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Among jazz musicians of yore, going to a woodshed to practice was a way of improving one's skills without any kind of interference. It was a time to blow or pluck the instrument far from any prying ears or demanding friends and relatives. I suspect, that it was also a form of meditation, where the music filled the air, body and soul. I play the piano, but I don't think that it would be very happy in a small shed without any kind of heat or air conditioning. Anyway, I just like to have fun on the piano and have no interest in "improving".

But I do think that it is a good idea to prepare for translation work in an isolated environment. Words, like music, can permeate the mind, facilitating optimum learning and performance. Far from being the best option here, as a woodshed is cramped, and most of us don't have one, I recommend an entire universe of places to be and learn. I also recommend certain times of day and certain places to carry out certain exercises and activities.

For starters, you have to decide what it is you want to learn or do. Some recommendations could be:

  • Read up on your specialized subject matters or add a new one to your bag of tricks.

  • Learn or perfect a language that you think would be marketable in the translation industry.

  • Learn how to use new software or beef up on features you are unfamiliar with, thus boosting productivity.

  • Devise and improve translation strategies. Get more accurate, faster, proficient.

  • Work on terminology. Research terms you are unsure of and browse documents to learn new ones.

  • Work on your marketing skills. Expand your client universe. Especially if you have downtime, you can set up your client base and workload further down the road.

I could surely think of more, and will add to this list when I do.

Now, my question to you is: how do you make new information stick? Are you a visual, auditory or kinetic learner? I will give you a rundown on how things work best for me:

I am both visual and auditory. I guess I lean toward the auditory. I like making flashcards, these days something a little more sophisticated in computer applications. I like listening to texts as audiobooks. There are so many free programs out there that will convert text to speech. Lately the robot voices are sounding more human than before. Then I go for a walk someplace nice while I listen to the document. I should add that it should be a pleasant experience while you're learning so you don't even realize you're doing it.

I also try to make it a physical experience when I want to memorize terms and concepts. I find that there is a certain muscle memory that travels up the arm to the brain when I write something on paper unlike the keyboard which seems more mechanical and to my mind, requires less thinking.

Like I said, wherever you go, you should be enjoying yourself. Go for a walk in the park, go to your nearest library, go grab a bite to eat while you're woodshedding. Experiencing something besides looking at a sheet of paper or computer screen will enhance your experience. I don't

know why, but it's always worked for me.

Another important aspect is the time. I find that if you do the same action at the same time on certain days, which remain the same, you will leverage your memory.

However, if none of these work for you, if you don't like to program yourself like a woodsheder, then by all means feel free to devise something else. Indeed, I always tell my mentees that they should either transform my methods into their own by using their own criteria, or simply discard them if they feel they don't work for them.

Happy woodshedding!

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