As a translator, you hear this request quite often...
Friends, family, and even new acquaintances have the habit of effortlessly putting the question to you as soon as they know you can translate their interest into something they can understand.
Many times, it feels as if they're taking you for granted.. and you get that gut feeling that tells you "you shouldn't give them a single word of what they want to know".
But is that the right thing to do? On the other hand, is spending all your time dealing with all these minute requests (that somehow benefit everyone but you) the way you believe things should be done?
Is there a balance somewhere between the two opposing sides that have to do with "freebies"?
Well, I can't tell you what to do, but I can help you with some guidelines I've developed with experience.
Most everyone I've ever met wants to be likable to some degree, and one of the secrets to achieving that is helping others. So we can say that being of help to others increases your popularity. If you do it enough times and show capability in doing so, you will eventually become the go-to person that automatically pops into that person's mind.
You can, of course, have too much of a good thing.
It's like training at the gym, most people will work out for about an hour and then take the rest of the day off so that they can recover, and not only gain strength... but increase it.
Although it may seem like a good idea to work out for longer, doing so will result in over-training (a big no-no).
In fact, professional athletes usually train much less but with greater effectiveness and efficiency because they know what to do (normally 45 minutes or less per session). There's a balance, you see...
How can we apply this little lesson to our lives (and to translation)?
Let's figure out some ways we can do this.
Setting time limits, counting the times we do it, prioritizing, and personal boundaries.
Setting a time limit is an effective way to limit the adverse effects of minutiae while still granting others help. By itself, it does have some drawbacks. Let's say that your time limit is 10 minutes each, if you get 6 requests you will have given away 1 hour of your time. More requests means more time given away. It only works well if you get few requests.
Counting the amount of times you're going to help others could be useful when you have a busy schedule for the day and have to focus on the items on your To-Do list. If the list is starting to get out of hand, you may want to limit how many times you help others since each time corresponds with a list item. There's a drawback to this too, of course.
If taken to an extreme, it could make you lose your empathy and make it seem like if you're a "robot" and therefore defeat the purpose of helping others.
Another way is prioritizing. As in "first, I'm going to do the important things and then any free time I have I'll help someone else".
Great! You get work done... but what about that person which has no one to turn to in time of need?
There are times when someone that needs your help has a critical priority request, it could take just a minute or, for the argument, it could take a whole day...
If you set them aside as a low priority in that critical moment, they will never come back to ask you for help or even give you their business, for the matter.
The last method is keeping within personal boundaries.
We all have limits to what we can do. It doesn't matter if they're rather high or abysmally low.
When helping others, the trick is to always stay below our limits. Otherwise, there's a tendency to overextend and overexert ourselves, leaving no capacity for the things we need to do.
Let's say that in a day I have the mental capacity to translate 1000 words (this is figurative, personally I can do quite a bit more than that... he he). I'll definitely do 500 words for work, use 100 words to study new things, another 100 for "office work" (email, marketing, etc.), and I may leave up to 200 words for small requests.
If you noticed, it all adds up to a total of 900 words. The last 100 words are reserved so that the next day I'll still be able to perform within my standards. It's like the fuel indicator in a car; the "E" lights up when you need to go to the gas station - giving you some mileage to get there.
When helping others it's just the same, we all recognize when we can't handle any more.
The wise choice we should make is that of stopping before we reach our limit.
The reality of the matter is that we should use these techniques in combination in various moments, and each of us needs to individually figure out to what degree we will use them.
Nevertheless, a perceptive person will understand this: That by helping others even a little bit they will be much more inclined to help us too.