Things that are supposed to increase our efficiency as translators and business owners do not always do that. I wrote about this in the article “Paradox of the Knowledge-Worker Age at a Translation Agency”, with one of the examples being e-mail that is supposed to be a time-saver, but for many has become a time-waster instead. Another example of this problem is the numerous complaints we hear about programs such as Trados. Like any other CAT (computer-aided translation) tool, Trados has a huge potential to increase translators’ performance, just by the sheer number of useful functions that it provides. However, when your CAT tool malfunctions, you may end up spending the first half of your day fixing the CAT tool and the second half restoring your translation. This article lists two reasons why this is happening, as well as several strategic ways to make technology your servant rather than your master.
What is wrong with translators?
I see two main reasons that we use new technology suboptimally:
- Innovation and technological progress happen too fast for people to keep up. We are bombarded by new content, new devices, new best practices and tips daily, but our brain, and more specifically our ability to handle new things, is still pretty much the same as that of our great-grandfathers, who were used to much slower pace of change. Even though we do use new devices, programs, and techniques, we often fail to take full advantage of them. One example is using an Android smartphone as a simple phone, without realizing that it has essentially the same functionality as a laptop.
- New technology comes at a price. This price is the time spent maintaining it to make sure it performs as expected. We spend a lot of time getting up to speed with new programs and new functions in existing programs. Software produces errors, preventing us from getting down to work and sending us on an Internet crusade for a solution instead. Hardware breaks down, and we need to fix it before we can do anything else. Important data gets lost due to human error, such as accidental deletion, and we waste time restoring it. We fail to follow a reasonable backup routine and end up losing countless hours redoing what has already been done.
What should translators do?
To make the best use of technology requires fighting some of our natural tendencies, mainly laziness and getting stuck in the comfort zone:
- Develop a knack for embracing new things quickly. This is a requirement of the reality we live in. With so many changes happening so fast, “resistance to change” has to be a thing of the past. Failure to become a champion of change in your own world almost invariably means limiting yourself in every respect.
- “Read the manual.” When you use a program extensively, such as a CAT tool, make sure to learn how to use all its functions. Read its manual, follow the forums, watch the YouTube videos. Make it your job to be an expert user. Learn to do things quickly that inexperienced users spend too much time on.
- Develop written procedures for your work. If you do not have them, you end up doing things differently each time, which drains energy. Another benefit of having a written procedure is that it lends itself to optimization, because you become more conscious about what you are doing.
- Learn and use as many keyboard shortcuts as possible. Obviously, one press of a shortcut saves only a few seconds, but if you multiply it by the many hundreds of such operations during the day, the time savings are impressive.
- Make sure you can quickly access the resources you need often. If you open a specific file several times a day, create a link wherever you want so that you can access it in a matter of seconds. Set up shortcuts for accessing frequently visited websites with Autohotkey or programs such as Intelliwebsense. Use Autohotkey or macros to automate other routine tasks, such as repeated replacements in files.
- Work safely and in an organized manner. Have a backup policy that enables you to restore lost files in an hour rather than in a day. Store files and folders within a structure that enables you to find information easily. Instead of deleting files or folders, move them to a temporary folder or rename them.
Read about four other ideas about making your life easier as a translator.