Do you ever come home after a long week at work and just feel drained? It’s as if all your energy has been sapped and all you want to do is have some me time. No, you’re not being anti-social—and you shouldn’t force yourself to go out—you’re probably just an introvert. “In general, introverts restore themselves through solitude, and extroverts get that balance by seeking interactive experiences,” says Dr. Laurie Helgoe, PhD, author of Introvert Power.
Helgoe’s true interest in introversion was sparked when she discovered that her work environment as a psychologist wasn’t conducive to her personality and needs. “I started to pay attention to what drained and what fueled me,” she says. “My work life has been guided by this awareness ever since.” According to Helgoe—a self-proclaimed introvert—it’s less about the exact jobs you should find as an introvert, but the culture of the workplace and your ability to customize the work environment itself. (Side note: She’s even met an introverted party planner who absolutely loves her job!)
So, with Helgoe as our guide, we’ve rounded up the top three work conditions for introverts. Scroll down to read more.
Access to optimal stimulation.
The well-known personality theorist Hans Eysenck believed that people worked best when their brains were “optimally aroused.” This occurs when the brain is not too bored or too excited. Eysenck and his team of researchers found that introverts are stimulated easily and work better when they have fewer distractions. “Everyone is seeking the same thing: that sweet spot where they are both calm and energized,” says Helgoe. “Introverts need quieter environments, lower or more focused lighting, and plenty of personal space.” Her best piece of advice is to find that sweet spot at home and try to re-create it at work. For example, if you need absolute silence, see if you can complete a report in an empty conference room instead of at your desk.
The ability to take refueling breaks.
Introverts need quiet time to decompress—there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. “I tell introverts to stop bragging that they missed lunch or don’t get any breaks,” Helgoe says. “All they are telling me is that they are not feeding themselves mentally and creatively, and this will show itself in compromised work products and services.” So be sure to take a few time-outs or schedule down time. In fact, Helgoe follows her own advice and includes an extra night at the hotel for refueling when she goes on public speaking trips.
Opportunities for planning.
Introverts by their very nature like to process ideas in their head before sharing with others. Helgoe says that a work environment that requires constant “on your feet” thinking will be stressful for introverts, while one that allows and encourages strategic thinking and planning will feel like home. Helgoe admits that she personally needs to find a balance between strategy time and performance time. “That’s why I’d rather teach a longer, weekly seminar class instead of a class that meets more briefly three times a week,” she says. “The seminar gives me a whole week between the classes to ‘cook’ my ideas and prepare a stimulating classroom experience.”
Be sure to pick up a copy of Introvert Power, and tell us your favorite way to recharge in the comments.