Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Interruptions -- Our Daily Lot

The other day I received an e-mail from a current client requesting a reply ASAP on whether I could take this project. The catch? It was 4:30 am in New York. Since I am usually in bed at that time, I didn't reply until several hours later. By then the project had been assigned to another translator.

Later that day, another called client asking why I hadn't yet replied to their e-mail about a potential project. Turns out the e-mail had been sent 5 minutes before the call and hadn't even arrived in my inbox yet. I was in the middle of working on another project, but my train of thought had already been interrupted. So I checked that e-mail immediately, negotiated the project, received and checked the files, etc. Only to find out an hour later that this new project had been double assigned and I shouldn't work on it after all.

Next, a Skype message popped up on my computer, from yet another client, wanting me to turn a small project around within a few hours. When I replied that I couldn't accommodate that time frame because I was already working on other projects, the answer was "But it's only 300 words, so it shouldn't take long, and I need it right away." By the way, no rush fee was offered.

Books on time management suggest sending phone calls to voice mail, turning off Skype and checking e-mail at set times to minimize distractions. That may work for corporate managers with secretaries, but we freelance translators cannot simply be unreachable for lengthy periods of time. As the first example shows, we lose out on work that way (I am still not getting up at 4 am to check my e-mail, though).

So what can we do to deal with these interruptions? I generally limit my e-mail checking to once an hour or so, unless I am expecting a file or response from a client. When I remember to do so, I set Skype to "do not disturb" before working on a project. And I usually decline same-day projects, even if they are short, unless additional compensation is offered.

The real answer, of course, is better scheduling on the end client and/or agency's part, so enough time for translation is included in the project plan. Unless you are a medical interpreter in an emergency room or work in disaster management, there is really no good reason why translation projects have to be so urgent.


  1. With medical translation, where peoples' health is at stake, you shouldn't be relying on something that could just leave you stranded at a critical moment.
    Luckily, I can't see machines taking over the jobs of human translators in the near future, as they have done with so many other professions (remember telephone operators?)

  2. This is a great article. It gave me a lot of useful information. thank you very much.

    traffic rider | cooking fever  | slither io |  sonic dash |


Thanks for your comment. I will review comments weekly, so please be patient if you are expecting a reply. - Barbara