KGH Interpretation Spanish-English Medical & Mental Health Interpretation

Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 3: Track Your Time

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You’re back for my third post on tips to make remote interpreting less anxiety-inducing!  I hope you’ve found the first two tips (reference materials and call flow charts) helpful, but if not, tip number three is sure to resonate with you, because it’s an all-too-common theme I discuss with other interpreters all the time!  This post is all about a facet of our jobs that we all undoubtedly dislike, but unfortunately have to deal with: time tracking.

Tip #3: Track Your Time

I’ve yet to onboard with an agency that has real-time time tracking for calls.  Usually calls appear in my log at least 24-48 hours after I service them.  Even using my VoIP line for some agencies and looking at my call log isn’t accurate because I would have to subtract how much of that time is spent navigating prompts and listening to recorded messages.  It can certainly be anxiety-inducing to not only wonder how many minutes or hours you’ve interpreted in any given day, but also to wonder if your agencies are properly tracking your time and paying you accordingly.  I’ve unfortunately heard of some interpreters being shorted by agencies that aren’t transparent with their time tracking.

Recommended Software for Time Tracking

I’m going to spare you the long diatribe about my experience with time-tracking methods.  I could go on and on about the many (failed) methods I’ve experimented with, but I’m going to keep this short, sweet, and to the point: spreadsheets are a nightmare for time tracking, Timular is my dream time tracking platform, but I’ve been using Toggl for the past few weeks and am kind of in love with it.

Spreadsheets: Don’t do it!

I love spreadsheets.  I have a spreadsheet for everything under the sun, including one that ultimately resulted in my household choosing Bounty select-a-size mega rolls as our paper towel of choice.  I regularly use Excel and Google Sheets for many different business applications.  They’re convenient, inexpensive, and accessible.  As a spreadsheet enthusiast, I can assure you of one thing: spreadsheets are a pain in the rear to use for time tracking.

As a spreadsheet enthusiast, I can assure you of one thing: spreadsheets are a pain in the rear to use for time tracking.

So if you value your sanity and your time, you’ll want to avoid spreadsheets.  Why?

  • They’re just not designed for on-the-go time entries. Good luck switching between your reference tabs/windows, interpreting platform, and/or VoIP application in any sort of organized fashion.  Also, best of luck to you trying to enter times in a Google Sheet on your phone without accidentally selecting the wrong cell four times before finally being able to enter your times when seconds count.
  • Formatting is a bear, even for me as a self-proclaimed spreadsheet expert, and I’m often stuck trying to re-enter the same start or end time three times in a row just to make sure I get the formatting right so the functions will work. Started at 6:02 AM?  Well you can type “6:02” but you can’t type “6:02am.”  You have to make sure to put a space between the time and the AM or the PM, otherwise it will throw up an error.  The only acceptable entries for 6:02 PM are “6:02 PM” and “18:02,” but 24-hour time isn’t my thing.
  • Setting up custom functions are time-consuming.  Want to calculate how much time you spent on a project in a week?  Well make sure all the entries have a project column, then have a separate column that calculates the time elapsed between start/end, then design a formula that not only handles the time elapsed entries, but also is able to determine the beginning/end dates of each week, as well as figuring out which corresponding date cells fall within those calculated dates.

Sound complicated yet?  You’ll also need to be sure to track the time you spend creating the spreadsheet, then enter those times in your spreadsheet as non-billable hours!

My Time-Tracking Dream: Timeular

Behold! Timeular time tracking die in all its glory!
Breakdown of recorded events in Timeular’s web interface

Now, I’m not sure if you’ve seen this neat little gadget, but Timeular is a time-tracking die.  You flip it to the activity you’re doing, and it’ll start tracking the time you’re spending doing it.  To stop the device from tracking or to move to your next task, you simply flip it.  It has 8 sides that you can customize with different tasks you’re working on in your office.  This solves so many of the problems I’ve had with time tracking!  Timeular also points out a sort of catch-22 with most time tracking methods:

  • If time tracking is “done in realtime, it decreases productivity due to interruption.”
  • However, if time tracking is “not done in real-time, the data is not reliable because it’s estimated.”

Imagine this, you answer a VRI call and when you introduce yourself, you flip your die to your custom VRI face.  No switching between tabs on your computer then hurriedly typing your start time in a spreadsheet (don’t forget the seconds!), or clicking the button on the side of your phone to wake it up, navigating to the Google Sheets application, frantically tapping on the start time cell, then manually typing in the time.  You also don’t have to blindly hope that your agency is accurately tracking your minutes (that will show up in at least 24-48 hours).  You just flip a die.

I admittedly have not purchased Timeular.  Funds are tight thanks to COVID-19 and the device is $89, but I’m going to ask for it for Christmas (and tell my husband to keep the receipt so I can declare it as a business expense– the gift that keeps on giving).  Just know that if you get one, I will be incredibly jealous of you and living vicariously through you.

You can also use the Timeular app without the device and they have both a free and pro version.  I simply could not bring myself to use the app without the device, because I know the company would be advertising it to me, and seeing pictures of it would make me long for what I simply could not justify purchasing at this time.  First-world problems, I suppose!

What I’m Using: Toggl!

So what is the time-tracking solution that doesn’t advertise to me that product I (not-so) secretly dream of, while meeting all of my remote interpreting time tracking needs?  Toggl!

Click me to go to Toggl’s website!

Toggl is both a mobile app and website that I can both have open at the same time if I so choose, but I most often use on my phone.  You set up your projects and clients, and start tracking.  My absolute favorite feature is being able to start tracking time without specifying a project, client, or description.  One tap and time tracking starts immediately.  In addition, it shows my most frequently clocked projects and I can simply tap the play button next to the name of the project to create a copy of that entry that immediately starts tracking.

What my mobile Toggl dashboard looks like

I keep my cell phone at my desk but complete all my VRI and OPI calls through my laptop.  I keep the Toggl app open and make sure my cell phone screen is active when I answer a call.  Once I am connected to the client, I tap the play button, then I know once it’s time for me to thank the client for using the service, I whip out my phone and get ready to hit the stop button once we are disconnected.  It’s incredibly easy and stress-free.

Toggl has a few subscription options.  I’m using the free version but I’m tempted to upgrade to one of their paid plans because it has more detailed statistics on your data.  I track everything I do in my office, including writing articles on my website, working on my Patreon, recording YouTube videos, and even messing around on Facebook, so I’d be interested to see what sort of shameful feedback the platform would give me.

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for a fourth article later this week about another tip on anxiety reduction! Next time I’ll be sharing my tips on how to manage your anxiety levels by changing your VRI/OPI call ringtone. Yes, we’re going full early-2000s next week. Be sure to subscribe to my site’s articles or follow the KGH Interpretation Facebook page to stay informed of new updates!

Missed the other articles in the series? You can check them out here:

  1. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 1: Reference Materials
  2. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 2: Call Flow Charts
  3. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 3: Track Your Time
  4. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 4: Change Your Ringtone
  5. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 5: Set Your Space
  6. Reducing OPI/VRI Anxiety During COVID-19, Part 6: Relaxation Techniques

Did you see the teaser video I posted on my YouTube channel about the self-care series? Be sure to check it out and subscribe!

[Cover photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash]

About the author

Kelly (Grzech) Henriquez

Kelly is a Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI-Spanish) through the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI). She works as an independent contractor in the greater Richmond, Virginia area as a Spanish-English medical interpreter and also specializes in mental health interpretation.

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KGH Interpretation Spanish-English Medical & Mental Health Interpretation

Kelly (Grzech) Henriquez

I am a Certified Medical/Healthcare Interpreter (CMI-Spanish, CHI-Spanish) and a medical interpreter trainer. I work as an independent contractor in the greater Richmond, Virginia area as a Spanish-English medical interpreter. Click here to read more about me.

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