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Our August 2022 Event: How to set healthy work-life boundaries

In August, we connected language professionals through what we call ‘link-building networking’. The theme of this month was ‘How to set healthy work-life boundaries’.

We invited language professionals to submit their written tips, thoughts and experiences on how they stopped being a pushover and managed to set firm and clear work-life boundaries.

See their submissions below.

Draw up priority lists

Feeling overwhelmed (on a daily basis) goes with the territory of being a legal and business French interpreter and translator – at least that has always been my experience particularly as I also wear several other hats such as independent mentor and trainer and committee member of various professional organisations.  I suppose that I only have myself to blame for taking so much on in the first place – but one thing seems to easily snowball into another!

So these days how do I stop myself from being submerged … by myself? In a previous life, I once worked as a lawyer in an extremely busy litigation department which was chronically understaffed. The only way we could survive on a daily basis was to draw up priority lists at the beginning of each working day headed “What we must do today so that we don’t get sued” and “What we might be able to do today if we are lucky” and “Manana” (What we can safely put off until tomorrow).

I still use similarly headed lists today and they still work for me!

Sue Leschen
Legal Translator and Interpreter
Connect with Sue via LinkedIn

“Saying no takes grit, resilience and a certain care-free attitude.”

Entrepreneur Louisa Robinson answers our questions below:

Are you a language professional who predominantly works from home? How do you separate work from your personal life?

Yes, although working three days per week in a school as a French Language Assistant which helps me separate the two areas of my life and gets me out of the house. I like the hybrid approach of working 50/50 at home and onsite.

Any tips on setting clear work hours but being responsive to clients’ needs?

I communicate my holiday or limited working hours on Whatsapp/email in advance, but I will always take urgent calls as often best to partially work though holidays to manage the flow and workload. I do charge higher rates for weekend working which is a deterrent for both the client and myself to avoid working this way. 

How do you deal with work sneaking into your personal life eg. email notifications, client calls and messages?

I leave my mobile phone on charge in my study overnight so I am not disturbed. I generally switch off notifications as find them very distracting. I will check emails and phone periodically throughout the day at various periods, i.e. 9am, 12 noon, 4pm and then before I log off for the day around 6 or 7pm (depending if I am tutoring in the evening). I have discovered a new silencing of notifications on my iphone recently and will get into the habit of enabling these when I start back up in September on full working schedule. 

How can you be generous without being a doormat?

I do massively struggle with this. I think you have to state when you will and will not be available and stick to this, otherwise the boundaries get blurred for both parties. When I feel taken advantage of, I can often blame others but actually, it is my own fault for not sticking to my own rules!

Juggling multiple projects at the same time? How do you avoid overwhelm?

My best advice is to not multi-task and just to focus on one task at a time. When I wrap up my working day, I plan for the next day ahead as much as I can so I know what is at least in front of me. Try to group similar tasks together i.e. quick reminders/email prompts in one 10–15-minute batch, schedule your day as much as you can but always give yourself a 10% buffer window for anything that comes in unexpectedly. I am still a work in progress for dealing with unknown situations and responding calmly! Also, don’t overbook yourself with calls as they can be incredibly draining and exhausting. The max number of calls I book per working day is three as you still need to get the work done around these calls and often the follow-up time takes at least 1 hour per call.

Managed to break free from chronic people-pleasing? Good for you! Please share how.

Saying no takes grit, resilience and a certain care-free attitude. I have learnt that people don’t like it but they respect you for it which is a hundred times more valuable. I say no to a lot more unsuitable opportunities that just don’t fit in with my other commitments. When I commit to a project, I don’t let people down but also feel more empowered to say that just doesn’t work for me. This also equally applies to family and friends when you don’t want to do something. Life is tricky when you have to compromise with everything and everyone- you have to navigate what is worth compromising on and what is worth just doing for short-term pain to keep the peace. I generally ask myself three questions to navigate this path:

  • What is the cost/time benefit analysis?
  • Can I eventually outsource (even if I have to do the work in the short-term) to bring in business?
  • Where will this lead and will it bring better opportunities?

Under what conditions do you thrive? And what makes you feel overwhelmed?

I do like to work under pressure to some degree, but not feel incredibly stressed or unable to switch off in the evenings. I like to have multiple ideas and projects on the go that generally just tick along and don’t wipe me off my feet all at the same time- although, this is sometimes unavoidable as I often have to navigate competing and conflicting priorities and make daily judgement calls. I am trying to get better at not double booking myself and giving myself some breathing space to come back to people to see if the work is a realistic prospect or not. I am currently working way over capacity but it has a saturation point. I am having to make short-medium term sacrifices i.e. working holidays to keep everything in motion but I remind myself that this is a choice, not a demand from others!

Louisa Robinson
Actor, Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Libra VA Services, Founder of Learning Languages with Lou

Any further thoughts and ideas on how to set healthy work-life boundaries? Leave a comment below and let’s continue the conversation there.

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