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Order, Limits, and Pauses

Finding Work-Life Balance in Localization

By Alexia Aguzzi

I

n the dynamic realm of localization and translation, remote work has become the norm, often challenging our sense of balance and well-being. That’s why it’s crucial to remember that the foundation of our success lies in how we treat ourselves and each other. The analogy of the flight attendant’s safety instructions — “secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others” — perfectly encapsulates the essence of self-care in our professional lives.

Drawing on my experiences finding work-life balance, I aim to share insights that transcend conventional productivity tips, delving into the art of maintaining order, setting limits, and embracing pauses — insights underpinned by my personal journey in this industry. Adopting these principles can lead to a more harmonious, productive, and satisfying career and life. By sharing my journey, I hope to inspire fellow localization professionals to find an equilibrium of their own. 

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The art of order in chaos

The typical image of a translator    working in pajamas, amidst the hum of household life    may seem quaint, yet it encapsulates the balancing act faced in our profession. Eager to gain more clients and driven by my personal circumstances to seek solace in work, I found myself dedicating countless hours, including consecutive weekends, to my job. After some years of neglecting myself, the blurred lines between personal and professional life in a remote setting led to a crucial realization: Neglecting self-care has a direct, negative impact on our mood, routine, and overall quality of life.

Order in our professional lives is more than just about structured tasks; it’s about creating harmony between work and our inherent human needs. Spanish psychiatrist Enrique Rojas, in his book Cinco Consejos Para Potenciar la Inteligencia, emphasizes three types of order: in time, in mind, and in our physical spaces. This concept resonated deeply with me, highlighting the importance of a balanced approach to managing both professional and personal aspects of life.

Rojas’ idea of “order in time” involves establishing a regular sleep schedule and cultivating positive routines, including regular work hours, meal breaks, and designated times for rest and leisure. “Order in mind” revolves around mental clarity, setting clear goals, and understanding our desires — because as he insightfully notes, “He who does not know what he wants cannot be happy.” Lastly, “order in our room” refers to the physical organization of our work and living spaces, reinforcing the idea that external order can reflect and enhance our internal state of mind.

Incorporating these principles into my daily routine has been transformative. Each day, before commencing work, I engage in a systemized approach to my tasks, assessing them for prioritization, delegation potential, and possible elimination. This practice has not only boosted my productivity and efficiency, but has also been pivotal in reclaiming my inner peace.

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The courage to set limits

Reflecting on my early freelance days, I recall the struggle to refuse work, driven by the fear of losing clients or missing opportunities. However, this habit of saying “yes” to everything soon proved unsustainable, leading to burnout symptoms such as migraines, insomnia, and even panic attacks.

The transition to a leadership role brought similar challenges, with requests pouring in from all sides. Initially, I found it difficult to refuse tasks, especially when they came from my superiors or seemed critical to the project’s success. This reluctance, however, quickly became unmanageable. It was during this period that I learned a vital lesson about the importance of setting limits.

Setting boundaries is not just about workload management; it’s about respecting ourselves and our personal time. It’s about understanding that saying “no” is not a limitation but a means to ensure quality and sustainability in our work. In the localization industry, where demands can be relentless, mastering the art of assertive refusal is a key skill for long-term success and personal well-being.

The power of pauses

In a society that often equates productivity with constant activity, the concept of taking pauses may seem counterintuitive. However, I have learned that pauses are not mere breaks in our work — they are crucial opportunities for reconnection with ourselves and with our surroundings.

Initially, embracing the art of pausing was challenging. My mind would often race with thoughts of unfinished tasks, looming deadlines, or everyday responsibilities. But with patience and practice, I discovered the power of true disengagement. Whether it’s stepping out for a run, enjoying a few minutes of guided meditation, or simply sharing a laugh with my daughter, these pauses have become my lifelines. They provide an opportunity to step back, reflect, and return to work with renewed focus and energy.

In the remote environment, particularly in the field of localization with its peculiar rhythms and pressures, learning to pause effectively is crucial. It’s about embracing these moments with full attention, stepping away from technology, and realizing the profound impact they can have on our work and mental state.

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Embracing work-life balance

Throughout my career, balancing the demanding roles of leadership with personal well-being has been an ongoing journey of discovery and adaptation. The support of my family — particularly my husband and daughter — has been invaluable. Yet, the most significant shift occurred internally, with the recognition that self-care is not a luxury, but rather an essential aspect of professional life.

Sharing these insights and practices with my team led to a remarkable transformation. Initially met with skepticism, especially from productivity-focused members, these concepts gradually gained acceptance. Our team’s evolution into a more “humanly rich” group stands as a testament to the effectiveness of these practices, both in enhancing our work quality and enriching our personal lives.

Although initiating this process may seem daunting, start by defining a realistic initial goal and take that first step. As we navigate the complexities of our profession, let’s strive to remember the importance of self-care. It’s not just about being better professionals — it’s about being happier, healthier individuals.

By prioritizing our well-being, we not only improve our own lives, but also contribute to creating a more positive, supportive, and sustainable working environment for everyone in our field. Let this be a call to action for all of us in the localization industry to take a step back, reassess our priorities, and embark on a journey towards a more balanced and fulfilling professional life.

María Alexia Aguzzi is a translator and copy editor offering comprehensive language services for more than 17 years. She believes individual and corporate success goes beyond formal knowledge and is rooted in often-overlooked qualities like genuine communication, constructive feedback, and trust.

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