“Well yeah, of course there are things I want to do, but when exactly am I supposed to study French or work on my own business? When I come home from work I’m exhausted and have no energy left for anything. I just sit on the couch and watch TV.”
A client recently said this to me, and my heart went out to her: “I don’t have time” might be a fake excuse, but “I don’t have energy” is harder to unpack.
As introverts, we are the most energized when we’re not surrounded by constant stimulation.
Unfortunately, most workplaces today are biased toward extroverts, who thrive on exactly that: constant meetings with tons of people, open spaces with non-stop interactions and noise, after-work events at loud bars… (I can hear you sigh from behind my screen.)
I once had a job like that. I’d come home from work and by the time my mind felt like my own again, I had to go to work again!
I quit after three months.
Fine, I didn’t quit. But wouldn’t it be dramatic if I had?
It was actually an internship with a three-month contract and I wouldn’t have stayed on anyway (my supervisor told me that while my work was good, I didn’t quite “fit in with our alpha mentality”. INFJ much?)
The point is, I get it. It sucks to have a job that drains all your energy.
Luckily, you are the captain of your soul and all that, so without further ado – here are 5 hacks I use myself to help you make your workplace not only bearable, but actually enjoyable!
OK, a bit of further ado: this advice comes with the caveat that if your job is absolutely soul-crushing and couldn’t be improved even by magic dust and sugar-free cupcakes, you should probably get another job. This list is meant for introverts who like their jobs, but are having a tough time dealing with An Abundance of Extroversion around them. Ado over.
Headphones are my #1 workplace accessory.
Need to filter out the distracting chatter gushing steadily into your ears? Plop your headphones on your head and tune into an internet radio. Or just white noise. Or nothing and pretend you’re on a conference call.
Blissful, interruption-free silence.
Don’t forget to take them off every once in a while though. Interacting with coworkers every once in a while is important, even for introverts.
2. Find quiet spaces to recharge
Headphones aren’t always enough – introverts need alone time to recharge! So when you’re feeling stimulation overload, go find your quiet place.
I used to work in a building that had a dedicated meditation/prayer room. I still miss it <3
But even without a meditation room, every building has hidden nooks and crannies where you can go for a 10 minute break and just be alone. Try the roof, an empty meeting room, the staircase, go outside or (dare I say it) into a bathroom stall.
Breaking up your day by just sitting and breathing for a few minutes will help you focus and get your energy levels back up.
When you come back, you’ll be more relaxed and open to engaging with others again.
3. Have a lunch strategy
When my day feels hurried and busy, nothings beats spending my lunch hour with a good book and the freedom to let my mind wander.
But my company has a very developed lunch culture. People go have lunch in groups or in pairs, and a lot of networking and relationship-building is done over food (Never Eat Alone and all that).
While I do love food, an 8 or 9 hour workday is just too long not to be broken up with some me-time!
This works for me: I eat about 2-3 lunches a week with other people.
The rest of the week, I go on a walk, attend a yoga class, get out my trusty Kindle, or do whatever else I need to recharge my batteries.
In the beginning I had to consciously plan this out (one of my Habitica goals was actually “Woohoo, had lunch with two people this week”), but now it feels completely natural and (gasp) I actually enjoy connecting with friends and colleagues over lunch.
The advantage of having such a plan is that you don’t feel guilty when you have a solo lunch to recharge, but you’re also not branding yourself as some arrogant dude who’s too good to eat with others. (PS – try going out to lunch with that guy/girl who always eats alone. More often than not, they’re just very shy/socially awkward and will be happy to have company. You might end up having fascinating conversations.)
4. Reach out to people 1-on-1
Most meetings are a waste of time. Especially for introverts, who don’t usually thrive in big group settings.
If I’m attending a big meeting with tons of people, maybe 10% of it is relevant to me, and the rest of the time I’m just sitting there trying to look interested and/or calculating how long my eyelids can be closed before it doesn’t count as blinking anymore.
It’s a huge energy drain and not just for you. Nobody actually likes endless feedback loops. I don’t even like that I know what a feedback loop is.
Introverts are much better at 1-on-1 relationships and it’s easier for us to focus on one person, one story, one set of circumstances at a time.
So if I need something done, instead of waiting for a meeting to bring it up, I find out who the relevant person is and go straight to them.
“Hey, can you help me understand this?”
Boom. Job done, energy levels intact.
5. Home office
HOW is this not more of a thing? Unless you work in a distinctly client-facing role or work with super sensitive data that can only be accessed from your workplace, your company won’t go bankrupt because some employees are working remotely.
I work from home one or two days a week, get done way more in way less time because I’m in a completely self-controlled environment, and when I’m back in the office I’m full of energy and actually happy to see everyone.
Talk to your boss and make home office happen, because it’s awesome.
Alright, these were my 5 hacks to introvertify your workday!
Try these out for a few weeks and watch how your energy levels change when you get home. If you don’t spend all your energy at work, you’ll find yourself with an energy surplus to pour into playing with your kids, practicing an instrument or learning new verb conjugations (yay!).
Are you also exhausted when you come home? Do you have hacks to make your workspace a better fit? Let me know in the comments!