I do not like the concept of time management. It is foolish to save precious minutes when we are wasting our life away doing many things we should not do. Time management is like damage control. It only solves urgent problems which need quick-fix solutions, it does not alter anything in your life and does not even guarantee that you won’t get stuck in the same situation again.
That is why for the past few years I have been using a life management approach which I have found to be very useful and effective – especially for translators like us. As per my perception on the life of a translator is concerned, it is very unpredictable. When a project comes to an end, I do not know from where my next project would come, holidays are never planned; whenever I get time, I take the week-end (and some more days) off and head to a place where I am far away from my laptop, e-mails, etc. My only objective at that time is to just discover the place and enjoy. And when the project comes, my life revolves around it with an objective to complete it successfully.
Sometimes, I feel that our lives are more like those of “fire-fighters”. Whenever the alarm rings, we have to be there, no matter what. It becomes the most “urgent” and “important” thing at that time. Therefore, when this tug-of war between “urgency” and “importance” occurs (and it often occurs), I follow the approach read in a book by Dr. Stephen R Covey, A. Roger and Rebecca R. Merrill.
Every activity we do in our lives falls into one of the following four quadrants:
Q1: Urgent and Important: Important, significant activities which require our urgent and full attention. For e.g.:
- Rush hour projects
- Last minute changes in translation, suggested by the client
- Sudden shift of deadline by the client
- Urgent client meeting on site
Q2: Important but Not urgent: Important activities which, when carried out effectively, would help us stay out of problems 90% of the time. For e.g.:
- Further studies for improving our mental abilities and skills
- Terminology building
- Lead creation
- Network building
- Taking backup of our work
- Reading (in our Source and Target language)
- Spending quality time with friends and family
- Effective blogging
Q3: Urgent but Not Important: Activities which do not foster growth in our life, but still we are inclined to do them out of a sense of urgency. For e.g.:
- Answering unwanted phone calls
- Other distractions coming our way like unnecessary e-mails, going to a friends’ house to delivery a CD, etc.
Q4: Not Urgent and Not Important: As the name suggests, not a useful quadrant.
- Unnecessary TV watching
- Unproductive relaxation
As a translator, one should always try to strike a balance between Q1 and Q2, for living a quality of life. I know that Q3 and Q4 cannot be completely avoided, but can be minimized to a great extent in order to achieve our goals.
I know that the above-mentioned matrix is not something I invented, but used and found really useful and life-saving. Although it would not completely prevent you from getting stuck into a new problem, but it would make you armed and ready so that you can tackle it immediately and solve it quickly and ensure that it never comes back to haunt you again.