One of the benefits of working as a freelance translator is that you’re able to set your own schedule, but this can also be a drawback if you tend to procrastinate instead of tackling a job and organizing yourself to get it done by the deadline. In fact, procrastination – far from being the cause of deadline anxiety – is often a response to it. The reason is that challenging tasks (and translation is a challenging task) have both negative (e.g., fear that the project is too challenging) and positive (the sense of reward when you finish the project) psychological aspects. When the negative aspect outweighs the positive, we tend to procrastinate, which increases our anxiety as the deadline draws ever nearer, while we continue to make no progress. Even though no one likes to put a deadline on their creative process, deadlines are not only inevitable, but can actually be a motivating factor.
It’s all a matter of attitude, and that’s where the Pomodoro method comes in. Invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s as a personal system to get more studying done, the method came to the attention of business managers in the 1990s. The Pomodoro Technique® is a time management method that helps you transform time into a valuable ally by breaking down a large task or series of tasks into short, timed intervals. You become more productive because you accomplish the tasks that you set for yourself in timed bursts of concentrated effort – which boost productivity – rewarded with short breaks – which prevent burnout and distraction and refresh creativity – while at the same time allowing you to record your increasing productivity over time.
Learning the Pomodoro technique takes only minutes, and using it couldn’t be easier. All you really need is a timer, a pencil and a piece of paper. In fact, the technique’s name of Pomodoro (which means “tomato” in Italian) comes from the fact that the inventor used a tomato-shaped mechanical timer, but any kind of timer will do.
Here’s the method:
- Choose a task (or series of tasks) to be accomplished.
- Set the Pomodoro (your timer, and the name of the timed work unit) to 25 minutes.
- Focus on the task(s) and work without interruption until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your piece of paper.
- Take a short – e.g. – five-minute, break.
- Every four Pomodoros, take a longer break (e.g., 15 minutes to 25 minutes, or whatever you need to clear your mind and refresh your creativity).
Repeat throughout your workday. It’s important to note that each Pomodoro is an indivisible work unit. This is the key to the system: if you become distracted from your task for whatever reason (a phone call or email and so on), you must either end the Pomodoro then and there or postpone the distraction until the Pomodoro is finished.
It will come as no surprise that, when it comes to the Pomodoro method, “there’s an app for that”. In our next article, we’ll introduce some of the more popular apps that can help any translator to reduce procrastination and burnout, manage distractions, and increase their productivity and sense of accomplishment.