When I tell somebody that I am a freelance translator working at home, they usually react by saying something like this: “Wow! You must be a really strong-willed person! If I were you I would never be able to get down to work at home”. Well, certainly I am (oh how modest of me to admit it ;)), but I suppose this is one another must-have trait for any freelancer (not only translators/interpreters). However, sometimes even the most motivated person in the world is tired/bored/distracted/nervous, which is reflected in lower efficiency and speed of work. Taking into account deadlines, the good old saying that “time is money” (which is particularly true in translation business) and shrinking time for private life, it is certainly a negative phenomenon. But how to avoid it and always work fast and efficient? Let me describe some software tools which might help you achieve that.
- Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method invented by Francesco Cirillo in 1980s. In this technique you work for a 25-minute interval after which you take a short break (usually 5 minutes). Then you start the next 25-minute time interval followed by another short break. After 3 such sets consisting of 25- minute long work periods and 5-minute break, you take a longer 15-30 minute break. Obviously, all you need to have to use this technique is a clock, but it is much easier and motivating when you use a special Pomodoro timer. You have several options to choose from:
– mobile application: my first timer was Pomodroido available for Android. Apart from some basic settings such as interval length configuration it features a levelling system which adds some thrill to this technique as you want to achieve new levels of expertise (well, at least it works for me – a passionate gamer). However, using it for a whole day will certainly deplete your cell phone battery, which is not particularly environmentally friendly.
– online timers: One of them is Tomato Timer. It’s really simple to use, enables keyboard shortcuts and pausing the Pomodoro without resetting it altogether (it is useful when you have to take a break for instance to answer the phone). Adjusting the lenght of intervals is currently unavailable, but still it’s worth checking out.
– desktop programmes: Their main advantage is that they work even if you don’t have access to the Internet. Currently, I use Focus Booster in which you can adjust the lenght of intervals/breaks, decide whether sessions should start automatically and turn off/on ticking sound during session/breaks. The completed sessions are counted, so at the end of the day you can see how many minutes you actually worked hard 😀 The main disadvantage of this programme is the fact that you can’t pause the Pomodoro without resetting it.
Although it may not really sound like an innovative technique, using it does really make a difference. If you stick to it for a whole 8-hour work day, you shouldn’t have problems with translating 4000 words or even more a day. However, you will probably feel completely exhausted!
2. Keeping away from distracting websites
If you check out what’s new on Facebook, your favourite blogs and other websites every ten minutes, which obviously reduces the time spent on work, you may want to try bookmarking them using KeepMeOut website. If you visit the bookmarked website more often than the configured frequency, you will get a warning. If you prefer add-ons to browsers, it is worth using Stay Focusd (Chrome), WasteNoTime (Chrome and Safari), LeechBlock (Firefox). WasteNoTime creates reports on what web sites you spent most of your time. When you know what distracts you, you may prevent it more effectively :). There are also several applications which you may find useful in fighting e.g. Facebook addiction (although many of us use Facebook to market our services and for networking so I am not quite sure whether it’s a good idea to block it altogether). However, if you have problem with staying away from it you may use iFreeFace (PC, freeware). If you use Internet Explorer, you may want to check out FocalFilter (compatible with IE, Chrome, Firefox and Safari). Focus Me application (single user licence costs $18) allows for blocking not only websites but also computer programmes (useful if you are addicted to Solitaire :)). If you prefer freeware applications, try Cold Turkey which blocks sites and programmes computer-wide and is resistant to computer reboots. For Mac users I suggest checking out SelfControl app.
That’s only a short list of available programmes and their features but it’s worth knowing that there are tools that help freelancers squeeze the most out of their work time. Check out these techniques and let me know if you find them useful! Maybe you know some other techniques for preventing distractions during work? Feel free to comment here or on Facebook/Twitter. Oh, and please do not block Translite! 🙂