Friday, 6 September 2019

Travelling like a minimalist


Who hasn’t yet savoured the lightness of living in a hotel room temporarily with just a few things packed into a suitcase? Regardless of whether we’re minimalists or not, when we’re travelling, surely we all experience the sense of satisfaction of living minimally for a while. The freedom that comes with not being surrounded by “stuff” (as many of us are at home) is just incredible!

The benefits of packing lightly

It’s that moment when you realise that you really don’t need that much to live and be genuinely happy. It’s a feeling which I, when I’m travelling, deeply relish. It was in fact the frustration with heavy luggage that set me off on the minimalism route back in April 2014. These days, I don’t lug much stuff around with me any more!

Packing lightly includes choosing mainly things that could fulfil several purposes

Packing lightly has resulted in the pleasurable consequence that I’ve come to enjoy travelling much more. Packing lightly includes choosing mainly things that, in theory, could fulfil several purposes. Example: I pack running shoes that don’t look too flashy, which I can wear for running, but also (in case a second pair of shoes should be needed) as ordinary walking shoes.


The minimalist way: Going digital

The BDÜ course in Forlì, which I attended recently, was excellent for a whole host of reasons. For example (and to stick with my minimalism theme), we were provided with the course materials in the form of files to which we could add our own notes using computers that had been set up for this purpose. And the files were immediately transferable either to our own storage media or uploadable to our cloud storage spaces. No piles of paper to lug home afterwards!

After my course in Forlì, I spent one night in Bologna and participated in an early-morning sightseeing run with Bologna by Run. It was already my second running tour in Bologna this year (this time with Andrea, last time with Alessandro), which just goes to show what an amazing experience it is!  I highly recommend sightseeing running tours: they’re slightly more expensive than “normal” guided tours, but worth every cent!


Guided running tours are slightly more expensive than “normal” guided tours, but worth every cent!


Combining several activities into one

As a minimalist, I love combining several activities into one, and my sightseeing run with Bologna by Run provided another opportunity to do exactly that: I was able to combine sightseeing, running, and (especially useful for me!) practising more Italian.

Minimalist and runner Anthony Ongaro recently noted: “I’m pretty certain running is the simplest form of exercise for most able-bodied humans. It’s as organic as it gets. Some bodies are made better for it than others, but I don’t think there’s anything that really gets simpler than that.” (Read the whole interview on the Run With Less blog by Grant Milestone.) And it is one of the reasons why I, too, love running. It’s so minimal!

Capturing the fleeting, beautiful moments

As a minimalist, I also consciously enjoyed the small moments during my “CPD mini-holiday” – however fleeting they may have seemed: savouring the taste of “real” Italian espresso; taking in the beauty of Piazza Aurelio Saffi in the centre of Forlì during an extremely mild evening; or the moments in the company of all the friendly people around me.

Minimalists, whether on holiday or at home, treasure experiences more than things


Minimalism in its essence is about being, not having. And I am all for becoming aware of the present moment and living in it. It’s not a state that we find ourselves in naturally as our thoughts tend to drift (often needlessly).

Minimalists, whether on holiday or at home, treasure experiences more than things. This is why spending money on experiences, rather than things, makes a lot of sense to minimalists. And the joy of travelling can be increased by minimalist means: by packing lightly, going digital or fully relishing those little moments!




I have since discovered that guided running tours have popped up and become popular in other cities, too. A few weeks ago, I participated in this guided running tour with Sean from Aye Run, exploring the sights and sounds of Glasgow, another beautiful city rich with history and culture:

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Jumping in: Italian legal translation in Forlì

Translators, how good are we really at our second (third, fourth) foreign language?

I recently returned from a short course in Italian legal translation, which was held in Forlì in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy from 1 until 3 July 2019. It had been organised jointly by BDÜ Fachverlag mbH and the Translation and Interpreting Department of the University of Bologna.

BDÜ Fachverlag mBH and the University of Bologna ran a short course in Italian legal translation in Forlì


I’ll be honest and admit I felt a bit like a fish out of water, because I found myself among seasoned Italian translators, who work with Italian (and German) more or less every day, whereas I almost exclusively work with English (and German) these days.

It is, in fact, not unusual for translators to give up their second (usually weaker) language at some point to henceforth focus on just their main language in their work. I, too, had been considering this move not so long ago, but then decided that I would want to keep my Italian after all.

This consequently involved implementing certain measures that would help me bring my Italian back up to speed again. I did this by initially just dipping in here and there (for example, by listening to Italian radio at home) and then, without further ado, by jumping right in: I signed up for a translation course in Italy.

The topic of the course was Italian and German civil procedure law, an area I admit I do not know anything about and do not aim to specialise in. My motivation for signing up for the course (as opposed to that of all other participants) hence was as minimal as it could be: immersing myself into the Italian language. No more, and certainly no less!

The topic of the course was Italian and German civil procedure law


In my next post, I’m going to share some of my experiences from my trip to Italy. Note that I’m not going to write about the course and its contents, but in the interests of wider readership appeal am going to focus on the minimalism theme of this blog.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Maximising leisure time with the 80/20 rule

How do you like to spend your spare time ideally? How do you usually spend it?

The 80/20 rule, the topic of my previous blog article, can even help us adjust our leisure priorities for the better! Think about it: 20% of all leisure activities that you usually engage in will probably provide 80% of the joy and satisfaction in your life.


The 80/20 rule can help us identify the leisure activities that nourish us – whether that’s cycling, music or writing

Categories of leisure activities range from entertainment via spending time with family to community work. Leisure activities typically involve mental or physical recovery from paid work or housework. It can be either time spent with others or time “spent with ourselves”.

I (want to) lead a busy work life, hence my spare time is limited. Of the activities in the “time-spent-with-myself” category, I most relish yoga, running, reading and writing – I don’t need much else to feel good.

Realising this was eye-opening! I therefore now deliberately spend MORE time on those 4 activities – and less on all others. Applying the 80/20 rule has had the effect that a minority has generated a majority.

The 80/20 rule can help us identify the leisure activities that nourish us. We can consequently make more space for them and incorporate them better in our everyday lives.



Friday, 19 July 2019

The 80/20 rule: Achieving more with less

It is astonishing: we tend to use just 20% of our possessions 80% of the time. We habitually wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. And 80% of our phone and text communications typically are with just 20% of the contacts saved on our phones.

Since this is a blog about minimalism, I feel an article about the 80/20 rule has long been overdue. The 80/20 rule is widely used by minimalists in their decluttering approaches. Many minimalists choose to give away the things that don’t matter (about 80% of what we own), while making space for those that are important (roughly 20%).

The 80/20 rule, or Pareto principle, is named after Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), who discovered that 20% of the pea plants in his garden produced 80% of the healthy peas. Following on from this, he noted that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of the population.

The 80/20 rule can be extended to many areas of life and in business. While, of course, those percentages do not always apply exactly, it is true that most things in life and business are not evenly distributed. And a minority often generates a majority!

The 80/20 rule can help us adjust our priorities, declutter our everyday schedules, and stay sane


In what ways might the 80/20 rule be helpful to translators and freelancers in how they go about their work lives and manage their businesses? How could we leverage this principle to our advantage? Here’s some food for thought:


Easy prioritisation of tasks

- If indeed 20% of the tasks we carry out account for 80% of the results, can we pin down what these tasks are? PRIORITISING those tasks accordingly would most likely benefit us in most surprising ways.

- If 80% of results come from just 20% of actions, should we not then expend more energy on, dedicate more attention to, and aim to OPTIMISE these actions?

- If 80% of the value of a work project is achieved with the first 20% of the effort put in, should we not then plan our workdays in such a way that this happens at a time when we know we WORK BEST?


Better customer relationships

- Who are the 20% of customers that, according to the Pareto principle, provide 80% of our revenue? In what ways can we STRENGTHEN RELATIONSHIPS with them? But note also: is it safe to rely on such a ratio of our income, or should we better collaborate more with other customers as well?

- How much time do we spend on HANDLING CRITICISM? If 80% of complaints (especially unjustified complaints) tend to be raised by 20% of our customers, is it actually worth continuing to work for those customers?

- According to the Pareto principle, 80% of a business’s TURNOVER typically is achieved by 20% of its products or activities. I am aware that we sometimes feel we occasionally need a break from the areas we usually translate in. But against this background, perhaps translating too many texts outside our subject areas isn’t advisable.

- Marketing is time-consuming, and thinking about where to start in a campaign is daunting. Here’s an interesting thought, though: 20% of the marketing messages you come up with can produce 80% of the results. What’s more, 20% of the overall marketing effort often brings about 80% of the SUCCESS OF A MARKETING CAMPAIGN.


Eliminate, automate or delegate?

- Which activities can we ELIMINATE or AUTOMATE? Are there activities that don’t move us towards our goals? For instance, it might not be worth spending so much time on updating online profiles if perhaps in our current circumstances we don’t actually need them to be successful in business.

- And are there any tasks that we can DELEGATE? For example, wouldn’t it be better to entrust accounting tasks with an accountant and focus on translations instead? Find a cleaner? Pay for a meal occasionally (or regularly), rather than waste time in the kitchen, when work is piling up on the desk?

- 80% of software users apparently use just 20% of their software’s features. So could we undertake further training to also learn about other features of our software? Learning to use more than the usual 20% of features could make us more EFFICIENT.


Is it really necessary that all business tasks are completed to perfection?


A word on perfection

- No doubt we should strive for PERFECTION in producing our translations, but is it really necessary that other business tasks are also completed to perfection? Should we seek perfection in writing blog posts? Maintain a regular Twitter posting pattern? Zealously reply to every single message that reaches us?

- And lastly, how about deciding for yourself that your order book is full once it’s filled with orders up to 80%? A buffer or some EXTRA TIME that can be handled flexibly can feel like pure luxury.

The 80/20 rule can help us adjust our priorities, declutter our everyday schedules, and stay sane. By taking stock of the time percentages that our work activities take up, we can implement steps to free up space in our schedules and move ever closer to business success!






Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The benefits of a minimised writing space

Clear thinking is a crucial prerequisite to the work of translators and writers, as is the implementation of bespoke measures towards it. Joshua Becker argues that minimising our writing space will help maximize our potential because we thereby free up our minds and consequently think more clearly.

The opportunity of a minimised writing space


He suggests a 6-step process that we can apply to enjoy the opportunity of a minimised writing space. It includes clearing out cabinets and drawers; reducing the number of books; simplifying walls and bulletin boards, etc. Check out the whole list in his article “The Possibilities of a Decluttered Writing Space”.


We can implement a whole host of steps that will help us think more clearly

You can create a more focused writing space simply by tossing out clutter. From my own experience I can confirm that minimising my office space has indeed been empowering: I’ve created a distraction-free setting in which I can work with enhanced focus.

My family is aware that, if the need should arise, I would be happy to move my office to the smallest room in our property. Giving up my larger office space would be an easy thing for me to do as, following the implementation of a number of minimisation measures, I don’t keep much stuff in it any more.

Office space minimisation measures

Measures to minimise office space which I implemented in recent years have included, for example:

- I’ve reduced the number of books on my shelves by parting with any books that I know I will probably never use again (while keeping all dictionaries, even outdated ones, and most reference works).

- I switched from paper to electronic bank statements as soon as this option became available. Interestingly, both my German bank and my British bank started offering this facility at about the same time!




- I’ve scanned all articles of the ITI Bulletin which I consider useful or beautiful (to me, at least) and therefore worth keeping. I’ve stored the scans on various external hard drives and binned any physical copies (exception: magazines containing articles written by myself).

- I’ve created a clear desktop by keeping only what I consider as essentials. These days my desktop only includes: my computer screen, keyboard, mouse, and landline office phone; paper dictionaries if needed; a booklet with motivational, serenity-stimulating words; and (usually) a cup of green tea.


As writers and translators we can implement a whole host of steps that will help us think more clearly. Minimising or decluttering our writing spaces is one of them.



Tuesday, 7 May 2019

A translator’s typical Bank Holiday weekend?


How do we achieve the perfect weekend? And how do you prefer to spend a long Bank Holiday weekend? My own Bank Holiday weekend went like this:

Come Friday evening, and I was knackered. Knackered because of a whole week’s full-time translation work and everything that entails: reading, thinking, typing, re-writing, revising, dealing with enquiries, invoicing. So on Friday evening, again, I could not bring myself to do a lot – just relax.

Saturday morning, as almost always, saw me participating in my local parkrun at Pomphrey Hill. No weekend to me ever feels complete without parkrun! It provides a welcome opportunity to “run off” the stresses of the past week and meet other local runners for a chat.

In the evening, while on my way with my husband to the Alma Tavern Theatre in Bristol to watch the very excellent “Beyond the Brink” performance by Remania Productions (with yet another out-of-this-world performance by Colin Smith on the keys!), I picked up an email about an urgent project from a long-standing client.



This could have seen me change my weekend plans from one minute to the next as it presented the opportunity to participate in a (tempting!) translation project from Sunday morning. I can see the point that checking emails at weekends is generally not advisable: it gives the impression to clients that you’re always there, always available and always working.

Yet, if it feels right to you to check emails at weekends too, why not? I did reply to my client’s email, although I did not then participate in the project. In any case, I think it is lovely to know that there is always a lot of translation work around. And I am free to decide when I want to work and when not, and how much work I want to take on.

As a translator who loves her job, I am also almost always in translation mode! So on Sunday morning I seized the opportunity to first revise a translation of patent claims on paper, which I had already printed off a couple of days before. Then I also had a quick look through the German translation of an (older) English post for this blog.

As a minimalist, I so often think that you really don’t need (and often even don’t need to spend) much to experience a serene, thoroughly fulfilling day: after helping out with teas and coffees at one of the churches in my community, a few lovely chats and then having lunch with my family at home, I set off on a bike ride to Bath on the scenic Bristol-to-Bath cycle track. Everyone else was busy, so I enjoyed going on my own.



An afternoon such as this one – spent simply and differently from what I usually do during the week – can feel luxurious: cycling and enjoying some beautiful scenery; spending an hour or so in a stylish, eclectic eatery (as the Chapel Arts Café in Bath is currently closed, I chose Prêt-à-Manger instead); finishing my current book whilst treating myself to a few special things to eat and drink; and watching the world go by for a bit before heading back home again.

I started working again on (Bank Holiday) Monday in the afternoon.

In a nutshell: a translator’s typical Bank Holiday weekend can be a mixture of lots of different activities, from exercise to indulging your senses, which help recharge your batteries. But it can also consist of work. And translation work on a Bank Holiday weekend often doesn't even feel wrong! 




Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Human translation simply explained

Why do we need translators? (I mean those of the human type, not computer programmes, by the way.)

And why is there such a huge demand, a growing demand, for human translation?



What exactly is it that keeps human translators so busy? This is perhaps a futile discussion as so many people wouldn’t get it anyway. Perhaps because they’re too simple-minded, too lacking in the understanding of the workings of language, or simply too young, to understand.

It is typically sophisticated people, with a certain level of education, who are very surprised when I tell them: yes, there are people out there who do believe translation nowadays is (or should be) carried out by Google Translate or similar tools.


Why is there such a huge demand, a growing demand, for human translation?

No doubt translation is a matter of huge complexity, and explaining to others what translation typically involves is complex, too. Why is the demand for human translation huge? Simple answers, in my opinion, are best. For example:

I translate texts that are too difficult for Google Translate.

Try translating a complex technical text using Google Translate, and you’ll see it won’t work.

Machine translations often look correct at first sight, but when you look more closely, they aren’t.

The texts which I’m given to translate are confidential and mustn’t be fed into Google.

Most translations need a human touch, and my job is to put this human touch to translations.

A computer isn’t particularly good at producing natural translations. In the end, even very technical translations need to sound natural.



Translation is a hugely complex matter, yet sometimes we should avoid complex words to explain translation to others. Explaining translation simply often is best!


(A German translation of this blog article is available here.)

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Reducing office time by prioritising and batching

We don’t have enough time. We are generally too busy. Right?

Leo Babauta, one of my favourite writers on the topics of minimalism and mindfulness, has written a blog post with suggestions on how to spend time more intentionally. He claims that when we say we don’t have enough time for a particular activity, we are actually saying: “I DON’T WANT TO DO IT”. You’ll find the whole article here.

Leo Babauta recommends, inter alia, taking ownership of our time by prioritising categories of tasks and batching them. This has reminded me of how, in the summer of 2012, I took books away with me on holiday, in the hope that they would help me figure out ways of reducing my office working hours.


We can take ownership of our time: for example, by batching tasks

At the time, I’d been completely exhausted and overworked, feeling I wouldn’t be able to carry on like this. The books which had been recommended to me pre-holiday included: “Anything You Want” by Derek Sivers (which I loved and have blogged about here), “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss (which I wasn’t such a great fan of), and a few others.

I managed to extract a few helpful ideas from these books, which I put into practice back home in the office. One of them involved prioritising and batching any related tasks. This is what I learnt: working on related tasks in batches and blocking out time for them is way more efficient than switching back and forth between individual tasks!

As it turns out, prioritising and batching works across the board. See, for example, the articles “The Definitive Guide to ‘Batching’ Your Work” or “How to Batch Your Tasks for Maximum Productivity”. In fact, many posts on the blog you’re just reading were batch-produced: I have a habit of writing blog posts in a batch – but then publish them weeks or months later.

It’s a myth that we generally don’t have enough time. We WILL find the time for an activity if it IS important to us. And we can take ownership of our time: for example, by batching tasks.