke or brush of the computer's keyboard that will produce the desired effect of taking a corner or passing a tricky section in the optimal way, i.e. with minimum time lost and preferably no damage taken. At times I will correct the course, drift, drift out of the current drift to enter into a new drift, enter corners sideways and do all other sorts of things to conserve time, avoid damage, and overall achieve a flawless run.


Lukasz, that is a great description and catches this highly focused state very well. I consciously tried to work like that during the last few days and did some really intense sessions of work - shorter units than I usually do, one hour each, of concentrated zombie-translation, with about ten minutes for some yoga and for making a cup of tea inbetween, and then racing on for another hour. Having read through the results of these sessions today, I find that quality is as good as when I work in normal speed (but of course the proofreader has the last word). And the best - it left me with enough time for the rest of my life and didn't make me more tired than working in normal speed. I'll definitively keep training that. I love to have more time for myself!


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
Tai Chi Jul 20, 2013

I started practicing tai chi chuan after a skateboarding injury destroyed my left shoulder 9 years ago. I've since recovered so I don't practice as much as I used to, but when I do, I notice a healthy improvement of my overall mood (and waistline!).

I think that improving concentration, like working better late at night or early morning, is more an issue of removing distractions. I blaze through my translations when my wife drags me out shopping (I love Khol's because they have what I call the "husband/boyfriend" section, where there's free wifi, a bunch of couches and electrical outlets where I can sit and translate on my laptop while she hunts discounts and calculates coupons - she once bought $40 worth of clothes, and a wallet for me, for $1.35!). At 5 am, no one is on facebook, no one emails me, and no one calls so I just focus on the translation.

That and caffeine.. Caffeine works wonders.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 12:36
English to Polish
+ ...
Thanks! Jul 20, 2013

Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro wrote:

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

I know that somewhat frenzied mode of work, which I could jokingly refer to as the berzerk state (or zombie state, depending on the rates), though I'm not sure I'd go as far as calling it an altered state of consciousness.

To me, it's more like accelerating to the final gear (6th, which most cars don't have!) and maintaining that break-neck speed over an extended period of time, which is probably why I like car racing games so much. Basically, I speed that car up to the max and then guide it under the principle of minimal intervention. I study the car's reaction and my own to discover the minimal stroke or brush of the computer's keyboard that will produce the desired effect of taking a corner or passing a tricky section in the optimal way, i.e. with minimum time lost and preferably no damage taken. At times I will correct the course, drift, drift out of the current drift to enter into a new drift, enter corners sideways and do all other sorts of things to conserve time, avoid damage, and overall achieve a flawless run.


Lukasz, that is a great description and catches this highly focused state very well. I consciously tried to work like that during the last few days and did some really intense sessions of work - shorter units than I usually do, one hour each, of concentrated zombie-translation, with about ten minutes for some yoga and for making a cup of tea inbetween, and then racing on for another hour. Having read through the results of these sessions today, I find that quality is as good as when I work in normal speed (but of course the proofreader has the last word). And the best - it left me with enough time for the rest of my life and didn't make me more tired than working in normal speed. I'll definitively keep training that. I love to have more time for myself!


Thanks, Anna! My other gaming experience is with the RTS genre (real-time strategy), and that's where I learnt that speed could be trained. The best example of this is APM, or actions per minute, which is a rough measure of your 'mechanics'. A high APM – and professional players often don't go below an average of 150 in a match, with periods of 300 or so – means that you can do so many things in one minute. You'd think that you need to have them all in your brain, but you don't really. If you train to be fast like that, you will eventually end up relying on muscle memory and trained reflexes for a lot of things, freeing up resources in your brain to deal with whatever requires a more creative approach (or basically more analysing), once the mechanics have been relegated to your muscle memory and reptile brain. But those smashing-fast guys tend to begin from so called APM-spamming, basically playing fast just to play fast, even if they have to make silly actions and lose the game for it. It takes them a long while before they can 1) even reach such high numbers, 2) actually make ~80% of the actions usable (rather than redundant or otherwise unnecessary). One method of training is by just forcing it, like I said, another by improving your timings on memorised sequences (e.g. the 'build orders', i.e. the first ~7 minutes of your gameplay, sometimes simplifying the strategy and tactics to focus instead on improving action and reaction speed).

If you want to do something like that in translation, I guess the way to go is to practice fast touch-typing, for example by devoting a nearly unbroken fortnight to concentrated training, intuitive mouse movements (by turning off acceleration and setting your mouse to an uninterpolated resolution with 1:1 aspect ration between the mouse's and the screen's resolution)... and just forcing yourself to zombie-translate like you did. I suppose you need to develop the raw speed first before honing the accuracy if you want some really, really high speeds. I was the type of player who put accuracy and non-redundancy first, and I never reached their speeds throughout extended periods; I could register even ~400 APM in tight situations, but rarely more than 70 as a whole-game average (even at the point where I'd beat guys with twice my own average speed) due to not really doing much when the game wasn't forcing me to. The difference was that the real pros didn't need the game to force them to unfold that speed, they forced themselves. They didn't really allow themselves to be slow or do little even when not much was going on in the objective sense. They'd always at least be warming up – or staying warm – to maintain the top speed for when it's really needed (it always takes some time to shake off slumber, by which time it may be too late). In short, I'd go for concentrated training focused on speed first and foremost. From there you could proceed to bring your accuracy to par with your speed. I do know a PolishGerman translator who can produce 7 pages per hour quite easily, over extended periods of time. I'm not sure how she got there, but I'd think that she must have zombied it early on.

To sum up, if your typing is fast and accurate, if your mouse is basically an extension of your hand (or brain, actually), if your dictionary checking, Googling and other research are optimised for speed, that allows your brain to avoid being bottlenecked by your physical limitations so much. If you can type (and operate the software) as fast as you can build sentences and arrive at the right wording, you'll be in your proverbial sweet spot. Additionally, if you zombie it for a while, you might be able to increase the speed at which you produce competent communication, just like interpreters do, especially the simultaneous ones, as opposed on the consecutive ones that rely on memory instead.

Speaking of which, I think zombie translation may have killed my consecutive interpreting. I forget the content mid-sentence unless I'm having a really good day (in which case I could translate, say, several minutes or several paragraphs worth of text if it doesn't contain detailed specific data).

[Edited at 2013-07-20 19:53 GMT]


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Peter Gleason  Identity Verified
Poland
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Iván, can you recommend an NLP program? Jul 27, 2013

Iván Luciano wrote:

I improved my sleep with Neuro-Linguistic Programming, it should also work on improving concentration. This method yields results only after several weeks (or even months) of daily practice.

Another thing I am doing is intense exercise. Every day I run until I get really tired. At first I used to feel weary at the end of the day but now I am getting used to it. On the other hand, my concentration has notoriously improved.


Coincidently, I had been experimenting with this too. Thanks!


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Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 12:36
Member (2011)
English to German
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Unfortunately (or luckily) not a gamer... Jul 29, 2013

Thank you for your detailed descriptions, Łukasz. I am not a gamer (I guess it's just too nice outside of my door to spend more time than necessary looking at a screen), but I can follow your thoughts very well and find them really interesting - it almost makes me wish to try some games to train my speed... I do sometimes experience this kind of acceleration when I hit keyboard shortcuts really automatically and very quickly for a while and I know that other times I will be searching for the keys or have to think about which ones to hit. But I also believe this could be trained. I guess a lot of change can be brought about if I really forced myself to "zombie-work" every time I work and not to allow anymore for any "sloppy" work sessions. How this works in the long run needs to be tested, of course - I might get faster or I might get stressed.

Typing is definitively a weak point, it got a lot better but still needs training. I change many sentences afterwards - I really just know if they "work" when I see them written on the screen and that slows me down. Training to write only finished sentences seems to be difficult - and for that reason I haven't bought any speech recognition software yet. But maybe it would force me to produce more finished phrases and I should just go for it - many people say it increases their speed well beyond typing. I recall a thread where people related some of their experiences about changed translation processes with speech recognition - anyone remembers that discussion?

I am not sure though why you would switch the mouse to 1:1 - doesn't that mean the necessary hand movements would be larger, or do I misunderstand something?

Best regards,
Anna


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Peter Gleason  Identity Verified
Poland
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Re: Tai Chi Aug 10, 2013

Triston Goodwin wrote:

I started practicing tai chi chuan after a skateboarding injury destroyed my left shoulder 9 years ago. I've since recovered so I don't practice as much as I used to, but when I do, I notice a healthy improvement of my overall mood (and waistline!).

I think that improving concentration, like working better late at night or early morning, is more an issue of removing distractions. I blaze through my translations when my wife drags me out shopping (I love Khol's because they have what I call the "husband/boyfriend" section, where there's free wifi, a bunch of couches and electrical outlets where I can sit and translate on my laptop while she hunts discounts and calculates coupons - she once bought $40 worth of clothes, and a wallet for me, for $1.35!). At 5 am, no one is on facebook, no one emails me, and no one calls so I just focus on the translation.

That and caffeine.. Caffeine works wonders.


Are the Tai Chi instructions online or can you download them? Glad to hear you got good results.

And thanks for the tip on how to survive Khol's


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Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:36
English
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It may not be an alpha state, Aug 10, 2013

that I go into... But I have an iTunes playlist that I assembled of calm, soothing, classical music that I play softly as background while proofreading and editing. I've noticed that now the instant I turn on that playlist, with the first note there is a definite shift in my consciousness. I tend to go into what I call "work mode." That is, I seem to be conditioned to become focused only on the text and ultra-perceptive (re: errors, typos, etc.) when I hear that music. God knows what will happen if I hear any of that music away from my computer....

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