Photo courtesy of FreeImages.com/Melanie Martinelli
I am not an introvert because I need to recharge. I need to recharge BECAUSE I’m an introvert. I believe that being a deep thinker is what is at the heart of my introversion. I turn inward to thought more often than not. This is how I naturally process – internally rather than externally. So when I am spending more time processing externally than usual, this tends to drain my energy (see Need to Recharge?)
I was thinking about my own energy levels as I had a series of small group discussions with a large team recently. This team meets regularly as a large group, but with so many team members, not everyone gets a chance to speak. The smaller group sessions allow for all to participate, and we had some great discussions as a result. After facilitating three of these in a row I realized I was feeling quite drained. Often, I associate this drain with something that I do not enjoy, such as mindless small talk or networking with strangers. But in this case, I was having great discussions about important topics. I realized that my energy drain is not necessarily caused by things that are unpleasant to me. So, what do I do when something I like doing leaves me feeling drained? In this case, I was able to schedule a break right after.
My days are never the same, so I just do my best at not scheduling draining activities back to back. Most days, I am able to plan my schedule. But some days I find myself in consecutive activities that drain me. Even on days when my schedule is determined by others, I still try to find a bit of time to recharge. One particular day, my calendar was filled with meetings. Often back-to-back meetings can be draining on me. This day was jam-packed with meetings where I was either in charge of the meeting or was an important contributing member of the meeting. The meetings were filled with decisions that needed to be made and many variables and situations that needed to be worked out. It involved quite a bit of back and forth with my colleagues. As I mentioned, some days like this could be draining, but this day I was energized by thinking through problems and coming up with solutions in a collaborative way. So, to me every meeting is not draining in the same way. The key for me has been to know myself and what will be draining and when I will need a break.
In general, if I am able, I schedule a little space in between meetings. I may still be doing some work, but I at least have some alone time to recharge. Sometimes meetings are back-to-back without a break. Maybe I can get a little recharge on the walk between meetings. But sometimes there is no relief during the workday. On these days, I can adjust my thoughts to cope until there is recharge time. Sometimes this recharge might have to wait until the drive home. The drive home is one of my big recharge times. Just me and my thoughts and maybe a little music.
In planning your day and maintaining energy for all the “external processing” activities you’ll encounter during the day, the first step is recognizing those activities that tend to drain you. If you have to give a presentation or lead a meeting and you know that “being on stage” wears you out, you might try to arrange your schedule so you have some time alone to reflect afterward. When you are not able to fully arrange your schedule, at least allow yourself breaks during the day if possible, take advantage of your commute times, and maybe find time later in the evening or early in the morning that you can use to focus and recharge each day.
Keep in mind that introverts are not the only ones who need recharge. Extroverts may also be drained when they spend solitary time quietly processing internally. The drain may manifest in them feeling restless or trapped rather than exhausted, and they might recharge by visiting with others in the office, or needing other social activities that would drain an introvert. Everyone is different. When you begin to understand what drains you and what types of recharge works best, you can better maintain your energy focus. Be strong!