Tuesday, 20 December 2022

Christmas 2022 donation to Sustrans

In the same minimalist vein as in previous years I have once again, instead of spending money on Christmas cards, made a Christmas donation to a charity this year.



As a regular user (and lover) of the Bristol-to-Bath cycle path (as mentioned in previous blog entries here or here), I’ve donated to Sustrans, a British charity and the custodian of the National Cycle Network. Sustrans, which is headquartered in Bristol, provides and cares for a UK-wide network of signed cycling and walking paths, connecting cities, towns and countryside, where everyone can thrive.


The Bristol-to-Bath cycle path was constructed on the track bed of the former Midland Railway, which closed for passenger traffic at the end of the 1960s. Between 1979 and 1986, the railway line was converted into the railway path. The delights encountered on the path include public artworks, disused railway station buildings, spectacular views of the countryside and attractive resting places.


The Bristol-to-Bath cycle path was constructed
on the track bed of the former Midland Railway

Sustrans provides and cares for a UK-wide network of signed
cycling and walking paths, connecting cities, towns and countryside

Donations to Sustrans, which will contribute towards creating safe and accessible paths and spaces for cyclists, walkers and wheelchair users, can be made here.


May I take this opportunity to wish all followers of my blog a serene, peaceful Christmas and a productive, healthy new year!

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Getting started with AutoHotkey

Getting started with AutoHotkey is easy. Simply follow the 6 steps below. Once you’ve defined your first hotstring, you won’t want to live without AutoHotkey afterwards!


(Note: AutoHotkey only runs on Windows, so your computer has to be a Windows computer.)

Step 1:
Download AutoHotkey from https://www.autohotkey.com onto your computer and install it.

Step 2:
Right-click on your desktop, select “New”, then select “AutoHotkey Script”. You can change the name of your AutoHotkey file if you like.

Step 3:
Right-click your AutoHotkey file on your desktop and open it in Notepad or any plain text editor.

Step 4:
Ignore the first few lines of text that already are in your AutoHotkey file. Type your first script underneath. To begin with, you could use this script, for example (or use your own name!):

::dd::Donald Duck


Note: there must be no spaces between the colons, your abbreviation and Donald Duck!

Step 5:
Save your AutoHotkey file.

Step 6:
Activate your script by double-clicking the AutoHotkey file on your desktop.
(Remember to carry out this step every time you add a new script to your AutoHotkey file.)


And that’s it! You’ve just defined your first hotstring in AutoHotkey. The script is now running on your computer. The next time you type “dd”, it will automatically be expanded to “Donald Duck”.


You may add as many hotstrings underneath in your AutoHotkey file as you like. Find abbreviations that will be easy for you to remember, for example:

::dd::Donald Duck
::tte::Thomas the Tank Engine
::lrrh::Little Red Riding Hood
::ppl::Pippilotta Rollgardinia Victualia Peppermint Longstocking

Note: when you double-click your AutoHotkey file the next time, the following message will appear: “An older instance of this script is already running. Replace it with this instance?” Click “Yes”.

Once you’ve defined your first hotstring,
you won’t want to live without
AutoHotkey afterwards

(Image by Tommmy_ on Pixabay)


Do check out my other blog posts about AutoHotkey, in which I share many more useful scripts for translators and writers. They will help you save precious time on routine computer tasks!


Working more efficiently with AutoHotkey (part 1)

Working more efficiently with AutoHotkey (part 2)

Working more efficiently with AutoHotkey (part 3)

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.