Friday, 16 May 2014

5 simple ways to boost your efficiency: A guide for freelancers

Do you find you spend a little too much time in the office? Do you know how many hours you work? Time is a valuable resource for you as a freelancer, so be sure you make good use of it! Efficiency is key to productivity and business success, and I am sure we all have our own little efficiency measures in place. But perhaps you’d like to consider implementing the following efficiency measures, which work really well for me:

Buy time-saving office equipment. Invest in the latest superfast computer. It is simply not worth having to wait for a slow-ish computer to boot up or for all your various programmes to sluggishly open. Get a fast internet connection, too, to speed up your work processes. I recently bought a new document shredder that can shred 60 sheets at a time, rather than just a couple. Why waste precious time?

Build macros. Automate tasks that you perform regularly in Microsoft Office. Macros are easy to define even without any programming knowledge. You could, for example, build a macro for converting text to Arial and sending it to the printer using your own shortcut key combination. (I usually revise texts in Arial as it helps pick up errors and clumsy renderings much better than other fonts!)

Define codes for frequent words or phrases. My favourite feature in MemoQ, my preferred translation software, is the Autocorrect feature. It lets me define codes for all those long (and not so long) German compound nouns in the patents I translate. Needless to say, typos do not stand a chance of creeping into words again once you’ve spelt them correctly the first time round. You can, therefore, focus your attention elsewhere in the text. Autocorrect and the translation memory function in MemoQ have saved me, for example, from having to type “Ausf├╝hrungsform” 679 times in the last 3 months alone! (“Ausf├╝hrungsform” is the translation of embodiment, i.e. the manner in which an invention can be made, used, practised or expressed.)

Increasing translators' efficiency: MemoQ's Autocorrect feature

Check emails just once every day. I use 5 email addresses, 4 of which are linked to my website domain. Work emails reach me every 10 minutes between Monday morning and Friday evening. They are also the only messages that come through on my smartphone. By contrast, I download messages from friends and family members as well as forum messages just once every day, and I use a separate email client for that. I recommend dealing with such messages at the end of the working day when your concentration levels have likely gone down. Your colleagues and friends will condone the odd typo or infelicitous wording; your clients won’t.

Track your time. For me, efficiency goes hand in hand with knowing how many hours I’ve spent in the office and what I have achieved in that time. I use TimeStamp from Softonic for this. I punch in when I start working and punch out when I take a break or call it a day. Taking regular breaks is important, too, as sustained concentration can result in mental exhaustion and stress and will impact your efficiency. Even translators, who tend to have very long concentration spans, need regular breaks! Tracking your time will help you manage your concentration span and schedule breaks.

Tracking time will help manage your concentration span better

Ultimately, the goal of being efficient is to carve out more time that you can take off. In this context, I also recommend setting aside at least one free evening per week. For me, Friday evening is always free from translation work as well as chores and commitments. The reality – especially with children – is you often just cannot avoid working evenings. My kids are older now, so more of my evenings are free. However, I still treasure my Friday evenings as they date back to a time when it was extremely difficult to actually fit in any free time at all.