#ADayInTheLifeof… Marta Stelmaszak

September was hectic and I know I’m lagging behind. But good things come to those who wait.

No intros for Marta Stelmaszak, my beloved friend, colleague and sidekick in The Freelance Box gigs.

Glasses are overrated (photo by @xosecastro)

Glasses are overrated (photo by @xosecastro)

5.00 – Wake up

Rain or shine, 5 am is my usual wake-up time. I do need coffee to get me properly started, so I spend the first 30 minutes of my day sipping from my favourite Sherlock’s coffee cup. At the same time, I’m browsing my Feedly and reading interesting articles that later get shared on Twitter or Facebook. I also check my Trello and Google Calendar to see what’s on my to do list for the day. Then I take another 30 minutes for breakfast and getting ready to work.

Coffee in the morning, with @rainylondon

Coffee in the morning, with @rainylondon

6.00 – Office hours begin

Being most productive in the morning, I spend the first 4 hours in the day fully concentrated on translation work. I don’t check my email, I don’t look at my phone or I don’t log on social media platforms. Maximum focus.

10.00 – Emails and communication

I found that 10 am is the best time for me to tackle emails and small tasks such as following up with prospects or giving a customer a call to clarify some details. This is when you’re most likely to find me online. I also try to schedule all calls and Skype meetings during this time.

12.00 – Training

Three days a week I go to the gym for a training session, including 45 minutes of spinning and some weight lifting. I was never paying much attention to exercising before, but I realised I had to act when my back pain was becoming more and more painful. On the other two days, I spend this time either volunteering as an interpreter at a local migrant support centre (that’s Mondays) or run errands (go to the post office, bank, college). These days when there’s more work to cope with, I’d sacrifice these two hours, but I’m not very keen on doing it.

Public speaking is now every day life for Marta.

Public speaking is now every day life for Marta.

2.00 – Lunch

Whenever I can, I try to have a proper lunch break without checking emails and thinking about work. During warmer months, I tend to lunch outside, preferably in a nearby park. If I’m not meeting anybody for lunch, I’m most likely reading a paper issue of The Economist. Training and lunchtime are the three hours in the day when I try to go low-tech, so no smartphones, no tablets, no laptops.

Marta is vegan.

Marta is vegan.

3.00 – Back to work

I take another 3 to 4 hours to translate (or interpret) in the afternoon. Again, this is a productive time for me because I don’t usually get calls or emails after the morning rush.

6.00 – Teaching or learning

Once a week I teach interpreting at a local college in London, and another evening is taken up by my translation students on Skype for online tutorials and comments on their translations. If I’m not busy teaching, I invest this time in writing my blog or other activities related to the Business School for Translators. At least one evening a week I work on my CPD. It can take many forms, from catching up with webinars I registered for but couldn’t make on time, through reading books and articles, to preparing my own presentations for upcoming events.

TFB combo

TFB combo

9.00 – Wind down

9 pm is the latest when I have dinner and relax after a day full of work. I usually spend this time catching up with friends or reading up on the philosophy of technology, one of my favourite topics. I don’t go to bed later than 11 pm, as I need my 6 hours of sleep.

The stupid things we do.

The stupid things we do.

Stavanger (Norway) is in Marta's dreams

Stavanger (Norway) is in Marta’s dreams

Thanks, Marta!

A Day in the Life of… Andrea “Giglio” Giglioni

August is coming to an end and I wanted to close it in style with a new post for the #ADayinTheLifeOf series.

My new guest is Andrea “Giglio” Giglioni, a friend and a uni fellow with whom I’ve reunited here in London. A Localisation Project Manager for a big company with offices around the world, he’s a yogi, does not use social media that much, got his smartphone just a short while ago and is a Japanese speaker. 

Welcome to his world! 

This is my new haircut

This is NOT my new haircut.

6am (early bird!)

On a good day I wake up early and go to a morning yoga class. I like to start my day with something other than work, I think it helps me put the rest of the day into perspective. The yoga I do is quite strenuous and there is nothing quite like it to get rid of stress. I usually feel quite elated afterwards.

Power napping.

Power napping, actually.

8.30-9 am

Coconut water in hand (don’t judge me, it works), I jump on the bus. This operation is no mean feat since I have 2 lines that take me to work but they don’t share any stops and in some places they run in opposite directions! This defies all laws of physics but it seems to make perfect sense to Transport for London. Sometimes I end up on the bus that elementary school classes take to go the zoo. Which is fun, mainly thanks to my noise-cancelling headphones! Simply a must-have if one wants to keep the zen going. The bus is my time to read and I’ve chosen it over cycling or walking, and of course the tube which I try to avoid as much as possible. I’d take loud school children any day over the grey tube commuters. I usually read some children’s book or simplified story in Japanese to keep my language-learning efforts up.

Silence is bliss

Silence is bliss. Oh yeah.

9.30-10 am

Alas, I don’t get off at the zoo but at my office for some work… I am a project manager in the Localisation department of a global stock media archive. I started as an in-house translator and 4 years ago I switched to project management.

I’m the only member of my team here in London so things can get pretty busy. We work with an external agency to cover all our translation and production needs and my role is to manage the localisation requests from the business. I like this position because I still get to provide linguistic input and use my expertise without being bang in the middle of the translation rush, and because it’s a more people-facing role! I am also the team expect for digital production which adds a creative flavour to the mix of people I’m in contact with daily. I see what I do as an enormous machine that has to be kept in perfect balance – I’m a yoga fan after all! The translators have to provide excellent quality, the production department has to create versions of our messaging that is up to our standards and the internal global/regional teams have to be coordinated to provide the right assets and feedback at the right time. If you throw into the mix more than 20 languages and an ever-evolving business, actually, who needs to go to the zoo!? The most rewarding programmes I run are those involving evangelising best practices within the business and working out quality issues with the vendor. A global company doesn’t necessarily come with their localisation strategies all sorted out, in fact, there is a lot of planning to be done when global projects have to go out on time in so many territories and the strategic phase is where my Localisation team can provide invaluable input and solutions to the business.


My lunch time varies with the nationality of the people I spend it with on the day! If it’s the Spanish delegation I know I won’t be out before 2… Sometimes I also have a Japanese tutor come in the office for a private class. My intermediate Japanese is good enough for my role, to spot any problems or set up and drive a discussion between the vendor and our regional team. (Note by Val: Giglio spent 4 months in Tokyo – see below. My envy level: MASTER).


Back to work. We have a few excellent bakers in the office so the afternoon is usually spent riding the sugar rush of the latest creation they bless us with. Some are truly worthy of a French patisserie. Yum. If you don’t bake you just buy something, anything, as long as our collective sweet tooth is appeased!

Hulk's cake

Hulk’s cake?

The other 2 main company hubs are NYC and Seattle so my afternoon is usually spent on calls to catch up with my team and other departments to synch up on projects. My manager and the rest of my team are in Seattle so I have had the chance to visit the Pacific Northwest a couple of times. It’s always great to see people face to face and I take every opportunity to catch up with my international contacts when I’m nearby. Last year I spent 3 months in Tokyo. It was more of a personal request rather than a work necessity but I am grateful to my manager for letting me work from there and I think it was a great experience to strengthen the ties with the team there :)

5.30pm-who knows

Projects on a global scale are unpredictable so I often stay late, or not! Depending on the tide I can adjust my working times, for better or worse. At peak times I work long hours but if it’s an especially quiet day and the sun is shining outside there is no reason to stay indoors!

The weight of living

The weight of living (drawing by Giglio)


A Day in the Life Of… Sabela Avión

July was certainly the hottest in a while here in the UK. And we don’t adjust well to change!

Talk about change with our new guest, Sabela Avión, who has recently left Geneva after 4 years to move to NYC and work for the UN. Welcome our new #ADayInTheLifeOf translator, a graduate of Monterey Insitute of International Studies and now in-house for the United Nations in the Spanish Division. Find her on Twitter. 

Sabela by @xosecastro

Sabela by @xosecastro


I’ve literally just moved back to New York after four years in Geneva, and jet lag is still in full force. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be waking up this early!

I turn on a radio app and toggle between news radio shows in Spanish, English or French, my working languages, while having breakfast and getting ready to go to work. If the Spanish radio is set to a local station in Vigo, my hometown, I also get some Galician in the mix.

A dreamy pic of Galicia, (Punta Roncudo).

A dreamy pic of Galicia, (Punta Roncudo).


Off I go. The NYC subway awaits. While in Geneva, I commuted mostly by car, so every subway ride is an adventure these days. It takes me about 30 minutes to get to the office at the United Nations Headquarters. Sadly, after some renovation done at the UN compound itself, the Translation Services have moved about a block away. I miss the atmosphere at the Secretariat…

Not a bad view.

Not a bad view.


As I’ve been at my new job for about a week, I haven’t had a typical day quite yet. However, the drill is easy. If I don’t have any assignment to finish, I sign up on a white board so that the Programming Officer knows I’m available. As soon as a document comes in, she’ll evaluate it and assign it to one of us. The UN is implementing a paperless system, so I get an email, I click on a link and I can download the document to my hard drive.

Changes don’t stop there. Enter eLUNa – a translation interface specifically developed for the translation of United Nations documents. It provides access to previously translated documents (bitexts), terminology records and machine translations. This is one change I’m very excited about. As a longtime user of CAT tools, I’ve run the gamut from traditional to proprietary. This new system is web-based, and it’s been developed and adapted according to the specifications and requests of UN translators from all duty stations.

At the United Nations, each duty station is focused on particular topics. Here in New York, we deal with documents produced by the Security Council, the General Assembly or the Economic and Social Council, for example. The topics range from peacekeeping to finances.

In Geneva, most of the workload comes from the Human Rights Council and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Other topics include trade and development, climate change and desertification, and disarmament.

Sabela's mansion in Geneva, Switzerland :) Oh hang on, no, it's just a caste.

Sabela’s mansion in Geneva. hang on, no, it’s just a castle.

Our colleagues in Vienna work on documents about drugs and crime, the peaceful uses of outer space, and international trade law. In Nairobi, the bulk of documents has to do with the United Nations Environment Programme (chemicals and waste, the ozone layer, the Convention on Mercury and the United Nations Environment Assembly) and UN-Habitat (population settlements).

Last but not least, in Santiago de Chile, social and economic development, macroeconomics, statistics, population policies or technical papers about local development projects. They also work at conferences, writing reports or preparing statements.


As the day goes by, I dedicate some time to keeping up to date with industry news. I’m a firm believer in the importance of being a member of the translation community. At times, being an in-house translator means losing perspective with regards to the profession. I’ve made a conscious effort during the past couple of years to fight that. I joined ASETRAD in 2013 and I participate in translation fora in social media. I also keep a Twitter account with mixed purposes, both professional and personal. I follow mostly language professionals, news outlets and the occasional celebrity (Stephen Fry is a must!).

Naturally, this leads to outreach opportunities. I spread news about working at the UN in different language positions (editors, verbatim reporters, interpreters…), and, often, professionals contact me with questions about exams or working opportunities.


During the translation process, we work with editors, terminologists, and reference assistants. Once the translation is completed, it gets sent to a reviser. After that, the Text Processing Units format the documents according to UN standards, from font sizes to paragraph layout. They also add a QR code and the document is published.


Yes, it’s a 9 to 5 kind of work – most of the time. In Headquarters, there are about 4 night shifts per year. This means that, for an entire week, translators start working at 2pm, allowing for coverage of urgent documents that might come later in the day. One of us will also be on-call during the weekend (usually just one day) and on holidays.


After work, plans vary. There might be some time for a workout, for reconnecting with friends or for relaxing. As I said earlier, I’ve just moved back, so there’s a lot of reconnecting! And some serious furniture hunting :)

Isla de la Toja. Because translators do go on holidays.

Isla de la Toja. Because translators do go on holidays.

Gracias, Sabela :) Enjoy the Big Apple and hopefully see you soon.

A Day In The Life Of… Sarah Appleby

We’ve just had the longest day of the year and I’m sure you’ll agree some of our working days can be really long! Here is a #ADayInTheLifeOf a translator based in beautiful Derbyshire, England, where sunset is a whole 15 minutes later than London. Sarah Appleby specializes in corporate and product communications from German into English. Within the world of translation and Twitter you might know her as one of the event organizers for @ITI_EM and @TweetUpN. Sarah’s new website is coming soon here.

Meet Sarah

Meet Sarah

Tips from Rainy London Branding put into action on social media following a workshop

Tips from Rainy London Branding put into action on social media following a workshop

Val and Sarah at #LdnTweetUp, October 2013 (photo: @rainylondon)

Val and Sarah at #LdnTweetUp, October 2013 (photo: @rainylondon)


My internal alarm clock goes off. This is thanks to my partner whose morning commute has somehow trained me to wake up five minutes before he does. If I’m feeling energetic I will get up straightaway, have a cup of rooibos tea, and use this quiet time to check translations prior to delivery. Breakfast is an opportunity to catch up on news and blogs.


Office hours officially begin. Most of my clients are based in Germany so I make a point of checking my e-mails by 8am UK time, Monday to Friday. I’ve done this ever since I began freelancing over seven years ago (even when I lived on a mountaintop in Spain and on a boat). I’m pretty sure this consistency is one of the key pillars of my business.

This is also when I tend to post on social media – I currently run Twitter feeds for the Institute of Translation and Interpreting’s East Midlands regional group, Tweet Up North, and my own. I always aim to share something of interest on each account and like this quick way of keeping up with developments in our own industry and beyond.


I break production tasks down into 1.5 hour work blocks. Getting through the words to avoid working at midnight takes discipline and this is what works for me. When I used to run a lot this time would be the equivalent of 10 miles. So a pretty decent stretch. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from my former boss at a translation company: “Your working life is a marathon, not a sprint, and so it’s best to pace yourself accordingly.”

Pre-run selfie

Pre-run selfie


Morning coffee or (more likely if I’ve been up since dawn) second breakfast. Then settle down to the next work block through to lunchtime. That might be translating a press release, editing a case study or proofreading a brochure. If the words aren’t flowing right away I’ll reply to non-urgent e-mails or do some event planning or admin (that includes checking up on payments and thanking anyone who has paid early). I’m pretty passionate about creating opportunities for fellow language professionals to get together and learn from each other. Organizing events therefore takes up quite a lot of my time and gives me a sense of connection to the wider translation community.

Coffee break at Sarah's office building (where the cups are Rainy London red!)

Coffee break at Sarah’s office building (where the cups are Rainy London red!)


Lunchtime and a chat with my partner if he’s around. No point being your own boss and not taking time to be with your loved ones. Now and again I’ll work from my sister’s house for the day, taking some extra breaks to spend with my little nephew. I also have a co-working desk in Derby which I use for creative and project management tasks rather than confidential work. Sometimes on this extended break I’ll see a friend or have a business meeting – I’ve been working with a couple of different advisors as there is lots of business support on offer in Derby.

What's for lunch? Something from the garden if possible

What’s for lunch? Something from the garden if possible


Usually I’ll fit in a couple more blocks of work with a break in between to do some stretching and check personal e-mails on a different account. I might also research useful training courses or action something from my marketing plan. Today I’m going through queries that have emerged while working in a translation team, solving some and getting back to the client where clarification is required.


If I’m not going out, I’ll take an evening walk or cook. Life’s been exceptionally hectic recently because we’ve been juggling busy workloads with supervising a renovation project on the house, so I really enjoy this time away from the computer.


Time to relax or, if need be, fit in another block of translation. This can be a good time to get into a new text without interruption. I try not to check work at this hour because texts (and me!) ideally need to rest overnight. If it’s Friday, then I’ll almost certainly be done with work and maybe have a homemade sloe gin and tonic! I like to laugh so love watching comedy shows. Even with catch-up TV, I still pay attention to the adverts to keep an eye on the trends that are forming people’s opinions.


The usual end of my day unless I’m working for a direct client on something super-critical at a surcharge. When I lived in London I rarely went to bed before midnight, but life in Derbyshire is mellower. Plus those early starts really do not come naturally!

Thanks Sarah, looking forward to the #LinguistsUnite tweeting session online during #LdnTweetUp, #TweetOutWest and #TweetUpNorth on July 5th!

A Day In the Life Of… Xosé Castro Roig

 May is here and with it a new chapter of #ADayInTheLifeOf. Here for you is my dear friend and amazing colleague Xosé Castro, English into Spanish freelance translator, proofreader and copywriter since 1990. As many colleagues, I was on one of his courses – on specialized translation, marketing strategies, computing – and as of today, I still make the most of his tips and tricks tips & tricks. Since 1996, he has published more than 200 articles about translation and linguistics. He’s also great at photography!  Find him on Facebook too or drop him a line

Xosé Castro. And it's not a selfie.

Xosé Castro. And it’s not a selfie. (Photo: @caotiquemind)

Lenguando, Madrid. March 2014.

Lenguando, Madrid. March 2014 (photo: @rainylondon)

7:30 am:      My wife wakes up earlier than everyone else so she is my “poking alarm clock”, but I don’t usually pay much attention to this first wakeup call: I basically crawl out of my bed to sneak into my daughter’s. This is when I get to cuddle her for about 15 wonderful minutes – bliss. My wife comes back again at some point and forces us to get up. That’s the moment when I realise that if if you’re worthy of being called a responsible grown-up man, you can no longer ask “Please, five more minutes, mum”. This little morning ritual is sacred.

Cuddles are goooooood.

Cuddles are goooooood.

8:00 am:      Breakfast time. This is perhaps the most important meal for us. We like to have a healthy and abundant breakfast, with fresh orange juice, toast, olive oil, Spanish jamón, pastries, cereals, cocoa, tea… with a side dish of a good, old chit-chat.

Food for happy people

Food for happy people

8.30 am:      I usually check my social media accounts now – then some of the many groups I moderate to verify everything is going fine. It’s also time for checking what goes on int world: some headlines, some news, maybe a couple of articles / blogs.

9.00 am:      This is when the real business day kicks off. I check my inbox to usually find a few messages waiting for me from the night before – that’s because I mostly translate for agencies and clients abroad / in a different time zone.

This is my desk. I'm not glued to it, in fact.

This is my desk. I’m not glued to it, in fact.

I plan my daily workload, I set up some pomodoro alerts and I begin translating, wishing and hoping the world of CAT software would soon become a monopoly with just one tool so I don’t have to switch from Trados to memoQ to online TMs to… depending on the client.

This is when I find myself in a wide range of projects: localising software or a sitcom script or a catchy phrase for a US Spanish-speaking audience…. I love that variety.

10.50 am:    I go to the gym at least twice a week – I do kickboxing training and I go running outdoors, unless there are specific deadlines to be met at this time.

I'm the one with wicked kick, if you were not sure.

I’m the one with wicked kick, if you were not sure.

1.30 pm:    Lunchtime and conversation with my daughter when she’s back from school. Maybe a film or a TV series episode together on the couch. These are precious moments and they give us time for conversation. I occasionally eat out with colleagues or friends and take this opportunity to recharge batteries and try not to talk much about translation… or translators!

Truth is that as I share pics or good experiences in my social media accounts (yeah, I know… I am photographer too ☺), some people assume that “the exception is the rule” and I am never in!  I guess that’s why I got asked so many times “Do you ever have lunch at home?”. Well, yes, I do. :-)

Time to eat (and it looks delish)

Time to eat (and it looks delish)

2.45 pm:      Back to work while I blame myself for not having time to update my website or respond the dozens of emails I receive onto my different accounts. I have a glance at my mobile on the table: not even one call received at this time of the day. Telephones are not for talking anymore. Countless Whatsapp messages though… Oh well. Exciting times!

I take care of some e-mails while I sip my espresso (I even have one of these now!)

Rainy London Translations cups are ace.

Rainy London Translations cups are ace.

I usually get 2-3 messages per day from students and new graduates / translators asking for help or support. Sometimes, it takes me ages to respond because I have many of them – but I do take care of all! Apologies.

8.30 Reloj bolsillo leontina cadena libro

Time flies. When you love what you do.

Sun is rising on North America’s East coast so the first messages star to drop into my inbox.

3.05 pm:      Back to translation and proofreading at full throttle. My CAT tool is roaring. Sometimes I grant myself a no email, no calls time frame….and I can take the time to do some accounting too (checkinf payments, issuing invoices…).

6.30 pm:      Curiously enough, this is usually my peak hour. It’s about the end of business day in the UK and Continental Europe and midday in North America so I usually receive some last minute assignments or communications that keep me busy until 7 – 8 pm.

8:30 pm:      Sometimes I finish my day about this time, but I usually check my emails for the last time about 10.30 pm. So, this means you basically can find me still translating or proofreading at 9.30 pm.

My typical day is of course variable if I have to attend a conference or give a course somewhere in the city. That’s when I become a 4G & WiFi hunter and you will find me working in hotel rooms, coffee shops, train stations, airport gates etc. and answering emails in offline mode while I fly.

And then… more family and then off to bed. Yawn.

Thanks Xosé. I want to be like you when I grow up. Bottom line: you’re an all-time juggler :)

p.s.: All pics by @xosecastro, exception made for where stated.

#ADayInTheLifeOf… Valeria Nanni

April was busy but I have not forgotten about our usual #ADayInTheLifeOf. Here for you is my namesake Valeria Nanni, English into Italian Localisation Manager for one of the largest social networks for meeting new people. From the office in London, she translates social media and IT stuff into her native Italian and also manages several other processes and languages. So all-time juggler and a regular at my #LdnTweetUp meetings. What’s not to like?

Valeria al quadrato

Valeria al quadrato

Not a bad view.

Not a bad view.

The office is quite on the funky side

The office is quite on the funky side

8.00 Wake up. Not in the best of moods, but well, let the day begin!

8.45 Leaving the house. A long nice walk to the office. Some fresh air on my face is what I really need to start the day with the right foot and start thinking on how to organise my day.

9.30 In the office. A mug of milk and fruit cereal, a glass of water, eye drops in my eyes (I’ve recently had eye laser operation) and I’m ready to start.

First things first: emails. Loads of them. Questions, questions, questions (from colleagues, translators, developers, agencies…) and new tasks to complete. When I am done with that, I look at our translation dashboard, where I can see the status of our translation work. This is the time to check if the translations we have recently done look good in the translated version. I therefore reproduce the screens or emails we worked on and send them to all the translators for them to double-check. So many things can go wrong if not tested… From a mere typo to a singular/plural issue to a layout problem (think about Hebrew or Arabic that are written from right to left!). Then translate from English into Italian everything that needs translating. And check that the marketing material I sent a few days ago has been properly localised. And if not, contact the relevant translators – life’s busy!

11.30: One of the translators comes to the office for testing our app on an Android phone. After explaining how to go on about it and replied to any questions she has, I’ll go back to “my stuff”.

13.00 A nice almost-healthy lunch with colleagues to get some energy back and rest my mind. It’s good to find some mind space and I’m lucky the office has a balcony, too.

14.00 A look at the emails and on possible urgent translations to do. I also prepare my notes for our weekly localisation update meeting.

15.00 Meeting. A good chance to make a summary of what happened during the week and to see what’s going to happen next. This is also a good opportunity to talk about problems during the past week and to suggest improvements to the process – we all collaborate and the goals are very much easier to get to thanks to this sharing and tackling together.

16.00 Tea break or better…Chocolate/cake break! Something sweet to keep me going.. it’s a long day!

16.15 Back to my desk. It all starts again. Emails, translations, testing, bug reporting, updating the QA test cycle for Android phone, proofreading. And a list: things to do on Monday! My tasks can vary quite a lot. It really depends on the day and on the priorities, which in a fast-paced environment like the one I’m working in, can change extremely rapidly. The secret is always trying to be on top of things and never let things get on top of you. Keep juggling.

17.30 Last meeting of the day. This time having a look on the Internet with my colleague to find a good translator for a specific language. I do enjoy recruiting new talented localisers :D

18.15 Quick look at the emails and at the translation dashboard to see if everything is ok before leaving.

 18.30 Time to go. It’s been a hard week again, now it’s time for the weekend to start :)

Grazie, Valeria :)

Believe in change – and get fitter NOW!

This post was initially written and published in its original version on the ITI Bulletin, in March 2014. 

Thanks, ITI: I am told it was very much appreciated and that’s why I’m reposting. I hope you enjoy it!

Last December, I had the pleasure to be interviewed for the blog of fellow translator Olga Arakelyanon the importance of staying fit.

Maybe you would not believe it now, but if you had met me just a couple of years ago (18 months to be precise) I would have been the perfect example of foodie with a normal metabolism, with a penchant for focaccia and little will to take the stairs for even one floor.

Being Italian makes it obvious that I was used to a Mediterranean diet: historically defined as healthy or balanced, naturally packed with olive oil, carbohydrates, wine and decadent desserts, that was my life. Oh, I stopped exercising when I was 16, as my studies took up most time and culture, you know, is life so, you have the bigger picture: I was not ‘Sporty Spice’.

Someone would say I was blessed with the ability to eat big portions without gaining too much weight – and that was the truth until 18 months or so ago. It was then, just after I turned 30, that I started realizing that my almost proverbial fatigue, my feeling constantly lazy, with attention spans that varied from über-focused to border-line narcoleptic (OK, maybe not THAT over the top) were not exactly right. After a quick self-assessment, I had it very clear that since I started freelancing in 2007, I had steadily gained weight (half a kilo or so every year) and my exercise was next to zero (running to catch the bus always ended up in either a failure or too much effort to be done).

I think at that point there was a shift in my mind-set: I thought it was no longer OK to be so out of shape, to be in need of a weekly massage to make my back feel OK-ish, to feel so sleepy all the time… and – even though physical appearance was never the real trigger – to be worried of how I’d look like in a shift dress or a bikini.

What is the morale to this personal tale?

Well, I realised I HAD to be fit to be more productive and happier.

In a nutshell, this is what I did over an 18-month period:

  •  New chair: I have a kneeling chair and while some may not like it – esp. if you suffer from knee pain or have conditions that do not allow you to have much pressure on them – I find it fantastic for my back. I never arch it, I keep moving as it swings, and it’s a great design for my office space.
  • Hit the gym: or just do some physical activity. I had a gym membership but rarely used it – as most people tend to do. Only by seeing a professional personal trainer I was able to define my goals and create a routine based on my special requirements or issues e.g. back pain, bad shoulder… etc. I still see a PT because I grow bored easily so I feel that is great motivation. It really depends on your priorities and your will power but I do recommend a first contact with a professional to really pin down what you need to do and what you need to NOT do for your health.
  • Training: hard. I train 4-5 times a week – which may pigeonhole me as a gym freak, I know – and trust me, if you had told me a year ago I’d do it, I would have laughed at your face. I do a mix of circuit training and heavy weights, with a little cardiovascular work. The key for me is frequency i.e. the more often I train for short periods of time, the more results I have and the fitter I feel; for others it may be OK to just run on a treadmill twice a week or swim or do Pilates – again, everyone is different and has very different goals.
  • Change of diet: radical. Rather that a ‘diet’ in the stricter sense, I changed the type of food intake (and slightly reduced portions). Alas, I do love pizza but I am only treating myself with it on special occasions (and now I struggle to finish it!). I only have carbs in the form of nuts and fruits or rice and potatoes. While I feel more focused, I also lost some weight and never feel that sleepy anymore – even though my body composition now is more muscles than fat. My diet is mainly protein-based, which may work for some but not for everyone. My tip? Again, see a nutritionist or a trainer, esp. you vegan or vegetarian colleagues – to help you work out your yes / no food. Another tip? Have your food (or most of it, if you like picking up groceries yourself) delivered so you avoid temptations while wandering – hungry – in the shops. I won’t even mention that you need to drink loads of water (monitor your intake with an iPhone app called iDrate)
  • Sleep routine: regular. I am now trying to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. I’m far from succeeding but trying is a step towards your goal. Training in the morning is also beneficial: I don’t ‘enjoy’ training, mind you! But if I do it first thing in the morning, I take it ‘out of my way’ and can feel energised and focused.
  • ‘Me’time’: carve it out. This can be reading a magazine, shopping, listening to music, walking the dog or spending time with the family. I try to organise everything I do to make sure I always fit in something that I enjoy doing – it gives structure to my life and it’s a great element of balance in your lifestyle. Just make sure it’s not too many pints…
  • A clean desk, proper lighting and… rewards: I can be a messy head but at least I try to clear my desk when I’m done with work. Lights should not be in your face and without going feng shui with it, you can easily work out what is best for your eyes. Ideally, stop and move the gaze away from your screen every 20 minutes, looking into the distance, so you can refocus and rest your sight. Reward yourself: not with food (you will eventually grow less hungry, I swear) but with some time off, to do stuff you like. I can only stay sane if I blog or read, or listen to my favourite tune while I get (one of the many) espresso on the sofa. Some love power napping, so maybe try it out!
  • Believe in ‘change’: I was one of those people who’d say ‘I don’t need to exercise, I don’t like it, I am tired just thinking about it’. Now, while I’d still rather have a slice of Margherita pizza while watching a film with my feet up and a glass of prosecco, I keep on training hard for me and do value the importance of the balance of mind and body.

A focused mind means less time spent on doing (badly) the same things all over again. And you’ll also look younger, which always is flattering.

Some casual pull-ups in the park.

Some casual pull-ups in the park.



Never give up!



#ADayInTheLifeOf… Megan Onions

March’s installment of #ADayInTheLifeOf features lovely colleague Megan Onions, French and German into English translator and editor, of  Speech Marks Translation. Megan runs her business from rural Herefordshire. She has been translating French and German into British English since 2007, specialising in promotional, marketing, sports and tourism material. Find her on Twitter or on her new proofreading dedicated site, Speech Marks Proofreading.


My alarm goes off. Unless I have a project to finish before lunchtime, I don’t tend to get up early. My brain doesn’t work to its full potential right away! I generally do my best work in the afternoons and evenings, which means that I have to be strict when it comes to switching off. Before I do anything, I check my emails and social media accounts for anything requiring an urgent reply.

Just before 9am

After a quick shower and a simple breakfast, I start up my computer and go through my paper to-do list. I have started to make a list at the end of each day ready for the next morning, which really helps me to focus, structure my week and reflect on what I have achieved during each day. I try to do the least appealing task first, if possible. For example, if I have some receipts to file or some files to align and add to one of my translation memories, I’ll try to get that over with and get on with more satisfying activities.


The translations I do on aren’t usually long-term projects, so I’m usually starting a new job or finishing a current one. This means that I spend a fair bit of time on enquiries, quoting or invoicing. It also means that I often work on more than one project in a day, which helps me to stay creative and certainly keeps me sharp!As well as translation, I also proofread and edit English material under the name Speech Marks Proofreading, and I have been offering copywriting as an additional service since mid-2013. Providing these different services can mean that a week is extremely varied – just the way I like it.


It’s not always at the same time, but I try to take one extended break in the morning and one in the afternoon. This break might involve going for a walk, doing a few exercises or popping out to the Post Office, but I try to get outside and breathe some fresh air if possible. Today, I went out to post a card to a lovely colleague, who has kindly referred me to a new client.


Back to work for about an hour until my stomach starts to rumble! I sometimes find that this sliver of time is actually really productive, whether a great idea for a blog post occurs to me or I find that perfect turn ofphrase for some website copy I’m translating. Sooner or later, though, I feel the pull of the kitchen.


It’s time for lunch. Lately, I’ve been enjoying homemade soup, as it’s something that I can prepare at the weekend and eat quickly and easily.At the moment, I have three Coursera courses on the go (Content Strategy for Professionals, The Science of Communication and Sports and Society), so I might try to catch up on the videos and quizzes over lunch. It’s quite easy to fall behind if I have a busy few weeks.


Right, back to work! If an enquiry comes in over lunch, I take a look at the file and the client’s requirements and either send a quote and my terms and conditions (if it’s a direct client) or refer them to a colleague with different specialisms or language pairs. One of my goals for this year is to work with more direct clients, so I’ve updated my terms and conditions andhad promotional postcards designed, along with a looong list of other things! Otherwise, I get on with my translation/proofreading/copywriting work, email potential clients, keep in touch with colleagues or update my Twitter or Facebook accounts (often all of the above).


It’s time for my afternoon break. One of my to-do list items for this week is updating my LinkedIn profile, after listening to Tess Whitty’s podcast interview with Anne Diamantidis. I spend some time looking at colleagues’ profiles and rewriting my descriptions over a drink and a snack, then get back to work for the final stretch.


Time to wind down and get something nice to eat. I generally try to shut down my computer by 6pm, depending on when I started work and whether I have an urgent project to work on or complete. At the end of the day, I make my to-do list for the next morning, and it all starts over again!

Thank you, Megan :)

#RainyContest2014: and the Cup goes to….

The time has come, signore e signori!

The entries were plenty and all very professional yet personal. Thank you!

You can check some using the #RainyContest2014 hashtag on Twitter or read some on my FB Page now… The moment all were waiting for.

The #rainycup goes to… A gentleman, for a change!

Who said the ladies are over-represented!?

I give you Javier Mallo (@javmallo)!


Please get in touch to claim your cup ;) And to all who took part: THANK YOU again for the love!

Till next year… ~Val.


#ADayInTheLifeOf… Catherine Christaki

This month… more than double bill! Spoiling my readers :)

For the usual appointment with #ADayInTheLifeOf, I give you Catherine Christaki, English-Greek translator and co-owner of Athens-based Lingua Greca Translations. Find her on Twitter: @LinguaGreca, on her popular translation blog, Adventures in Freelance Translation. Enjoy!

For freelance linguists and translation company (albeit tiny) owners, no day is the same as the previous or the next. There are so many things to do! I’ll try to describe what my typical day looks like, one without work errands (tax office, banks etc.) which my translation partner and hubby Christos usually takes care of and without professional events or client meetings. Basically, a day spent 100% inside the office (my favorite kind!).

7:00-7:30 Wake up, get dressed. Hubby takes care of our cat babies (food for the day, fresh water) and then we drive to our office (5 minutes).

Lingua Greca office inside is GREAT!

7:30-8:30 Time to have the first coffee of the day (cappuccino, latte, mocha, filter coffee depending on the weather and my mood) and a quick breakfast at the office which usually comprises of a Greek koulouri or an individual cheese pie, while reading the emails that came overnight.

8:30-9:30 Reply to emails and social media mentions, check our blog for new comments and reply to those as well.

9:30-10:30 Read my RSS feeds and choose the best articles to share on Twitter and include in our Weekly Favorites.

10:30-13:30 Time for some translation work. This is the perfect time of the day as our European clients are still relatively quiet and there are minimal interruptions. Great time for lunch too, usually a turkey sandwich from the coffee place two floors down while checking out my Facebook or Twitter feed.

13:30-16:00 Reply to the new emails, add new deadlines to my working schedule and the job tracking system (sounds fancy, but I’m still using an Excel file) and then work on and deliver the small daily and urgent translation and bug-fixing requests from Apple (I am the lead localizer for English-Greek projects). There are usually other urgent requests to take care of as well, such as questions about delivered projects.

16:00-17:30 More work. First, finish the small projects for tomorrow then work on the bigger ones with later delivery dates.

17:30-18:30 Reply to the new emails, plan my workday for tomorrow and publish a scheduled post on our blog (a How I Work interview, the Weekly Favorites if it’s a Friday, a guest post or a post I or Christos wrote if it’s a Wednesday).

18:30 Time to leave and hit the gym for a quick workout and a nice class, like yoga or aqua aerobics.

20:30 After the gym, I usually walk home, it only takes 20 minutes and it’s through a nice area with trees and very few cars. Winters are mild in Greece so my walk is very refreshing.

21:00 Quick shower and then dinner cooked by my hubby chef.

22:00 Cat and reading time! One of my favorite times of the day. First I read a book that requires my mind to be working (translation or business related or anything non-fiction) and then an ‘easy’ book, usually mystery or thriller, to help me sleep. During reading, I take a few breaks to play with my adorable cats, Ozzy and Rocky.

Ozzy and Rocky playing

This is my typical day. But time-wise it’s rarely exactly like that. It depends on the projects and in the past few years the number of emails I receive during the day has grown significantly due to my activity on social networks and our blog. It’s so exciting that I have the opportunity to talk to and get to know so many new linguists every day!

We also travel a lot; both sets of our parents live out of Athens (parents in Crete and in-laws in Epirus). That means 2-4 trips to see them each year. Plus, 2-3 conference trips abroad and a vacation trip once a year. This year, our conference schedule will be busy. There are so many great conferences in offer for translators, it’s hard to choose! We’re planning to attend GALA in Istanbul, Locworld in Dublin, maybe FIT in Berlin and of course the ATA annual conference in Chicago. And don’t forget: the 2nd IAPTI conference takes place in Athens this year, an excellent opportunity for linguists all over the world to come see how beautiful Greece is and taste our yummy food. See you there!

Thanks, dear Catherine!

Catherine Christaki

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