Prioritizing Tasks


Not so long ago I was translating a sophisticated manual for satellite Internet equipment and there was a section describing in what sequence various data packages are processed depending on their priority indicated in the settings. And so I had an idea that the same algorythm can be applied to any activity, including activity of a freelance translator.

Priority No. 1 is, of course, the current work due to a certain deadline. But if one have some reserve of time, than one can, from time to time, check the mail to see if there are any new propositions. For sure, this depends on one’s individual psychological characteristics. For some people it is difficult to switch from one activity to another, and it is easier to finish, keeping one’s head down, the current job and then proceed to the unread emails. But for me such distractions are a kind of relaxation, a rest in the form of changing the activity.

And then we have such hierarchy, for example:

1. Answer the customers you already work with.

2. Answer new potential customers who have sent an inquiry about your services themselves.

3. Reply to an ad about a particular job.

4. Reply to an ad from an agency inviting new translators to expand their contractors database.

And important factor is not only presence of some job “per se”, but also its weight, i.e. at which rate it will be paid. And from this point of view the priorities are the following:

1. An order from a direct client.

2. An order from a US, German, British agency, i.e. from countries with high wages.

3. An order from an East European agency.

4. An order from a Russian (Ukrainian, Kazakh) agency.

5. An offer from an Indian agency. Answering the latter is a waste of time, but one must believe in miracles:) Maybe one day something will change.

And, to make things even more complicated:

1. A job in your specialty field.

2. A job not quite in your specialty field, but from your long-established customer who knows you do your job well, and so you will perform better than someone new.

3. A job totally outside your specialty field.

I course, it’s too hard to algorythmise all the parameters, but it’s good to be aware of them so that one could get distracted from the main task (translation) with maximum efficiency.