I often see reels and videos of people showing off “what they do in a day” or “what they eat in a day”. The truth is, there is no standard for anybody. In fact, I guess not even translators have a standard routine in their job – or at least, I find mine to be pretty one-of-a-kind comparing to what a lot of people claim.
You’d expect I wake up early, have my breakfast and then sit right away at my desk starting to work like there’s no tomorrow. Well, quite the opposite! During the years, I actually realized that the part of the day when a lot of people enjoy a higher level of productivity – i.e., mornings -, is actually the moment my brain won’t work. Simple as that. Flat line. No signal. Kaput. Whatever I eat for breakfast, it’s simply off – and coffee doesn’t help.
I used to feel a little ashamed of that, think I’m spoiled or simply lazy. But the fact is, I could force myself as much as I wanted, but no good results would come out of my work in the mornings.
You see, translation looks like a pretty mechanical job, but it actually isn’t. There’s a lot of work and reasoning and creative thinking behind a single translated sentence. It’s not limited to the classic “how do you say this or that in [whatever language pops into your head]?”. It’s more of a decision-making process, in which there’s a lot to think about – context, audience, grammar, text structure, elements to eliminate, elements to add, you name it.
You can easily guess how my brain cannot simply cope with all that while it is still in plane mode! So I decided to embrace the (very few) signals my body sends me in the morning and adjust my schedule accordingly.
Now I try to dedicate early mornings to my to-do list (calls, errands, doing the shopping, cleaning the house, and all that) and sit at my desk only when I feel to. It could be late mornings or even after lunch – it depends on the day. But since I plan my day this way – and to my surprise – I saw a considerable increase of my productivity level.
I once read a post by a fellow translator claiming that their productivity is at its highest level for no more than 4/5 hours. I couldn’t agree more. You cannot force your brain to work on creative processes for more than some hours. You simply cannot force ideas to come out after your brain has worked non-stop for quite a long time. Quality translations take time – and this is also the reason why you cannot ask translators to deliver their work yesterday (btw, have you already read my previous blog post?).
I always say that mornings may as well not exist 😀 And really, I don’t care if I have to work all evening to finish my work. Some may find it crazy but, hey, that’s life! Each of us is no fit-for-all.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I believe that “standard” doesn’t exist. We all have different approaches and habits – and that’s totally fine. As long as it works for you, it works for me.
You prefer to wake up at 4:30am, practice yoga and then start working so that you’re done by noon? Good for you.
Or else, you prefer to lie in till late? Don’t think you’re spoiled!
Simply, our body tells us exactly what to do and when to do it. I don’t think it’s wise to rely upon those “what I do in a day” videos too much. Yes, you can take inspiration from them, but then try and follow your own rhythm in your job as well as in your private life. You’ll see a boost in all your activities – and you can thank me later 😉