There’s an old Spanish proverb that says “Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week”. It means, if you continue putting things off, you’ll continue putting things off. As interpreters, we often consider a nicer future where we have time for a mid-day yoga class and coffee with our gal pals. That just happens to not be now, but why shouldn’t it be?

We work a very physically, emotionally and spiritually strenuous job. Our clients rely on us to be in good shape (to the best of our ability) when they leave the interpreting to us. So, while you might not always be the most mentally well in the hot seat, you can definitely be the one most dedicated to a healthy work-life balance which can start with a few simple rules.

Schedule self care the way you schedule work.

When you work as grueling of a job as we do, it’s important that you pencil in massages and treat them with the same respect you treat your clients. If you worked as a barber and spent four years planning to purchase a pair of shears, really nice ones, expensive, shiny shears… you would probably treat them with incredible care. You’d make sure they were always in working condition, polished and safe. As a tool, they could be the difference between a healthy appointment book and an empty chair.

Our bodies should be treated in the same manner. Without proper self-care we cannot expect ourselves to be landing clients and growing our practice. Not only do we lose the potential for growth by not working intentionally on our self care but we also run the risk of injury when not properly taking care of the tool.

When you schedule a massage, consider it the cost of doing business and don’t miss it. When you take a morning to rest your body, don’t accept last minute work during that time. Block it out, consider it taken by another client. Small decisions over time turn into healthy habits that can improve the overall quality of our lives. When we start to prioritize the dollar over our own wellbeing, we do harm.

Remember that admin work is work

Finding yourself in bed at 4am invoicing, is easy. I myself am guilty of putting things off until I am sitting at a dinner with friends having a great time while I catch up on emails on my phone. It’s utter lunacy, but we convince ourselves it’s entirely normal by making smaller concessions with our schedules here and there. We pencil in an extra gig for the easy cash, a client asks to extend etc…. of course these things happen but if you’re finding yourself doing admin work when you should be living, it’s time to book an office hour. If you wouldn’t take a client at 2am, don’t accept that you need to be reconciling checks at 2am. You are running a business here, somebody needs to flip the sign on the door to close at some point.

I personally find that working in a pleasant space makes me much more likely to commit to it. Every week I book a couple hours to go to a coffee shop with a great view or a park bench in the shade. I take great joy in being able to gab with my favorite barista before diving into a pile of receipts a mile long. Not only does it make the admin work more bearable but it establishes a delineation in my mind.

Admin work can consume quite a bit of time so working things in through the week can be quite helpful. However, any freelancer will tell you that it often feels like we are always behind. That’s why we need an admin hour here and there. When you book it, make it a nice experience. Don’t go to a job you hate, likewise don’t sit in a cold stuffy annoying place you don’t want to be and expect to be thrilled about doing the work. Treat your employee (read: you) the way you would want a company to treat you.

Have set work hours and stick to them

Of course that’s so much easier said than done in an industry like ours where our schedules can shift with the seasons. The rule remains true however. If you’re suddenly not working 8-6 Monday-Thursday and now it’s 12-8 Tuesday-Friday, keep that Monday and all your mornings sacred. Schedule your life around work however you need to but don’t allow yourself to schedule work as the sole priority. 

Don’t cancel date night with the girls because you’d rather make an extra hundred dollars. Of course we’ve all been there and taken a last minute assignment, arriving to dinner late because no one was available. Those are great investments to make into the community whenever possible. However, killing yourself to constantly be available quickly shrinks your world view forcing you to lose sight of your passions, your priorities and even loved ones. A view containing only work is a dull view. Remember that as quickly as the jobs come in tonight, they’ll come in again next week when you’re free with no plans and a quiet mind, ready to fly into action.

Review your business practices.

If you’re feeling stuck, overworked and unable to step away… perhaps it’s time to review how you’re running your business. If you’re under-earning, you’ll be forced to over perform. If you’re finding yourself running out of steam at the end of the week and an ever piling to-do list, consider which items you can work into your daily routine to get more done before week end. I often ask myself if I’m working harder than I am smarter when I sit down on Fridays with things I could have done over lunch on Tuesday.

Personally, when evaluating how to spread out my tasks, I tally them and place a few into my Google Calendar on a renewing cycle so that weekly I am sent something to do at a specific time. This forces me to put a hold to other distractions and hammer something out before it gets pushed further down the list.

Remember that your work-life balance is important. An interpreter who has no personal life is often lacking in personality and passion. Consider that your clients want you to be a fully rounded person in the chair, someone who is happy to be there and isn’t just reliant on the next invoice.

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