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The self-employed are notorious for their workaholic tendencies. I have to admit that my ex-father-in-law once asked me if I ever stopped! Not just working, I hasten to add, but cooking, gardening, …. I admit that I like to be busy! And yes, when it’s all down to you, and you love your job to boot, there is a temptation to work all hours. Work can be a godsend too: when I was going through a traumatic divorce, it was a huge relief to throw myself into the challenge of a tricky translation and take my mind off things.

Yet am I really a workaholic? I do often find myself working in the evenings, true, but that’s usually because I’ve taken time off during the day to do something else. With two bouncy dogs, I’m committed to two decent walks a day – actually a lifesaver for the deskbound translator to counteract our otherwise fairly sedentary working practices. I also do various sporting activities most evenings, from the equally essential yoga and dance, to the more sociable badminton and tennis. So it’s not really a hardship if I end up fitting in a little more work at the end of the evening, usually after a late dinner and my fix of the latest episode of Masterchef… The fact that I live alone probably doesn’t help; there’s no-one to persuade me otherwise and getting ahead is always a satisfying feeling, even if the only reason to get ahead is so that you can squeeze in the inevitable small jobs for favourite clients that crop up during the day!

crazy dogs in Richmond Park

One of the joys of working for yourself is precisely that you can pick and choose your hours. And while in practice it may seem to outsiders that we work all hours, it actually allows you to concentrate your efforts when it suits you. I remember hearing an excellent presentation by Konstantin Kisin at the ProZ conference in Rome many moons ago, in which he explained how it was so much more efficient to really concentrate in short, sustained bursts, freeing up more time to do other things. It’s entirely up to each of us when those bursts take place, however. I find I can concentrate more in the evenings with no interruptions – and it suits my night owl nature – so that works for me. If I’ve had one of those days where the ‘phone hasn’t stopped ringing and I’ve been fielding inquiry after inquiry, it can be a blessing to know I can sit down with my trusty Dragon in the evening and get through a substantial part of my daily quota.

Similarly, when it comes to meeting up with friends, it’s good to know you can take time out during the day, but only if you schedule it first! Friends and relatives dropping by unexpectedly are likely to get short shrift from me, but if they give me notice, it’s not a problem. After all, if we were working in an office we couldn’t take an afternoon off at the drop of a hat… Being unavailable at short notice does NOT mean we’re workaholics, just that we lead busy lives with tight deadlines! It still feels very much a guilty pleasure when you sneak off with a friend you haven’t seen for ages for an extended weekday lunch, but it’s so good for us – and one of the perks of freelancing!

Coffee and cake at Alpina_cropped

One area I try not to compromise on is working at weekends. Again, living alone it would be all too easy to slip into the trap of working on Saturday and Sunday too. I firmly believe that I work so much better if I’ve had a break, though, so I rarely work weekends, preferring to catch up with the garden, allotment and social and family life. Even on recent bank holiday weekends, when I had thought I might work at least one of the days, I managed to refrain – and felt much more refreshed returning to work afterwards. I might occasionally do a final read-through of a translation on a Sunday evening and I would certainly be driven to the computer by a weekend of non-stop rain and no family at home, but in general, I like to keep the weekends sacrosanct. I suspect I may be the exception rather than the rule here, judging from the number of colleagues posting on translation forums on social media at the weekend – but each to their own! The beauty is that we have the choice.


Holidays too are precisely that. Whilst I might keep an eye on e-mails while away, I certainly don’t take my laptop with me and my only contribution to work in my designated time out is to reply to anything urgent that may come in and offer a date on my return or suggest a colleague in my stead. That’s just good customer relations. Plus, having notified clients that I’m away, it usually isn’t onerous and keeping on top of e-mails means you have less rubbish to sift through on your return.

So, workaholic? Me? Never! How about you?

Sleep deprivation symptoms_Mox