Saturday, 27 August 2022

Book recommendation: “Deep Work” by Cal Newport

Are you frustrated because your work often seeps into your evenings or weekends? Are you on the lookout for new ways to get more done?

If so, I warmly recommend “Deep Work” by Cal Newport. It is a book that will help you create a productive and serene work environment. It is brimming with actionable ideas for working with great(er) intensity and is, ultimately, all about protecting your time.


What is deep work?

Deep work, as defined by Cal Newport, is a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and work with the concentration required for serious and cognitively demanding work. The opposite of deep work is shallow work.

Shallow work consists of non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, which are easy to replicate, such as spending too much time on unimportant emails, social media posturing etc. Such activities should be steered clear of or at least minimised, as they have little impact on your bottom line or your well-being.


Deep work: good for your bottom line, good for your well-being

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, we feel most fulfilled after we have stretched our minds and abilities, for which he coined the term “flow state”. It explains why deep work feels so immensely satisfying:

“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

But deep work doesn’t just feel satisfying; it is also the antidote to the frantic blur of shallow tasks and frazzled attention spans that characterise our modern, computerised world. Deep work is valuable, and it is meaningful.

Downtime facilitates insights and solutions to job-related problems 

By embracing deep work and thereby countering distractions, you’ll even be able to wrap up your day’s work earlier and enjoy more downtime. What’s more, Cal Newport argues that if you allow your conscious brain to rest, you empower your unconscious mind to begin sorting through your most complex professional problems.

For me as a translator, complex professional problems typically are tricky-to-translate terms or difficult-to-phrase sections in a text. Carving out downtime accordingly increases the likelihood that while I’m enjoying time away from work, the solution to a professional problem might suddenly pop into my head.

Working creatively with intelligent machines

Cal Newport interestingly makes reference to intelligent machines, which is also why I recommend “Deep Work” to knowledge workers as food for thought! Artificial intelligence is a hotly debated topic in the translation industry, where intelligent machines are disapproved of by some and welcomed by others.

Deep work equates to being ruthless

So how do you go deep in our chronically distracted and overwhelming world? Cal Newport suggests several strategies, all described in the book. One he recommends is the ruthless prioritisation of particular tasks, so you’ll inevitably be hard to reach for set periods of time.

The ideas put forward in books like “Deep Work” are useful to me in that they help me explain (and sometimes even defend!) my style of work towards my family, friends and colleagues. For I am either hard to reach or cannot be reached at all while I’m working or am up against a deadline. It is a deliberate decision on my part not to check my phone or answer non-work-related messages during such periods.

The book to my mind has only one drawback: Newport focuses tightly on his own university environment, and various suggested strategies therefore aren’t universally applicable to all our individual work environments. As he’s written “Deep Work” with his professor’s hat on, sections of the first part of the book are rather abstract; however, the second part is more accessible and practical.


If you’re looking for new ways to get more done in less time and create a productive, distraction-free and serene work environment, “Deep Work” by Cal Newport is the book for you! It sets out how to refine your ability to work with great intensity and, importantly, how to protect your time.


Cal Newport is a professor of computer science at Georgetown University. In addition to his academic research, he writes articles and blog posts on the intersection of digital technology and culture. Check out his long-running and popular blog, “Study Hacks”, here


I’ve previously published a blog post about “Digital Minimalism”, another brilliant bestselling book by Cal Newport, here.

Monday, 20 June 2022

Business planning for freelancers: the minimalist approach

When you have little time, how do you make time for working on your business? I recommend a basic business plan, which will map out the purpose of what you do day in and day out, and will provide direction for your business.

The neuroscientific background: writing something down
signals to your brain that it is important!

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)


Every now and then I pull out my business plan to review progress, amend it in line with any circumstances that may have changed, and tackle what’s up next for me, such as marketing, CPD-related tasks, or other actions.

A business plan: a simple road map

My business plan, admittedly, is anything but perfect (in that, for example, it contains only skeletal financial information), but for me it fulfils its purpose. It contains a mission statement, a SWOT analysis and a marketing plan.

I wrote my first business plan back in 2007 as part of one of the modules of the ITI’s Peer Support Group (PSG) (which has been replaced by SUFT), and a few years later wrote a new one (in my mother tongue, German), and then another one. It’s always been my go-to document, setting out who I am, as well as the nature of my business.

The PSG, by the way, has had a similar profound impact on me as a translator as minimalism has had on my life in general: I’ve been working as a translator full-time since 2010 and I do know that without my wonderful PSG mentors, I wouldn’t be where I am today! Similarly, minimalism has changed my life in that it’s equipped me with the tools for leading a much more relaxed and (relatively) clutter-free life.


Working on (rather than just in) the business

My business plan has always been a useful tool for placing my enthusiasm for working as a freelancer and the skills I provide to my clients on a solid footing. I have taken a minimalist approach in that my business plan is fairly basic. It is modelled simply on the concepts described in a German book entitled “Businessplan für DUMMIES”.

The last time I pulled out my business plan (on 17 May 2022) I was pleased to realise that the items I had highlighted as important during a previous review were actions I had managed to carve out time for outside my busy translation schedule. For example:

- I had made the effort to re-establish contact with a few companies I had enjoyed working for in the past, but who I hadn’t collaborated with in recent years.

- I had spent significantly more time on reading about and experimenting with my Raspberry Pi and the Sense HAT (which, admittedly, had sometimes felt arduous, but then turned out to be ever so relevant to my translation projects).

- I had taken concrete measures to improve my Italian by listening to Italian radio, signing up for a short translation course in Italy, and finding an Italian conversation tutor for Skype sessions (the lovely Giulia Lucania, who also runs Giulia Lucania Translations in Palermo, Sicily).

A basic business plan can serve as a road map that will provide direction for your business

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

Insights of minimalist planning

Regardless of whether or not you already rely on a business plan, here are three insights that have arisen from this post. They will be useful to business planning or, indeed, any planning in general:

1) The power of an uncluttered mind 

To create a business plan, you need to have a clear, uncluttered mind. It will enable you to compile a sleek description of your business, the services or products you sell, and the clients you sell to. A business plan should be a formal, written document. 

I have previously published blog posts about the power and the value of uncluttering both your mind and any environments around you: for example, here or here.

2) Writing it down: one simple act, potential astonishing results

I won’t try and delve into the neuroscientific background of this, but basically, writing something down signals to your brain that it is important! A Harvard Business Study found that you are three times more likely to see success if you write down your goal(s).

This applies to any situation: if you write something down (as opposed to not writing it down), it is way more likely to bear fruit. 


3) It is never as hard as anticipated, and there is no wrong way 

As with most things in life, it’s never as hard as you initially think it will be. If writing a business plan sounds like an overwhelming task to tackle, how about breaking it down initially into “mini-plans”, such as a marketing plan, a pricing plan etc.?

A plethora of business writing tools is available, and there is no wrong way to go about writing a business plan, as long as what you come up with meets your own needs (and you write it just for your own needs).

When you’re constantly busy, how do you make time for working on your business (rather than just in it)? I recommend a basic business plan, compiled with minimal means, as a road map that will provide direction for your business.

Saturday, 4 June 2022

ITI Conference 2022

It was wonderful and weird at the same time, to the point of feeling almost surreal: getting together again in the flesh for an ITI Conference! The delight about being actually, physically there, able to talk face to face, as remarked upon by Dr Isabella Moore CBE Hon FITI in her engaging speech, sums up the general mood at this year’s eagerly anticipated ITI Conference.

The ITI Conference was held at the Grand Hotel in Brighton on 31 May and 1 June 2022 and was entitled “Embracing change, emerging stronger”. It was a vibrant and memorable event, which encouraged thinking about new ways to future-proof both our businesses and our lives. 


The ITI Conference 2022 at the Grand Hotel in Brighton
was a vibrant and memorable event

A hybrid event with physical distance no longer a barrier to attendance

It was not just the ITI’s first in-person large-scale event after the pandemic, but also its first-ever hybrid event: all sessions attended by on-site attendees were recorded and live-streamed to online attendees worldwide. These were then made available to all attendees to watch at a later time. Attendees consequently no longer faced any dilemmas about having to decide which sessions to attend, while reluctantly having to miss out on others.

The programme was rich and varied, and consisted of four streams (three for translation and one for interpreting), which were running simultaneously. It featured notable and inspiring speakers, who were happy to share not just working methods, but also their personal experiences and ways of coping in recent times – confidently, in an open and strikingly honest way, or enthusing us with their energy or humour!


The event encouraged thinking about new ways
to future-proof both our businesses and our lives

The iconic and opulent Grand Hotel on the Brighton seafront was an ideal venue for the event, and there is really only one downside that I feel needs mentioning (as I heard it remarked upon several times): in the Pavilion and the Charlotte Room, where attendees were able to mingle and chat during the welcome drinks reception and coffee breaks, sound absorption was so poor that, regrettably, it was hard to talk to and understand one other.

The world is changing rapidly, and so we must change

It is impossible to provide a condensed overview of the content of all individual sessions, but I’m sure all of us conference-goers have gathered up their own precious nuggets of take-home ideas and inspiration for embracing change. Thank you so much to all the speakers!

My own personal highlights (as I’m about to start thinking about a diversification of my business) include: the presentation by Amelie Aichinger MITI about how to approach a new specialisation; the presentation by Cecilia Lipovsek AITI on strengthening your business with intellectual property; and the panel discussion on learning a new language with Paul Appleyard MITI, Lloyd Bingham MITI, Kasia Wawrzon-Stewart MITI, Richard Davis MITI and Gwen Clayton FITI, which touched on aspects of continued skill development at various stages of our careers.


The hard skills of translation

One personal impression (at least one gleaned from the sessions I attended) was that machine translation, although it did receive a mention here and there, is no longer the hot topic it was at some previous translators’ events. The general consensus now seems to be that the way forward is to simply embrace and exploit machine learning and artificial intelligence technology to our advantage (where it’s useful).


The focus of some talks was very much on the importance of hard skills – in other words, actual translation as opposed to post-editing work – as well as the added-value human end of translation: this, according to Lloyd Bingham MITI, is the part of the market that we want to operate in. He argued that soft skills are still important – especially in the digital world –, but there is no longer such a heavy focus on them.


The ITI Conference 2022 was the ITI's
first-ever hybrid event

Rekindling old friendships, networking and learning

Other highlights for me outside the conference programme were the fringe activities, an important part of any ITI Conference: a pub meal with a contingent of the ITI’s German network translators at The Lion & Lobster; drinks with the ITI’s patent translators (the STEP Group) at The Walrus pub; and later on a meal with three people from the STEP Group (who, like me, had not booked for the conference Gala Dinner) at The Prince George pub.

Networking and fringe activities are an important part of any ITI Conference

My overall impression of the ITI Conference 2022 was that it was an invigorating experience for everyone and a great success. It was all about “the rekindling of old friendships, networking and learning”, as described by ITI CEO Paul Wilson in his opening speech. The appeal of an ITI Conference such as this one, beautifully described by one conference attendee, lies in “the magic of genuine human connection”. 

Thank you to the ITI for organising this year’s conference in Brighton, and for the enrichment that was brought about by stimulating presentations and the networking opportunities in the warm and friendly atmosphere that marks any ITI Conference. It was intensive, it was tiring – but it was worthwhile on so many levels.


Monday, 4 April 2022

My 10 translation workflow stages

What does it take to create a fit-for-purpose commercial or technical translation? In my previous blog post I described how I revise my translations to make sure they are phrased clearly, read smoothly and don’t include any mistakes or translationese.


In today’s blog post I’m sharing an overview of my complete translation workflow to provide an insight into how I generally work. It usually comprises the following 10 stages:

1) Formatting the file for word processing if it’s not editable


2) Preparing a rough draft of the translation (aka target text) and researching the subject-matter and related terminology


3) Identifying issues in the original text (aka source text) and discussing them with the client before the translation is executed further, OR preparing a translator’s report identifying such issues (and delivering it along with the translation at the end)


4) Preparing a second translation draft by closely comparing the source text against the target text, implementing any necessary changes and improving on the initial rough draft


5) Checking individually that any numbers or reference numerals in the source text have been transferred correctly to the target text


6) Printing off the translation, editing and revising it as an independent piece of writing (away from the source text) using pen and paper, and considering the translation in its entirety


7) Transferring changes made in the previous stage to the translation on the screen


Next, I step away from the translation and revisit it the next day or, ideally, a few days later.


8) Checking the translation against the source text again carefully to ensure it is appropriate in every respect for the client’s specific purpose 


9) Running a spell check


10) Putting finishing touches to the translation and (if required) finalising the translator’s report



To create a professional, fit-for-purpose commercial or technical translation, a number of tasks involving great diligent care need to be completed. In this blog post I provide an insight into my 10 translation workflow stages.



Thursday, 17 February 2022

The translation workflow stage that should never be omitted

What measures can and should be implemented to ensure a translation doesn’t “read like a translation”? A professional translation bears the hallmark that it is a text that can stand on its own and that it is fit for its commercial purpose.



In the world of business, translationese tends to be seen in a negative light,
so it is crucial that any translationese is removed before a translation is put to use

(photo by
Scott Graham on Unsplash )

Essential aspects of translation revision

To make a translation fit for its purpose, a crucial stage in my translation workflow involves printing it off so I can revise it at a place away from my office. On my printout I scrutinise the translation to check it is correct in terms of grammar, punctuation and idiomatic usage. I also check whether I’ve written it in a style and with the naturalness required for the text in question.

An essential aspect of the tasks performed by a translator is to ensure that a translation doesn’t read like a translation (that’s what machine translation may be good for). So when revising a translation I also check its content independently by reading it and continually asking myself: do the words on the page make sense? Do sections in the translation need to be rewritten? Is there any remaining “translationese” that needs to be removed?


The negative effect of translationese

What is translationese? Translationese is characterised by strange, literally translated phrases, as a result of which a translated text has a special awkwardness to it. The awkwardness of a translation can be down to various reasons, often because the translation clings too tightly to the original text.

Translationese may render a translated text unusable. It creates a bad impression: it is usually embarrassing and can be reputation-damaging. In the world of business, translationese tends to be seen in a negative light, so it is crucial that any translationese is removed before a translation is put to use. For this, a (human!) translator’s input will be required.



A different work environment enables me to look at my text from a fresh perspective
and consequently make necessary changes

(photo by Engin Akyurt on Pixabay)


The power of pen and paper in high-tech work environments

In my experience, revising a translation using pen and paper on a printout is an effective way to morph it into a piece that reads smoothly and can stand on its own. After all, you do “see” so much more on paper than you would ever pick up on a screen! A properly revised translation will be correct in terms of grammar, punctuation, terminology and idiomatic usage, and it will be phrased in an appropriate style.

The revision of translations also ideally is performed in a different environment from your office or the room in which the draft was created. A different environment will enable you to look at your text from a fresh perspective and consequently make necessary changes.


I sometimes combine the activity of revising translations away from my office with exercise and a trip to an atmospheric café, for example: if time allows, I love getting on my bike to head over to the charming Coffee #1 on the outskirts of Bath on the picturesque Bristol-to-Bath cycle track to revise a few translations there.


A translation needs to be correct in terms of grammar, punctuation and idiomatic usage
and should be written in the style required for the text in question

(photo by Elisabeth Hippe-Heisler: Coffee #1, Riverside complex in Bath)


Proofreading your own writing: other tricks and techniques

Other tricks and techniques for proofreading your own work can be found in an article by Alison Quigley, which was republished on Belinda Pollard’s blog and includes many illuminating (and perhaps surprising) insights into proofreading your own writing. If you frequently proofread your own work, I recommend checking it out!

According to the article on Belinda Pollard’s blog the following proofreading techniques are, amongst others, recommended:

- reading your texts backwards

- using a blank sheet of paper or a ruler to cover up the lines below the ones you’re reading so you don’t skip ahead

- reading your work out aloud (or having your work read out aloud by an app) 

- reformatting the text by changing the font, ideally to a completely different one, which is perhaps even difficult to read

In the world of business, clumsy or overly literal translations create a bad impression and can be reputation-damaging. I therefore revise my translations using pen and paper, and in this blog post explain why in my opinion this workflow stage should never be omitted.