In every line of work, there are periods of time when there is too much work to do and little time to do it in. Stress levels tend to soar at such times, and they become much higher than those of everyday work-related stress. Here are a few tips that will help you avoid such situations if possible and, in case such situations come up anyway, manage stress levels to keep yourself from burning out.

Preventing Work Overload

In many cases, work overload does not come up due to inability to get the work done, but due to inability to organize the work in a way that it can be done efficiently. This is why it is important to make a schedule. If you are a freelance translator, evaluate the approximate time you believe will be necessary to complete a project, enter this project into a time slot of your schedule and then accept it. It is important to plan your work, otherwise it will make plans for you.

If you do not determine deadlines for yourself, you will most likely unnecessarily stretch out the task at hand to the deadline determined by the client, even though you could have completed the task sooner. Maybe you’ll work slower, double check terminology you had already researched, proofread several times, etc. All of this is fine if you have time, but it usually yields very little results.

The first terminology check was sufficient, the first proofreading removed all the errors and you just lost an additional hour or two correcting your own style. Make your own deadline, complete the translation and move on.

work overload-deadline

Translators tend to accept all the work they can get, mostly due to fear of not finding work in the upcoming period. This can make translators work from dawn ‘till dusk, and from dusk ‘till dawn again. It may have financial benefits, but it can be detrimental to your health in the long run. A good method for handling this is determining a maximum daily word count that will be your daily limit. Most translators set a number of 2000 to 3000 words a day, but you can decide on whatever you’re most comfortable with.

Stress Management

Modern technology is a double-edged sword. Having a small device that allows you to always keep in touch with other people is both a curse and a blessing. It makes you available at all times, and this is usually not a good thing, especially if you’re a freelancer.

Getting emails on new tasks can cause stress even though it’s obvious there’s more than enough time to meet your deadline. That’s why it’s good to complete your work and unplug. Plan your deadlines and arrange other activities later on; that way you’ll work efficiently, finish your work within the deadline you’ve set for yourself and engage in other activities you enjoy later on.

I’ve briefly touched on this already, however it seems important to emphasize it. Rechecking and checking your translation again often yields very little or no benefits. It is also a very strenuous activity that requires high levels of concentration and can occasionally be time consuming. If you’ve got a decent amount of experience, check as you translate, proofread your text once and move on. That being said, you’re bound to make mistakes at some point; decide to be humble at such times, apologize and fix the issue.

Although the work of a translator is stressful at times, it’s also quite rewarding. It encourages you to read, learn and adapt, enriches your vocabulary and expands your general knowledge. It teaches you to read between the lines and get at the heart of any matter.

When it comes to managing your workload, we recommend that you make your own schedule, work efficiently and refuse job offers when you are overwhelmed. When it comes to managing stress it’s best to work effectively, stop constantly doubting yourself and unplug after you complete your work.

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There is no denying the fact that deadlines are extremely important when it comes to the quality of translation projects. However, many clients require large translation projects to be completed in an impossible amount of time.

Why does this happen?

Many companies work on a project and find themselves in need of a translation. In many cases, their own project has a short deadline, therefore they need the translation to be done ASAP so they could continue working on the project. If the translation is late or faulty, the whole project is affected. This is one of many examples where translation projects with unrealistically short deadlines might turn up. What clients do not understand is that translation takes time.

It is not at all unusual to get an inquiry for a very technical translation project of some 20 000 words with a deadline set for the next day at 11 a.m. It can be done, but likely at a high cost, and we are not even talking about finance here. No translator, or a group of translators, would be able to make a high-quality translation in such a short amount of time. High-quality translations require careful research, appropriate terminology and, most of all, proper editing, especially after several translators had worked on a single project.

However, there are cases in which the deadline for a large translation project can be met. The questions are: how can this be done, and how does this affect translation quality?

Translation quality

It all really depends on the organization of the translation project. If several translators are working on the same project individually, with no mutual communication or project glossaries, the translation will inevitably be of poor quality. Different terms will be used by different translators and the differences in their styles of translation will be obvious. This will result in an enormous amount of work for the editor.

Make sure translators communicate during the translation process

If an agency decides to accept a big project with a short deadline, more often than not, several translators need to work on it. In such cases, communication among translators is essential. Translators can exchange information on certain terms and concepts or point each other towards useful resources for the translation project. Also, they are able match their styles of translation to a certain extent. Moreover, creating a project-specific glossary of terms is also of great help when dealing with an urgent translation project that involves several translators. All of this is important to ensure consistent use of terminology throughout the text and decrease the time needed to complete the task.

Ask the client for a translation memory or previous similar translations, if possible

If the client is able to provide a translation memory, this may be extremely helpful, especially if dealing with a translation project that requires extensive research regarding terminology. Translation memories can be uploaded to a CAT tool directly and improve the translation process. However, if all the client can provide are examples of previous similar translations, this can be helpful in terms of acquiring proper terminology and context for the current translation.

Leave enough time for editing

Plan the translation project to leave enough time for careful editing. This may decrease the short translation deadline even more; however attentive editing always results in a higher quality translation. When a large translation project is done in a short period of time, especially by several translators, some errors will most likely remain after the translation process. The editor can then correct those mistakes and adjust the style of writing and make it consistent throughout the text. The better the communication between translators during the translation process, the less work there is for the editor.

Clients are not always familiar with the way a translation project is carried out and often set unrealistic deadlines. When translation agencies decide to undertake such a feat and deal with the client’s request in the best way possible, several things are required to achieve the necessary translation quality: several translators need to work on the project, they need to communicate and use all available resources, and, finally, there must be enough time for the editor to “touch up” the translation. This way, urgent translations can be done to a satisfactory level. Still, whenever possible, it is best to negotiate with the client and get a deadline appropriate for the task at hand.