Sunday, 31 October 2021

Focused, productive, happy: the power of routines

If you’re time-poor, this post is for you. The ultimate solution to making more time may be to simply rethink and tweak your existing routines, or to create new routines. Many things in life are totally beyond our control; a routine, by contrast, is something that we can control.


Exploiting my most valuable resource: time

Time is the most valuable resource at my disposal, so I endeavour to take optimal advantage of it. Routines help me stay focused and productive throughout my workday. They help minimise any inner resistance which I tend to encounter in getting things done. Needless to say, this naturally increases my level of feel-good hormones, too!

 

Personal routines prime us for success and make it easier for us
to hit our professional and personal goals

(Image by EskYew on Pixabay)

A routine can be defined as a sequence of actions which you perform repeatedly. It may involve just tiny steps at a time; these, however, will have an exponential effect over time! Personal routines prime us for success and make it easier for us to hit our professional and personal goals.

 

From a solid morning routine to regular runs: routines that work well for me


The routines appropriate for each one of us will be wildly different. For me the following routines work really well at the moment:

- Getting up early on weekdays and following a solid morning routine (which I blogged about here) helps me enter my “work state of mind” ahead of starting my workday.

- Going for a short walk or on a run at 10am when I’ve already got a fair amount of work done feels satisfying.

- Checking non-work-related email just once per day in the evening means I can prioritise work emails during the day.

- Adhering to a minimal to-do list every day (which I blogged about here) provides me with a sense of accomplishment at the end of each and every day.

- Reading one short chapter in a computer programming book every day and doing my best to get my head around its content helps me build up a specialism required in my translation job.

- Implementing a one-a-day declutter approach
(which I blogged about here) has worked its magic over time in that I’ve been able to rid myself gradually of many unnecessary items.

 

 

For many of us, time is the most valuable resource at our disposal,
so it seems wise to resort to techniques enabling us take optimal advantage of it

 

I admit with some of these routines I found it difficult initially to muster the discipline and willpower to follow through on them. However, they’ve since become ingrained in me as habits: I no longer think twice about whether I feel up to them or not.

 

Countering decision fatigue with the help of routines

The beauty of routines is that they not only are great for countering decision fatigue in that we simply automate certain decisions, but also add rhythm to our days. Our days will flow much more smoothly as a result! In the end, routines are neither boring nor stifling: they’re necessary.

 

For many of us, time is the most valuable resource at our disposal, so it seems wise to resort to techniques enabling us take optimal advantage of it. In this post I explain how routines can help us hit our work and personal goals.

 

Related popular blog posts: 

8 March 2020: My (unusual) approach to minimising social media time

19 July 2019: The 80/20 rule: Achieving more with less

4 April 2019: Reducing office time by prioritising and batching

19 March 2019: 5 simple techniques for making time

2 July 2018: The 5-step guide to switching into minimalist work mode

5 September 2017: Super-easy decluttering for busy people
 
22 June 2016: The minimal to-do list 

 

Adhering to a minimal to-do list provides me with
a sense of accomplishment at the end of each and every day


 

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Working more efficiently with AutoHotkey (part 2)

AutoHotkey is a must-have tool that anyone (with a Windows computer) can use to improve their Windows experience. If you’re tired of constantly navigating menus or using multiple strokes to perform repetitive tasks and would like to simplify your work life, then AutoHotkey and the scripts below will be for you!

AutoHotkey has much more power than most people will ever use, but also offers very simple scripts. Its simplest scripts – typically just one line of code – could even turn out to be those that you'll find most useful in your day-to-day computing! 

 

A few examples: whenever I type tn, the AutoHotkey script will automatically enter the word translation. Or when I enter @@k, the script will automatically enter my email address. I remember that, before I started using AutoHotkey, it would always be a pain to constantly have to type the whole email address! Check out my earlier blog post about AutoHotkey to find out more about this.

 


Teaming up with an AutoHotkey accountability partner 

A couple of months ago I teamed up with Isabel Hurtado de Mendoza, an English-to-Spanish translator. We both had only scratched the surface of what is possible with AutoHotkey then and were keen to find out more about it. So we became accountability partners: we now report back (more or less) regularly to each other on our latest AutoHotkey discoveries and learning progress. 

Isabel and I identified AutoHotkey scripts that are particularly useful to translators as well as other computer users. We either adopted existing AutoHotkey scripts (many of which are readily available on the web) or modified and adapted them to our own purposes. You’re very welcome to adopt the scripts below as well!


Simpler AutoHotkey script editing with SciTE4AutoHotkey

I would previously edit my AutoHotkey scripts in Notepad, but recently switched to SciTE4AutoHotkey upon Isabel’s recommendation. SciTE4AutoHotkey is an AutoHotkey script editor, which provides helpful features such as syntax highlighting (to highlight any errors in AutoHotkey syntax), AutoComplete, interactive debugging and others. This might all sound very complicated, but it really isn’t!

 


Advanced AutoHotkey scripts for translators
 

The following AutoHotkey scripts are slightly more advanced AutoHotkey scripts. You’ll find a number of useful, simpler scripts in my earlier blog post about AutoHotkey.
 

Note that any text following a semicolon (;) below serves as a comment, reminding you of what the script means or what you need to do to trigger it. It won’t be executed by the AutoHotkey programme.


Launching programmes by pressing a combination of keys 

It is possible to launch any programme instantly by using a hotkey. For instance, you could set up AutoHotkey to launch Outlook and define, for example, WIN + o for this. In other words, when you press WIN + o, this will launch Outlook.


Here are some example scripts which could be used:
 

;>>>>>>>>>>>>>
; Programme ausf├╝hren/Run programmes
;>>>>>>>>>>>>>

; press WIN + o
#o::
Run Outlook.exe
return

; press WIN + f
#f::
Run firefox.exe
return

; press WIN + m
#m::
Run MicrosoftEdge.exe
return

; press WIN + c
#c::
Run calc.exe
return

Note: in AutoHotkey # designates the Windows key on your keyboard.


Creating a new file in Word or Excel

In the past, I always had to perform several clicks to create a new Word or Excel file. Now, I can create one instantly by simply pressing CTRL (or, to be more precise, Strg on my QWERTZ keyboard) + n to create a Word file and CTRL + SHIFT + % to create an Excel file, respectively.


Here are the scripts:

;>>>>>>>>>>>>>
; Neue Word-Datei/New Word file
;>>>>>>>>>>>>>

; press CTRL + n
^n::
Word := ComObjCreate("Word.Application")    
Word.Visible := True                        
Word.Documents.Add                          
Return

;>>>>>>>>>>>>>
; Neue Excel-Datei/New Excel file
;>>>>>>>>>>>>>

; press CTRL + SHIFT + %
^%::
Xl := ComObjCreate("Excel.Application")     
Xl.Visible := True                             
Xl.Workbooks.Add                             
Return   

Note: in AutoHotkey ^ designates the CTRL key on your keyboard.




Entering the £ symbol

I do a lot of business with UK companies, so I use the £ currency symbol all the time; however, since I use a QWERTZ keyboard, I don’t have a £ key on it. Thanks to AutoHotkey, though, I can enter it quickly by pressing CTRL + WIN + p.


Here is the script for it:

; create the £ sign by pressing CTRL + WIN + p
^#P::SendInput {U+00A3}  

Note: in AutoHotkey # designates the Windows key on your keyboard.

 



Creating message templates

AutoHotkey can be utilized to create message templates for use not just in an email client, but anywhere in your Windows environment, for example when writing messages in a web-based interface.


Here’s an example script for it:

;>>>>>>>>>>>>>
; E-Mail-Vorlagen/Email templates
;>>>>>>>>>>>>>

; type jobno
::jobno::Dear XX,{ENTER}{ENTER}Thank you for your new enquiry.{ENTER}{ENTER}I am sorry I'm unable to take on the project as I’m currently fully booked.{ENTER}{ENTER}Kind regards,{ENTER}{ENTER}Elisabeth




Taking a screenshot

This is a script for effortlessly taking a screenshot using Paint, combining several steps. To take a screenshot, I simply have to press CTRL+ALT+1, and all that’s left for me to do is to save the Paint file (with the screenshot in it) on my hard drive (or another storage medium).


Here is the script for it:

;>>>>>>>>>>>>>
; Screenshot erzeugen und in Paint kopieren/Take screenshot and copy it to Paint
;>>>>>>>>>>>>>

; CTRL+ALT+1
^!1::                       
sleep, 100
send {PrintScreen}
sleep, 500
Run, C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\Paint
Sleep, 1000
Send, #{Up}
Sleep, 500
Mouseclick, left, 250, 250, 5
Sleep, 200
send ^v
sleep, 500

Note: Isabel and I figured out that sometimes it’s necessary to write the whole file path in the script (such as C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\Paint in the script above), rather than just write “Run Paint”!


Converting a short dash to an m dash


Entering an m dash should be easy, but for some reason it often isn’t! Using an AutoHotkey script can help make sure the m dash always is there when you need it.


I now use this script:

; press Alt Gr + -
<^>!-:: Send, –                

Note that similar scripts could be used for any symbols that you use regularly, for example a script that changes square brackets to curly brackets.

 

The simplest AutoHotkey scripts – typically just one line of code – could turn out
to be those that you'll find most useful in your day-to-day computing
(image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay)

 




Copying and pasting text into an open Word file


Collecting data while I’m researching terminology during a translation project has become way more comfortable thanks to the following script in that I no longer have to jump around between windows!

These days I only need to have a Word file open on my screen, and any text which I highlight (e.g. on a webpage or in an electronic dictionary) will then automatically be copied to this file by the script. I’ve named this file notes.docx, which is why the lines IfWinExist, notes and WinWaitActive, notes are used in this script, as shown below.



To trigger the script, I only need to press CTRL+ALT+n.



;>>>>>>>>>>>>>
; Text in Word-Datei notes.docx kopieren/Copy text to Word file notes.docx
;>>>>>>>>>>>>>

; CTRL+ALT+n   
^!n::                       
Send, ^c
IfWinExist, notes
{    
    WinActivate
}
else
{
    Run winword
}
WinWaitActive, notes
Send, ^v`n`n
return





This blog post lists a number of slightly more advanced AutoHotkey scripts that are particularly useful to translators as well as other computer users. They are designed to save time and take the dullness out of performing repetitive computing tasks, for example when taking screenshots, writing messages or entering special symbols.  I hope you like them and they will make your life a bit easier!




Sunday, 27 June 2021

My 60-minute writing routine: 3 surprising takeaways

How to find the time? We all want to focus more on meaningful activities – especially activities that put us in the blissful, elusive state known as flow. But how much time do we allow ourselves to pursue our very own flow activities?

 

We all want to focus more on meaningful activities – especially
activities that put us into a flow state

 

One of my flow activities is writing. I’ve always enjoyed it, yet I’d always struggled to make enough time for it. At some point, I therefore decided I wanted to do more of it, and I established a writing routine.

I now spend 60 minutes on a Saturday and a Sunday morning on writing: to draft blog articles by hand. To publish a blog article, complete with graphics. To translate a blog article into German. To jot down ideas. Or to engage in other writing, such as writing an email that I feel a lot of thought needs to go into. An hour to myself – something that was initially hard to fit into a weekend. 

 

I’m not proposing that something similar might work for you, too, but would instead like to highlight a few surprising insights which I gained following the creation of my 60-minute writing routine:


1. Scheduling leisure time

I’m not advocating that we should plan every single minute of our leisure time, yet I’ve found it a surprisingly effective way to more effortlessly fit in activities that we enjoy doing. It’s a time management technique which I recommend. Scheduling leisure time meticulously does not mean you enjoy it less – on the contrary!


2. Deriving pleasure from anticipation

It’s been argued that the intensity of feelings of anticipation ahead of a pleasurable activity is similar to the intensity of feelings felt during the actual activity. This is a simple yet powerful insight: schedule an activity, and it‘ll give you something to look forward to! There’s pleasure to be gained from anticipation.


3. The correlation between time constraints and creativity

I have found the effects of setting myself a 60-minute time limit astounding. An hour goes by quickly; yet because I’m finding myself under self-imposed time pressure, I often come up with good turns of phrase and solutions to language problems in my writing more quickly. It is true that self-imposed time constraints can stimulate your creativity!



Self-imposed time constraints often stimulate your creativity


 
If you’re looking for a new way to maximise your work and/or leisure time, this blog post will be for you. In it I describe noteworthy insights which I gained following the creation of my 60-minute writing routine.

 

 

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Saturday, 19 June 2021

Important message to all blog subscribers

Google recently announced that it would shut down some features of its Feedburner infrastructure, including the popular Feedburner email subscription service, in July 2021.

Following the deprecation, the "Follow this blog by email" widget on my blog will no longer be working from next month.

I have therefore integrated a new email subscription widget into my blog, using AddThis and MailChimp to set it up. The new widget will pop up at the top of the blog.

 

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Saturday, 12 June 2021

Advanced googling for translators: WRG Take 5 Talk on 1 June 2021

How do translators go about finding correct and reliable words and phrases for use in their translations? This is where Google search operators can come in.
 

I recently gave a Take 5 Talk on advanced googling for translators to my local translators‘ and interpreters‘ association, the Western Regional Group (WRG), at its last online social on 1 June. The WRG has held regular online socials using Zoom since the pandemic took hold in the UK. The meeting on 1 June was hosted by Joint Social Media Officer Mariana Roccia.

 


To track down artificial intelligence terminology, you could use the intitle operator
to find webpages with either “glossary” or “dictionary” in the title




I shared insights into how I use Google search operators in my translations and my writing. Wildcards, the minus operator, site, intitle etc. are powerful tools which can be immensely useful: they help narrow down the hits returned by Google, extracting specific information that a less refined search query would not!

 


I shared insights in a Take 5 Talk into how I use Google search operators
to improve my translations and my writing




My talk was based on these two articles which recently appeared on this blog:

Must-know Google search operators for translators (part 1)
Must-know Google search operators for translators (part 2)