31 August 2015

Tips for translators: stop multitasking

Here are some tips to help translators increase productivity and reduce stress. They are inspired by new findings in neuroscience and by It's time to pay attention which was broadcast by Australia's Radio National program Big Ideas. The program blurb reads in part:
For many of us modern life is lived at a frenetic pace and is full of countless distractions. It’s compounded by increasing demands of work and the 24/7 digital age.
Authors Martina Sheehan and Susan Pearse have taken this contemporary challenge head on and at the launch of their new book One Moment they offer some advice on how to slow down, be present and start paying attention to what is actually going around you.
The tips I draw from this program and other reading on neuroscience are:

  • Stop trying to multitask. It has been conclusively demonstrated that it reduces rather than improves overall productivity, particularly for intellectually demanding tasks like translation.
  • Strive for blocks of translation time with minimal distractions as the impact of switching your attention to other tasks or allowing your mind to wander has been shown to be far greater than most people realise.
  • Turn off all alerts, warnings, sounds and popups displayed on your screen(s) by non-critical applications, including email software, Skype, Twitter and Facebook.
  • If you're working on a job, avoid dealing with email first thing in the morning. It's too likely to give rise to stress and distraction. Leave it for later.
  • Deal with email and other communication tasks in specific blocks of time. One option is a block before a scheduled breaks for exercise.

More: Multi-tasking: how to survive in the 21st century

There is ample evidence in favour of the proposition that we should focus on one thing at a time.
Another study ... suggested that we are also poor judges of our ability to multitask.
... But don't settle for the quotes. This longish article goes into considerable detail and makes a number of useful distinctions, including four definitions. Recommended.

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