Knowing time zones is part of time management
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Peter Drucker said: “Unless we can manage time, we can manage nothing else”. When managing time, which of course is essential to freelancers, knowledge of time zones should not be sidelined. With the internet playing an increasing role in our work, quite often we are faced with the daunting prospect of juggling deadlines, with the added complication of different time zones to contend with. But how do we go about this rather tricky aspect of time management, which is becoming a core aspect of our work?
The first step is to decide on which type of time zone management system to use. GMT is easy because you can easily check it on your computer, which lists all the different time zones and cities quite effectively. Usually you can click on the time icon on the bottom right-hand corner of your screen and you can select and check up on different time zones.
Secondly, it almost goes without saying, yet must be said, because sometimes we tend to forget that we are in different time zones just because we are able to communicate so easily!! Before accepting a translation job, be aware of the time zone of the outsourcer. It may be that the client is in another time zone, such as Australia (GMT+8 and even GMT+10, depending on the city). Therefore, their 09:00 am on Tuesday 12 June may actually be equivalent to midnight on 11 June in your time zone!! You need to be very careful of this, particularly when you are managing several jobs in different time zones, as you might find yourself having to rush through jobs to meet deadlines. Always diarise jobs, together with times due (calculating them according to your time zone, of course!). Outlook has an excellent calendar which can be used for this purpose, and you can even set up reminders to ensure that you are always one step ahead of the game! This will help with your planning, too.
A quick tip before accepting the job is to google the time, eg. ‘time in London’ – google will very cleverly display the current local time (I never stop marvelling at the ‘cleverness’ of google!!). Also take note of daylight savings time in some areas of the world – it is imperative to always check, even if you know that London or Dublin is GMT, because at different times of the year you might be one hour behind and not two hours ahead. Even if you do check this on your computer, the Windows system is generic and it may still be reflecting the time in that particular place without taking note of specific periods when daylight savings time is in effect.
Checking the time in a country is not sufficient, because there are some countries with different time zones, depending on the city, eg. Perth Australia can be 08:45 am while the time in Sydney Australia can be 01:58 am. Do be careful when googling, though, as another pitfall is that some countries have cities of the same name and that would be a complete disaster!!
The next step is to advise the outsourcer of your time zone; if it is a new outsourcer this is particularly important, but even if it is an existing outsourcer that you have always been working with, it is a good idea to gently remind them that you are on GMT +1, for instance. They need to be aware, in case they have to contact you regarding the translation assignment, and they might be wondering why you don’t seem to be responding to your emails or phone calls, while the deadline is fast approaching (which would make anyone nervous, I guess!!). Proz.com also has that facility of indicating time zones; in case you want to direct your client to your proz profile, ensure that your proz profile is updated with your time zone.
Tools such as skype are significant in the management of ‘live’ file transmission, since when you transmit that file via skype, and the outsourcer receives it, you instantly have a confirmation of receipt. Phoning the client to confirm receipt, or putting a ‘read receipt’ on your email is also a good way of confirming that the client has received the document. However, do take note that even if you transmit a file via skype, it should also be transmitted via your normal email channels so that, in the event of any queries related to that document, you will be able to trace its transmission as well as the actual document sent. With skype, when you trace the history of your chats and file transmissions, it only indicates ‘file sent’ with the date and time details. Another useful aspect about emails is that you can maintain a chronology of receipt of the job, acceptance of the job, transmission and good receipt of the job - a very good way of managing your own records for future reference!
Knowing time zones is therefore an important tool, which should not be ignored if we want to improve our time management skills as well as increase our international portfolios. There is nothing worse than doing an excellent job and then being penalised by the client for not meeting a deadline merely because of ignorance of time zones, basic but essential knowledge!! As William Shakespeare so wisely said, “Better three hours too soon than one minute too late”.