Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Work-Life Balance: How Do You Achieve It?

I just finished working on the project about which I blogged last week and I'm preparing to attend the annual conference of the American Translators Association in Boston next week, while (finally) applying for U.S. citizenship, so things have been a little busy around here lately.

Sitting at my computer until late night pretty much every day last week (plus a good part of the weekend) got me thinking about "work-life balance". Most of us do enjoy (at least some) of our work, but we also have lives beyond that work: families, partners, friends, hobbies or other interests. Many agencies expect translators to be "on" all the time. A few weeks ago, I received a phone call around 11 pm wanting to talk about a potential translation project. It turns out the caller was in my time zone, apparently oblivious to the fact that even though she was still working, most other people were not.

Since most of us work from home, we can't just "go home" at the end of the work day. Part of the advantage of working as a freelancer is that I can set my own schedule: run errands in the middle of the day when stores are relatively empty, deal with school emergencies without having to negotiate with a less-than-sympathetic boss, etc. The flipside, however, is that I sometimes have to work well into the night to make a deadline.

Doing this every once in a while seems a fair trade-off (assuming any urgent family/childcare responsibilities can be delegated to a partner). However, for many translators late-night work becomes a regular feature of their lives. That's when the work-life balance seriously tips to one side. I haven't quite figured out how to make that stop.

If I have some time off, I panic and take the first project I'm offered. Almost invariably, other, better paying or easier to work with, clients will then also want me. While I do reject projects, I frequently find myself either wishing I hadn't agreed to a project, so I could take the next one being offered, or taking them both and working crazy hours.

How do you handle the balance between work you enjoy and spare time?

Because I will be in Boston from Oct. 26-30 for the annual conference of the American Translators Association, I may not write a blog next Wednesday.


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  2. The knee-jerk reaction of taking just any project is something I fought against for very long, Barbara.. but over the last 12 months, it has become a necessity forced on many by the GFC. Enjoy the conference!

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