3 Tips for the Introvert — How to Thrive in a Fast-paced Office Environment
As a fellow introvert, I have found it challenging at times to work well in a high-paced office environment. I don’t care for constant interruptions like phone calls or small talk. I am sure that my coworkers think I am such a killjoy. But, I cannot do my best work in a chaotic workspace.
Here are some tips I have used to create an ideal setting for efficiently performing my daily tasks.
- Create a Productive Workspace
According to Morra Aarons-Mele, creating a more productive space is vital to the introvert’s performance. Soft lighting, noise-canceling headphones, and consistent breaks make it easier to work in a fast-paced office. While these would be ideal amenities, not all of us can control the lighting or have noise-canceling headphones.
I do not like a lot of clutter on my desk. We’ve all had one of those days where files just seem to pile up out of nowhere. Such days make me feel anxious. I get overwhelmed looking at a stack of paperwork like I am running behind. What has helped me the most is to have my desk organized by incoming, processing, and old/closing files. Everything has a place. For my daily work, I have one stack in front of me. The stack is organized with urgent matters on top and less important items on the bottom. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
I don’t know about you, but I do not care for a lot of noise while I work. I know, how do you avoid that in any office? You could get a hundred calls a day from people asking for directions, where to make their payment, or for life advice (like, really?). Nonstop phone calls get under my skin. A few things I have tried to make my workplace more productive is to lower my phone to the lowest possible setting (a soft ring rather than an obnoxious one). I also play indie music in the background to make me feel calm. Lastly, I save all my calls for the quietest part of the day.
2. Hardest Task First
Dr. Jean Kim recommends that introverts take on hard office projects. Because introverts tend to be more structured in their workday, they should take on the projects that others are too scattered or overextended to complete. This advice does help with building office credibility. While I have completed several tedious projects, I would argue that introverts need to focus on tasks that they find most difficult — phone calls.
I loathe phone calls. It truly baffles me when I send an email and I have a person call to go over the email with me. It’s not that I find myself unable to complete the phone call because I am anxious. Rather, I get frustrated because I feel like there are other things that I should be doing. But nonetheless, phone calls are a part of any office job and they will come whether you want them to or not. My advice would be to take care of the phone calls that you need to make first. Do the “dirty work” first just to get the phone calls done.
3. Plan Your Breaks
Dr. Kim and Aarons-Mele both emphasize the importance of scheduling breaks in the workday. While problems pop up and demand your attention, it is important to schedule a break for yourself. Staying chained to your desk will wear you down and quickly lead to burnout. Dr. Kim recommends taking quiet breaks to reduce stress and give yourself a moment to recharge. Aarons-Mele suggests sitting alone in a room with the lights off.
I have found that some days are just more taxing than others. My desk is in a small room (I affectionately call it my broom closet). At least two times a day I will close my door and sit alone for about 5 minutes. I will do breathing exercises and try to decompress. On really hard days, I will eat lunch at my desk rather than in the break room. Sometimes the sheer act of socializing is too much for the introvert. I just need a second to breathe and then I’ll be back to work. Too often we run ourselves ragged. Before we know it, we are ready to explode.
In summary, we all work at different speeds and some of us can handle more noise than others. The thing about being an introvert is finding the conditions that work best for you. There needs to be a sort of trial and error when creating your ideal workspace. Try sitting alone in a dark room. If your job allows you to wear headphones, try getting the noise-canceling kind. There’s no wrong or right answer, as long as you are performing your best work at the end of the day.