Managing Deadlines

February 5th, 2015
Managing Deadlines | One Hour Translation

Meeting deadlines is the second-most important aspect of the translation game, so you have little choice but to develop the necessary skills.

One of the first challenges that newly-minted translation professionals face is the fast-paced world of business language translation, which almost always involves deadlines that can turn your hair white. The way you react to and handle deadlines is pretty much a predictor of how you will handle your new career as a translation expert: If you crumple under the pressure, you’re doomed. If you thrive and find ways to manage your time, you have a chance at overall success.

The joke – not a very funny one – in this business is that deadlines only get tighter, never looser. It’s like being a frog in a well: You jump forward one inch and slide back two. The good news is that even though deadlines are getting tougher as the business becomes increasingly globalised, there are some surefire techniques that can help you manage deadlines intelligently and assure that you are a success in your career.

One: Know Thyself

Your first goal in managing deadlines is to know yourself very well: How long does it take you to accomplish tasks? How well do you work under pressure? This sort of knowledge requires serious experience, so you have to work for a bit in order to learn it. Once you do, however, you can know instantly if you can meet deadlines or not, based on your own knowledge of how quickly you work.

The other side of this, then, is having the discipline to not take jobs with deadlines you know you cannot meet. Don’t tell yourself you can figure something out, or that you can suddenly start working 18 hour days and still be happy. Be honest – with yourself, mainly – and be forceful in your rejection of deadlines you’re not comfortable with.

Two: Be Efficient

That doesn’t mean that you can’t improve your deadline possibilities by becoming a more efficient worker. You can learn a lot from veterans of this industry; we’ve seen it all and we’ve figured out how to work as efficiently as possible. In broad terms, there are a few vectors you should pursue:

  • Technology: Software exists that can shave time from your work. Pursue it, learn it, and use it.
  • Self Defence: Don’t allow yourself to be pressured to take on jobs you have no hope of doing in the time allotted. Be willing to lose a job. If you can’t meet the deadline, the worst thing you can do is take on the job anyway.
  • Remember the end game: Don’t make the common mistake of forgetting the extra stuff, like reviewing your work, getting revisions from other jobs, and having to proofread. You can be on-time one second and then realise you’ve completely mis-managed your work the next.

In the end, two things determine your reputation in this business: Accuracy and quality of your translations, and whether or not you meet deadlines. Falling down on either can completely derail your career.