Wednesday, 16 March 2016

8 Proven ways of minimising screen time

Do you find you spend too little time around screens – or too much? Focusing too much of our attention on technology, computers and social media isn’t good for our eyes, has a negative impact on our posture, and can completely ruin our sleep.

As translators, we obviously have to spend a lot of time in front of our screens because, after all, it goes with the profession. However, I believe there are ways where even we can manage to minimise our screen time. Read on to find out how:

1) Be strategic in your online activities.

Decide before you sit down in front of a screen why you’re going to look at it. Be clear about what you’re trying to achieve while you're there – be that putting the finishing touches on a project, bringing your accounts up to date, or catching up on personal email. Minimise your time by focusing on your tasks and by eliminating all conceivable distractions.

2) Cut back on email and notifications.

Adopt a minimalist approach to how many emails you receive, read and reply to every day. Note this: While our jobs require us to answer emails straight away, we do have more freedom to take our time responding to other messages. Consider disabling your social media email notifications; you can still check them when you next log into your account.

3) Track your screen time.

I’m a big proponent of tracking work hours meticulously, even when we’re not paid by the hour. I’ve blogged on tracking screen time before (here and here). I aim to work 35 hours per week, which by the way excludes additional time spent on personal email, Twitter, forum discussions etc. When I go over my 35-hour limit, I consequently try to cut down on work hours (which in the translation industry, of course, is never easy!).

Find out how to incorporate some digital detox into your life!

4) Aim for minimal screen time in the evening.

Exposing yourself to screens in the evenings means it’ll take considerably longer for melatonin, the body’s natural sleep hormone, to kick in. So how about finishing work and unplugging a little earlier to wind down your brain before bed time? Just because we can be available and plugged in 24/7 doesn’t mean that we have to be!

5) Minimise your online profiles.

I believe that as translators we’re busy enough already with what we do (i.e. translating). Therefore, we do not need a presence on all social media platforms. In my view, being active on even just one is sufficient. As I now try to be minimalist in almost everything I do, it won’t come as a surprise to you that I favour Twitter: thanks to its 140-character restriction, Twitter lets you be minimal in what you post.

6) Be unconventional in your use of online profiles.

I know, I know this goes against all the rules of becoming successful and popular on Twitter: but rather than tweeting 8 times per day (as we’re advised to do), how about logging into Twitter only every 2nd day? Or every 3rd? If busy translators worry or feel stressed about not being present on social media enough, then, clearly, something must be wrong. Also, consider being unconventional when it comes to blogging: feel free not to publish two blog posts per week, as a conventional blogger would do.

I’ve even gone so far as not to enable the comments feature on my blog. Generally,
I think comments on blogs are terrific. However, thinking long and hard about how to reply and then phrasing my replies in English, which is not my mother tongue, would mean yet more screen time on top of the 35+ hours that I already spend at my screen. So my reasons for not having comments are the same as for Seth Godin.

7) Minimise your online marketing/networking.

While it’s true that, in theory, translators can build up big businesses via the internet and without ever leaving the house, there are alternative options available: consider minimising – rather than maximizing – your online marketing/networking activities. Replace your marketing/networking screen time by (yes!) leaving the house and engaging in some face-to-face marketing or networking out in the non-virtual world.

8) Try a day or two of no screen time at all.

Electronic devices have infiltrated almost all aspects of our lives in recent years. You’ll only start to notice their impact once you switch them off for a while. Choose a day or two in which you won’t let electronic devices clamour for your attention. Weekends in particular are perfect for device-free days. Be minimal by incorporating some digital detox into your life.

Minimise – unplug – enjoy!

Links to useful articles:

- The 10 Most Important Things to Simplify in Your Life (by Joshua Becker)
- Screen Time for Adults: Setting Limits for Yourself (and your inner child) (by Lily Sloane)
- Opt Out: A Simplicity Manifesto (by Leo Babauta)

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

What the minimalist wardrobe and translation specialisms have in common

There is a good reason why successful women like Matilda Kahl, art director from New York, wear the same thing to work every day: she never stresses about what to wear, she is more efficient at work, and she always looks and feels great.

As I’m paring down my closet more and more to a select number of items, I’ve noticed some baffling similarities between the minimalist wardrobe and translation specialisms. Over time, I’ve carefully minimized my translation specialisms so they now only include patent specifications in a few select fields and contracts; everything else I turn down.

What do the minimalist wardrobe and translation specialisms have in common?

Minimalist wardrobe principle 1:
Toss out any pieces of clothing you don’t feel comfortable wearing.

I’ve figured out, for example, that I hate wearing black. I always had to wear black in my job as a funeral organist 20 years ago – and I didn’t like it back then either. It’s taken me quite some time to figure that out. So I’ve started tossing out (most) black pieces of clothing.

Similarly, it’s taken me quite some time to figure out there are subject areas I would neither enjoy nor feel comfortable with. For example, I’d hate having to translate a novel. Some subject areas – such as electrical engineering or chemistry – I am even terrified of! So I give them a wide berth.

A minimalist wardrobe will help you to always look great and feel great

Minimalist wardrobe principle 2:
Know what flatters you.

Minimizing your wardrobe involves identifying what flatters you in terms of style, materials, colours, and patterns. Buying new clothes consequently becomes a piece of cake as you already know exactly what to look out for.

Similarly, identifying a translation specialism allows you to be highly selective when sifting through a pile of new job enquiries; you can decide quickly which translations are and which aren’t for you. A specialism will not just make your website look attractive, but also make you look good.

Minimalist wardrobe principle 3:
Create a capsule wardrobe.

The only thing Matilda Kahl had to do to create her iconic work uniform was to buy 15 identical silk white shirts and a few black trousers. A capsule wardrobe includes timeless, versatile pieces that you love to wear. It is the definition of your personal style.

Similarly, just as a capsule wardrobe can greatly boost your public image, the specialisms that translators acquire and become known for often turn into their brand. And not only are these translators conversant with their subject areas, they also usually love their specialisms!

Just as there is a good reason why successful people wear the same thing every day, it makes sense to pick a translation specialism: you never stress about what types of texts to accept, you are more efficient at work, and you feel great about having that specialism! 

Links to articles on the minimalist wardrobe:

- Why I Wear the Exact Same Thing to Work Every Day (by Matilda Kahl)
- 8 Reasons Successful People Are Choosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day  (by Joshua Becker)
- Minimalist Wardrobe (on Simple not Plain, a how-to blog on minimalist living)