Goal Setting: Getting Things Done for Translators

A guest post by Marta Stelmaszak for CTA

Advice on goal setting is usually not that difficult to find. Why? Because goals are essential for long-term vision and short-term motivation. With clear goals, it is easier to learn, organize and make the most of your work. Goals also help you to see progress, and that leads to increased confidence in yourself as a business person.

The difficulty in goal setting for translators and interpreters lies in the fact that we constantly have to juggle doing the actual work with business development. Even with the best business intentions, it’s challenging to translate long-term ideas into day-to-day practice. In this article, I’d like to share some of my tools and techniques for successful goal setting in a freelance translation business.

You should start your goal-setting exercise by creating a big picture or a vision for your business, thinking about long-term goals. The next step is to break these goals into smaller and smaller targets, which have to be met to reach bigger goals. In doing so, you are creating a plan that will be easy to apply and put into action.

The way I go about it is to write down all the business ideas that I have and all projects on a single sheet of paper. I take a few days to accumulate all points. Then I take a piece of paper or a flipchart and divide it into 12 squares. I write the names of the months at the top of each square. Then I write down everything that needs to happen in each month of the year: every event, every new client search, every new website, newsletter, any idea I came up with and is important that year, I place it in the calendar. That’s how I do it and I believe it really works.

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But of course, this is just the first step. What we need to do now is to start brainstorming all these little things that need to happen in every project from the beginning to the end. I usually take extra sheets of paper and just write down every step that needs taking to finish every project.

After I’ve listed all of this, I create a simple Excel spreadsheet (or a Word table if you prefer) with three columns: category, project, deadline (if you work with a team, add another column for: responsible). Add every little thing that needs to be done in every project to this masterplan. It’s great because you can always expand it and add new tasks and new ideas as you progress through the year. The beauty of it: you have everything written down, every single step you need to take to get you to wherever you want to be.

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Now, here’s what I’m doing by the end of each week: I review my masterplan and pull out all the tasks that I need to do next week in order to push my business forward. I copy them from the masterplan and transfer them onto a new sheet in the spreadsheet called ‘This week’. I copy them there, adding a specific day deadline.

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A few years ago, I heard somebody say that adding things to her calendar prepared her mentally for getting them done. More subconscious thinking takes place, and when you sit down to complete the task, you are in the right mindset. Another advantage of adding business goals to your calendar is that it stops tasks from dragging out as you are working towards a deadline (within reason). If I plan to write a blog post in one hour, it will take one hour. If I plan to write it in two, the task will expand (with me procrastinating more and reading more articles as I go). The real problem occurs when we do not plan how much time we intend to spend on a task – that is when things go on and on and we never finish them. Go, calendars, go!

The system I use for scheduling tasks is Google Calendar, but you can also try Trello or Asana. There are plenty of tools available to help you track your progress. The point is to keep everything in one deadline-oriented system. What are your techniques for getting things done?
About Marta
Marta Stelmaszak

Marta Stelmaszak is a Polish-English translator and interpreter helping businesses in Poland and the UK grow their businesses through better online communication. She graduated in Management, Information Systems and Innovation from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She’s one of top 15 freelancers in the UK as selected by IPSE. Marta runs the Business School for Translators, which turned into an online course, and recently published a book: The Business Guide for Translators.