Productivity Strategies and Tools for Remote Translation Project Managers (TPM)
by Cynthia Penovi
Translation Project Managers are an essential link in the workflow of the translation process. In small translation agencies, they are in charge of dozens of daily communications; managing complex projects; checking statuses and progresses; and mediating between vendors, partners, clients, reviewers, and proofreaders, among other responsibilities. They are the ones responsible for projects that do not go so well or deadlines that are missed. Without them, we would not be able to accomplish our final goal to communicate without borders in an efficient and effective way.
Translation Project Managers can be faced with additional difficulties to accomplish all of these tasks when they are working outside of an office environment, due to issues related to poor work organization, lack of productivity, inefficient processes, team communication problems, and procrastination. Luckily, there are numerous resources and strategies that can be used to address these challenges. Below are some of the ones I consider the most useful and a few tools I recommend.
Break down your tasks into smaller steps
An effective way to avoid getting overwhelmed when facing daunting tasks is to break them down into smaller ones and organize them in a list by priority. My favorite tool for this is Trello, which is becoming popular among freelancers. Trello is a visual and user-friendly collaboration platform designed to have a visual and flexible interface. You can create cards, boards, and lists; add notes, labels, comments, deadlines, and attach files to each item. There are plenty of templates online that can be used as reference for what you need to accomplish, and you can also integrate it with Google Calendar. It is perfect as a daily or weekly planner.
Learn how to make the most out of your email service
Many of us are unaware of the diverse functionalities that these resources can offer us. When using Gmail, for instance, a very useful feature are canned responses, which allows you to create email templates and can save you hours of time spent writing emails from scratch each week. Examples of templates can include confirming receipt of messages or requests, scheduling calls or meetings, sharing instructions, and reminding your contacts to perform a certain action. You can combine this with other tools like Boomerang and MailTrack. With Boomerang, you can schedule when to send emails, you can archive your messages, and you can also set reminders to follow up within specific time frames, among other actions that can help you organize your time and tasks better. Mailtrack is a tool for Gmail that notifies you when your emails have been opened, which is very helpful when waiting for vendors’ or clients’ replies.
Know your keyboard: improve typing speed and learn shortcuts
The keyboard is any Project Manager’s working tool, and mastering its use is essential when it comes to saving time. There are several resources online for checking how fast you type, increasing your typing speed, and playing games to keep improving.
Additionally, learning how to take advantage of shortcuts to open a new window, a tab, your history, or downloaded files on Chrome, Firefox, or your preferred browser can significantly help get work done faster. Being able to confirm segments, copy source text to a target field, add comments, or insert non-breaking spaces in a couple of seconds can be extremely useful when working with our favorite CAT tools as well, such as memoQ or Trados. Microsoft also provides detailed articles with their shortcut keys in Office.
Use a password manager
Project Managers are constantly working with multiple platforms, portals, FTP’s, and different software. A password manager allows you to store all your passwords and be able to access all your resources efficiently, without wasting time on having to look for each specific credential. The one I use daily is LastPass.
Set up remote access to your computer
Resort to apps like TeamViewer or Chrome Remote Desktop to access your computer from other computers, phones, or tablets. You can use the time you spend on public transportation, the line at the grocery store, or on hold in a call to quickly check any platforms, send emails with attachments, or do anything you need to do from your computer by controlling your screen remotely.
Figure out where your time goes and block distractions
It is a good idea to use time tracking software like Toggl to track time and streamline your workflow. Toggl measures the time you spend on different tasks with a chronometer, helping you identify what tasks take you longer and how much time you are actually spending on each one, so that you can assess what changes need to be made to increase your productivity. If social media –or a certain website, app, or game– is a problem, website blockers like StayFocusd and Cold Turkey are what you need. These prevent you from accessing your favorite distractions for as long as needed.
Use voice recognition technology
Giving your wrists a break while you dictate shortcuts, macros, emails, and memos can make you more efficient by helping you avoid the time lag created by the use of a keyboard. Dragon Naturally Speaking is one of the most popular tools among freelance translators, but Mac and Windows users can also use voice control without having to download any apps.
Resort to language identification tools and OCR software
Have you ever had a client send you a document in an unidentified language to translate into English? I know I have spent some precious time emailing several linguists just to ask them to confirm the language of a file. You can make your search more effective by using language identification tools such as What Language Is This, Language Identifier, or even Google Translate. If you receive non-editable text, you can use tools like ABBYY FineReader or Adobe Acrobat to be able to extract a fragment for identification.
Use time zone tools
When you are working with vendors all over the world, it is not easy to keep track of the different time zones of your colleagues and clients. Instead of using a time zone converter, you can use a tool to see the time and location of every member you add to your team, such as Spacetime. If you are looking for something simpler, you can go to Every Time Zone for a visually attractive, organized, and customizable view of different time zones.
Which one of these did you find the most useful? What other resources, strategies, and productivity tools do you use when working as a Project Manager? Send me an email to [email protected] and let’s keep the discussion going.
About the author
Cynthia Penovi is the co-owner of Argentum Translations, a women-owned, minority, and family-run language services provider based in the United States. She holds a B.A. in English-Spanish Technical, Scientific, and Literary Translation, as well as an M.A. in Art and Communication. She was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and moved to the United States in 2016, where she continued developing a successful career in Translation Project Management before opening her own company with her twin sister, Paula Penovi. Nowadays, she works with several national and international clients to overcome language barriers and reach the non-English speaking community.