It all started almost three months ago. I had to cut two hours of my business day because our nanny had to leave a couple of hours early each day, due to personal circumstances. No big deal —I thought— I’ll just have to readjust a little, maybe take only one break in the morning, cut the tweeting breaks, and definitely leave the mini-workout sessions for the evening. I will admit I was a bit nervous —after all, we’re talking about 10 hours less of work per week— but it all seemed to work for a couple of weeks.
During this same time I started volunteering for a committee within the American Translators Association, volunteered to proctor the ATA Certification test offered through our local chapter of the ATA, ATIF, and took on a new client. Surprisingly, it was all fitting beautifully within my “streamlined” schedule. I would continue to go to my workout classes three times a week in the evenings, so proud that I was able to keep up with all my duties, and truly happy with my new schedule that allowed for more time with my family and for myself.
That is, until my health started to be uncooperative. Still, I ignored the signs and continued with business as usual: crammed schedule, meetings, new projects, fitness, and family. By the end of the fourth week I had stopped tweeting completely, struggling to find balance between answering emails and finishing projects. Because I wasn’t feeling well, I had to take frequent breaks during the day, sometimes to nap, cutting my working hours even further and, as a result, I would be working late hours, after my daughter was tucked in. I was having a hard time exercising, and I wanted to write new posts for my blog, but simply couldn’t. I got so caught up on this downward spiral that I started to feel very stressed out about not being in control of anything.
It finally dawned on me one afternoon over the Memorial Day weekend we spent in Ft. Myers Beach. I was sitting at the beach, contemplating the sea, waiting for the gorgeous Florida West coast sundown while my husband and daughter looked for starfish, when I saw it clearly: there is a time for everything, and this was a time to slow down, take care of myself, and sort my priorities. I came up with a plan.
Change of attitude toward my schedule and my routines
By pushing myself to the limit when my body needed rest I was only making things worse. I would lay down trying to rest but I would be going through a mental list of things I needed to get done at work; I even started a draft of a blog post in my head. Neither my body nor my mind would get a real break. So instead of fighting my schedule, I dutifully planned to close shop every day at 3:00 pm, when our nanny leaves, and to nap with my little one for a couple of hours.
My workouts are an important part of my schedule, as you probably figured out from a previous post about this subject, and I feel great afterwards, but my body wasn’t able to do any kind of physical activity. Yet, the little fitness freak in my mind kept tapping its foot and raising an eyebrow in disapproval every time I couldn’t go to my classes. I recognized the signs of this vicious cycle of mind tricks and granted myself a much deserved break from working out. After all, I’m not running for Ms. Miami, so I vowed to start working out when I felt physically better, not a minute before.
Choose efficiency over beauty
I love writing thorough and sometimes flowery email replies, whether it is to a client or to a friend. Needless to say, answering emails from my BlackBerry greatly limits my self-expression. Under normal circumstances, I only answer emails from my smartphone if the sender requires an immediate answer and I’m away from my office. However, I decided that a short but kind answer was much better than a delayed answer —or no answer at all. So, I allowed myself to start writing less embellished and more to-the-point emails.
I also felt like a failure every time I couldn’t cook for my family, aside from the long list of things I couldn’t get accomplished on a given day. However, as much as my husband loves my cooking, he understood I wasn’t feeling well and he wouldn’t mind bringing dinner or fixing something quick. Apparently, nobody has starved and we continue to be a healthy family in spite of some take out and dinner boxes.
The moral: Nobody gets brownie points for being Ms. Goody Two Shoes. Sometimes the pressure of perfection is just in our heads.
Subcontract some projects to trustworthy colleagues
There are some clients we simply can’t say no to. But what was I to do when I couldn’t possibly translate one more word because of a migraine headache? Find a trustworthy colleague who will be willing to take on the project. Somehow I had forgotten I know a wealth of great translators, and I was going crazy trying to fit one more project into my already precarious schedule. So I started funneling some of my projects to my support network of fellow translators.
You would think that after being a freelancer for over 14 years, I would know some, if not all, of these things, but sometimes it’s easy to forget about past lessons until we get to finals and then you’re forced to go back and revisit old chapters you thought you knew by heart.
Soon after implementing my “new” plan, I started getting some of my energy back, I began to feel better, and I am happy to report I’m almost completely back to normal. Was it a result of my change of attitude? Traditional Chinese Medicine would agree with this statement, but regardless of what I believe, I have remembered a valued lesson of being prepared to adapt to and embrace change, because shift happens.