Six Tips for Managing Tight Translation Deadlines

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Buyer persona: Linguists, Translators

It is common for language professionals to be faced with tight deadlines while handling various linguistic assignments. I have been there, which is why I am bringing you practical ideas that can help you to get things done right, on time, and with little to no hassle.

Many linguists ask themselves this question: How do you handle a task under pressure with limited time? This can mean a part-time or contract job if you are working as a freelance linguist. What makes things tricky if you are one is that freelance linguists manage solo careers, hustling on their own to get the job done.

When I was writing my book I called, “Essentials of Career Management for Language Professionals”, I had the opportunity to reminisce about my professional journey as I also investigated the issue of pressure associated with tight deadlines. Therefore, I have put together the following six steps to help you successfully carry out your projects and meet your set deadlines:

Set Goals

Setting realistic goals has proven highly effective when it comes to getting things done. Some routines such as quick fix methods and reacting under pressure are common in the absence of goals. There are many different categories of goals that can make a big difference in your work schedule.

Your primary goal should be to excel in what you do. In the case of translation, you should strive to deliver quality final products that will best serve the needs of your clients. To achieve this, you must be proactive. You must have your software and tools ready and get your mind sharp and ready to work. Once your goals are set, you must avoid being sidetracked.

Your second and crucial goal should be to finish your work on time. Remember, goals are not just there for the sake of making you feel good. They require commitment, and sometimes sacrifice. For what it’s worth, there are some things you must give up, for example, in order to pursue your goal. It can be a leisurely or social activity, or something of more importance to you.

To set important and realistic goals, you must think about the value of your work. For example, if you wanted to please your clients and build long-lasting relationships with them, that alone is worth setting quality time aside so that you can focus on serving them. Remember to set goals about rewarding yourself after working long hours, completing tough projects, and achieving big success. These motivations will help you stay focused. Read more about goal setting in my book, Essentials of Career Management for Language Professionals.

Track Your Performance

Performance tracking has never been easier. If you use translation software, features such as automation can easily help you to determine how long a task will take to complete. Clients and project managers even use these features to set deadlines for linguists.

At the beginning phase of the project, the project manager can easily analyze a project and determine translation, review, and proofreading timescales. As a linguist, you could leverage the same features and plan your work schedule. Since you already know the word count and your average daily output, that is a good way to start.

For larger projects, you should strive to do more than the average in order to make up for the unexpected. Have you ever started working on a project and found it a lot faster in the beginning but sort of stagnated as you go? This can be caused by different factors. First, when you start, you have more energy—both physical and mental.

As you progress in your work, you may find it tiring, have other responsibilities to attend to, or face some unforeseeable circumstances. This is why it is a smart idea to do more than just the average so that you have some banked work in case of stagnation. It is best to do as much as you can without worrying about your daily capacity than sticking with the routine. Keep in mind that the time you save will serve your overall goal down the line.

Take Breaks

Breaking is not optional. One of the main reasons some linguists burn out is that they work hard and nonstop. I understand that you have a deadline to meet. However, your health is a priority. You will find it a lot easier to take a break if you have followed through your goal and are happy with your performance.

Among other benefits of taking breaks, Forbes Contributor Jenn Lofgren states that “When we take breaks, even small ones throughout the workday, the benefits we reap can be immediate in both clearer, longer-term thinking and in shorter-term, strategic systems thinking.”

Are you on a good track with your work? If yes, take breaks as needed. Breaks help you to build momentum, stay healthy, and sharp-minded. In addition, being overtired will open a door for issues in your job. It is very rare to do a good job while tired. This is especially the case for tasks that require mental energy such as translation. At all costs, make sure to take breaks and get enough rest, especially when faced with a tight deadline.

How do you take a break if you don’t even have time to complete your project on time? This is why it is crucial to have a strong start. I sometimes advise linguists to take on projects at their discretion. If you don’t feel like you have enough time to meet the deadline, you shouldn’t accept the project in question. Assuming that you had enough time, your overall goal and performance will help you to save time for break.  

There are many benefits to taking a break while handling tight deadlines. In the first place, it helps you to think over your work. When we work fast enough to complete a task, sometimes we may miss an important detail. In addition, going away from your desk or computer will help you to come up with the best decisions and fresh ideas such as which terminology and style to utilize in your translation job.

Do Physical Exercise

Physical energy boosts productivity. Harvard Health Publishing demonstrates that moving more can help give you more energy, through several mechanisms. According to the authors of the Harvard Health Publishing’s article, exercising also boosts oxygen circulation inside your body and allows your body to function better and to use its energy more efficiently. Plus, your body gets a boost from an exercise-induced increase in hormone levels that makes you feel more energized.

Exercising can be as easy as going for a walk. In most cases, working in offices and enclosed areas can inhibit productivity due to congestion and low oxygen levels. If you are one of those linguists who work in those conditions, getting some fresh air can significantly boost your energy level and increase your productivity.

However, there is no limit as to what you can do to exercise. One of my best friends and hardworking linguists that I know of likes to go for a run. You can try going to the gym, riding a bicycle, etc. based on the nature of your work and outdoor conditions. By doing so, your blood will flow better, helping your body to function better and your brain to think clearly.

Don’t Yield to Pressure

Following the above steps will not only help you to yield your desired results, but also keep your work under control. In some cases, if you still have a big chunk of work to do and the deadline is approaching, it is easy to yield to pressure. How can you avoid that?

First, it is good to understand why you should avoid yielding to pressure. Most linguists make common mistakes such as typos, mistranslation, and under or over translation because they have run out of time to review their work.

I personally do receive emails from our linguists that state something completely different than what they meant to say because they wrote under pressure. Pressure affects your reputation as a linguist. In most cases, it turns off your clients so that they stop working with you.

It is high time you avoided yielding to pressure. The best way to do that is to plan your work, track your progress, and act accordingly instead of reacting to delays and resorting to quick fixes. Once you divide your work into bite-sized batches, it becomes much easier to spread it throughout your timeline.

Once you know how much work you have done, it can help to predict how long the rest will take you. Remember, as a translator, you will need time to review your work and make necessary changes by editing and proofreading your translation. If completed earlier than your deadline, it will help you to think about what you have done and prepare your delivery package.

Reward Yourself

Rewarding yourself for your hard work is a common motivation in the workspace. It is simply a way to celebrate your accomplishment. Plus, it fosters your habit of working toward your goals. You have worked hard and achieved your goal. Now what? You should reward yourself. This may sound a bit too fancy, but it can be as easy as treating yourself to something you love or missed while faced with a tight deadline.

Is it a cup of coffee or an ice-cream sundae? Back in the day, I used to ask my cook to make me a meal I loved or hadn’t had in a long time so that I could go home to a nice dinner, have a hot shower, and relax afterwards. This helped me to start my new day with a fresh mind and some stamina to do more work. You may also have realized that thinking about something you miss while working can sidetrack you.  

Some linguists go to the gym, have a massage, or watch their favorite show. Some rewards can serve both purposes—help you to stay healthy so that you can do your work longer and motivate you to perform at your best. You should think about your possible reward at the beginning of a tight deadline.

What else can you add to the above list that can help a linguist to smoothly manage a tight deadline? Let me know your thoughts below. Thank you for reading along!

Sim Ngezahayo
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