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Posts Tagged ‘introvert’

  1. Tips for Introverts Who Feel Lost and Overwhelmed

    June 4, 2017 by Diane

    Dear Digby,

    I’m not sure which direction to go in my life, so I’m dabbling in a bit of everything and feeling overwhelmed! I’m an introvert with limited amounts of energy, so I need a clear sign. What can I do to determine what would be the best use of my time and energy?

    Pooped

    Dear Pooped:

    I hear you, and I sympathize. I, too, am an introvert with limited energy. I take on too much, and wonder why I’m spent at the end of the day, unable to do anything more than watch reruns of The Bachelor in my imagination. When I skip my coveted downtime on Sundays—hanging in the park like some beached whale, reading a novel and eating chocolate, my anxiety ramps up. I start the work week on limited reserves, adding more stress, exacerbating my symptoms. Then I scan the environment, both internal and external, for the cause of my anxiety, magnifying it.

    My advice: allow yourself downtime every day—even a half hour!—and for at least half a day on the weekend. During that downtime, do relaxing activities: doodle, color, read, listen to music, meditate, take a walk, spend time in nature, play, hang out with one or two close friends. Too many people in your orbit will drain you. It’s okay to be a lazy-bones. In fact, you need it, to recharge.

    Now, for a clear sign as to where your limited stores of energy would be most beneficial for your success, ask yourself these questions:

    What does success look like to me?

    Success means different things to different people. Everyone knows that. But not everyone knows what success means for themselves. Is success writing a novel and submitting it for publication? Getting hired by a specific company? Starting your own business? Recording your own music? Is success devoting time to a spiritual path? Teaching, coaching, or motivating others? What gets your juices flowing in a good way?

    What, specifically, am I doing? 

    If success is still a vague concept to you, imagine yourself doing things that make you feel accomplished. Are you writing? If so, what are you writing? A blog? A newsletter? A screenplay? Are you designing a web page or brochure? Visualize the activities that bring fulfillment to you.

    What are the steps I need to take to make that happen?

    Once you have a solid idea of what success means to you, jot down all the steps to reach that goal. List them in reverse. Start with the final step, then ask yourself: in order for that to happen, what do I need to do? And before that, what? And before that, what? And keep asking until you get to the very first step you need to take. For example, your list might look something like this:

    Receive a call from my agent that a publisher accepted my book

    Submit edited manuscript to my agent

    Edit manuscript

    Revise manuscript

    Get an agent

    Contact possible agents

    Research possible agents

    Get a copy of Guide to Literary Agents

    …and so on, to your very first step:

    Write an outline for my novel.

    Now that you know that first teensy-weensy step, it’s time to do it. Yeah, get up off the lawn, you beached whale. Ask yourself:

    What time of day am I most productive?

    For me, it’s 10 am – noon. Fat lot of good that does if my goal is a creative project, since four days a week I’m working my day job during that time. But that leaves three days a week that I can be productive doing my own projects. Are you a morning person? Or are you sharper after dinner? Surely you can find two hours, or one hour, or fifteen minutes of productive time in your day. Block that time out on your schedule.

    What time of day am I the least productive?

    For me, it’s afternoons. Right around 3:00, when I should be getting a nap and cookies instead of working. Maybe for you, mornings are snooze-ville. Schedule non-brain draining activities during that time. Answer emails. Return phone calls. Watch webinars. Do chores. Exercise. Or do the tasks on your list that don’t require a lot of brain power, like reading e-newsletters or books related to your field.

    Give your project a trial run

    Devote three weeks to see how it feels to work toward your goal. Twenty-one days, that’s all. Every day, check your energy barometer. Do you feel juiced up with excitement, or crispy from adrenaline surges? What is your body telling you? As introverts we’re super in touch with our bodies, so all we need to do is trust our instincts.

    By giving yourself a fair shot, trying something out for 21 days, you’ll find your answer. Either it’s the right direction to take, or it’s the Wrong Way. If it’s wrong, then let it go and focus on something else. Maybe during those 21 days you discovered a side road that looked promising. Go explore that now for 21 days.

    But I just want a clear sign. Now, not 21 days from now!

    Okay, calm down. Ask yourself this:

    What do I want?

    If you don’t know, pick something. Anything. Then find a comfortable place by yourself, turn off all devices, put up the “gone fishing” sign, close your eyes, mentally relax your muscles, and visualize yourself doing that one thing. How does your body feel? Sit with it for awhile.

    If you’re torn between possibilities, do the visualization for each one, checking in with your body’s signals at the end of each exercise. Jot down any buts you come up with:

    But I can’t do that because_________

    But I need _______ before I can do ________.

    But I don’t have the chops.

    But I’m not ready.

    But it’s impossible.

    Through the day, be aware of solutions that present themselves in whispery thoughts, or from something you read, or something someone told you. Or ask a friend what they would do to overcome these temporary obstacles.

    Still not clear?

    Pretend you know the answer. A friend recommended this to me recently. Say, “If I knew the answer, it would be ______.”

    How does that feel?

    Bottom line:

    You have your answers. Sometimes you won’t like the answers, but you’ll know, deep down, what’s true. Sometimes the answers are buried under all the chatter in your brain, or lost in the swirl of activities you use as distractions. Sometimes you need others to help nudge them out. But if you settle down, and trust those flashes of instinct, you’ll find your way.

    And when you do, enjoy the journey. With plenty of rest stops along the way. Now, where’s my beach blanket?

    Takeaways this week:

    For more tips on finding your ideal productivity time, check out Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done, by Josh Davis.

    To learn productivity tips from a guy who spent a year experimenting on the subject, read The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, by Chris Bailey.


  2. Hope for Introverts Who Feel Like Party Poopers

    December 16, 2016 by Diane

    Holiday gatherings can be overwhelming for introverts. This post, from May 2015, offers five tips to help you survive.

    People in a concert

    A friend invited me to attend a three-day camping/music festival in the mountains, an hour drive from where I live. For an introvert, three days amongst hordes of people and loud music is nerve-wracking.

    “Sounds fun!” I said, and then immediately began fretting.

    Will there be port-a-potties? I hate port-a-potties. What will I do with my stuff: my lawn chair, backpack, snacks, meals, bottled water, book, writing tablet, sleeping bag, and whatever comfort crap I lug with me? And then there’s the hour drive up winding mountain roads. Driving is not my forte. And chitchat–I loathe chitchat! I never know what to say.

    But I told myself: it will be good for you to get out from behind the keyboard and mingle. So I bought a ticket.

    Except I nixed the camping part.

    And the three days.

    I committed to one day. For a few hours.

    Do you see how my introverted brain narrowed my experience so quickly? And still I worried! I worked myself into a nervous wreck. A weekend of fun turned into something that required me to gird my loins well in advance.

    Why?

    Because of the thoughts I was entertaining. These thoughts were unwelcome guests. But they crowded the space in my mind.

    I tried smiling. It temporarily lulled my body into thinking that all was safe. I tried meditating, focusing on my “third eye,” directing my gaze upwards. It eased my racing heart, somewhat. I tried engaging in soothing self-talk. The only difference between today and any other day is the knowledge that I’m going to a music festival, and the dysfunctional thinking that I’ve attached to that future experience. But in spite of all the self-talk and relaxation techniques I still felt like damaged goods, unable to look forward to an event that most people would find enjoyable.

    What’s the matter with me!? I agonized.

    In desperation, I turned to the book The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. The author, Marti Olsen Laney, devotes a whole chapter to attending parties and other such events. What I read gave me new insight into myself, and changed my outlook. By Saturday morning, I was eager to hit the road.

    What were Laney’s tips?

    First: you are not damaged goods. You’re an introvert, and crowds will suck the energy from you. Extroverts thrive on gatherings and other people; it’s how they recharge. Introverts recharge by going within. So it’s natural to feel anxious before attending a big event.

    Here are five tips to make the experience less overwhelming:

    1. Relax the day beforehand to conserve your energy.

    I spent the afternoon in the park reading, and after a leisurely dinner, I watched a DVD before going to bed.

    2. When you arrive at the event, acclimate yourself gradually.

    Stand on the fringes and take it all in. Allow other people to approach you. When you’re feeling comfortable, proceed into the belly of the crowd.

    When I arrived, I greeted my friend, located the restrooms (yay, no port-a-potties!) and slowly made my way to the main stage. I set up my lawn chair in the back of the crowd next to three people who were also sitting in lawn chairs, reading books. My kind of people.

    3. Take breaks as needed.

    Go to the restroom to escape, or step outside and take in some air.

    I wandered off by myself to take in the breathtaking view of the redwoods and the fog drifting in from the coast, and then found a small jazz trio jamming in the mess hall.

    4. Set a time limit for how long you’ll stay.

    I decided to give myself until 6:00, so I wouldn’t have to drive down the mountain in the dark. I ended up staying until 7:00, because I was having such a great time.

    5. Schedule downtime the following day to recharge your batteries.

    It was back to the park for me, with a good book.

    I am happy to report that the experience could not have been more perfect.

    Takeaways this week:

    The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney. If you’re an introvert and want to understand why you are the way you are, or you’re an extrovert who wants to understand introverts, get this book. Includes great tips for how to find balance in an overwhelming world.

    Respect your strengths as an introvert (creativity, good listening skills, lasting relationships, persistence, concentration…to name a few), and the requirements needed to protect your energy. Constant activity and loud noise is a drain. That’s okay. Take breaks as needed, set a time limit for participation, and rest before and after engagements.

    Conversations with groups can be intimidating. It takes longer for introverts to formulate ideas when conversing (it’s how are brains are wired), but that’s okay. A good line to use: “Give me time to think about it,” or “I’ll get back to you on that.” Or just smile, maintain eye contact, and let the extroverts do all the talking. They love to!


  3. When the Small-Town Parade Passed Me By

    July 10, 2016 by Diane

    woman walking in snow

    Over four months one winter, without a job or the money to pay rent, I vacated my apartment in the San Francisco Bay Area and holed up with my father, stepmother, and sister in the tiny town of Twain Harte in the Sierras, along with their rambunctious dog, orphaned cats, and a canary that sang the Tequila Sunrise song.

    While I was immensely grateful to have a loving family who took me in and tolerated my anti-social behavior, as an introvert, being suddenly thrust into a household of people and pets, I failed miserably as a member of the tribe. I spent the days hiding in the guest room, making half-hearted attempts to write a novel.

    Carl Hogan walked downstairs with a plate of wet cat food and was never seen again.

    “What happened to Carl?” my father asked from time to time, his eagerness palpable.

    I’d mumble something unintelligible and go out for a walk in the boy’s snow boots I had purchased at the local Walmart that were a size too small, trudging down icy roads to a boulder by a ditch flowing with water, where I sat and contemplated my life.

    Occasionally, I visited the grocery store.

    On a December evening I was on one such grocery-buying escapade, when sawhorses magically appeared on the street, blocking off the one and only road out. A parade was marching in, so I stashed the groceries in my trunk and joined the crowd of onlookers.

    The tennis club led the parade, carrying their rackets and a huge banner that read “Twain Harte Tennis Club” in case there was any doubt. The Kazoo Club came next, followed by the Lion’s Club and what may have been the Dog-Walking Club, or a group of people out walking their dogs. Next up: the volunteer fire department—which is to say, the barber, the pharmacist, the newspaper editor and the taxidermist/bar owner who was also a member of the Hunting Club. A trio of girls with Shirley Temple arms rode by on their father’s shoulders—or who I assumed were their fathers but may have been the Elk’s Club. They were followed by an elderly man driving a Model T—the mayor, I guessed, and his diminutive female companion, she giving a royal wave, his more like a Texas howdy doody holler.

    I heard the marching band before I saw them, rounding the corner onto the main street led by a young man snapping his baton up and down as if he truly were leading 76 trombones to the heart of town, rather than a paltry two, along with six trumpets, three drums and a french horn striving to keep up.

    Bringing up the rear: Santa and his sleigh, with a bevy of helpers bringing up his ample rear. The float, wreathed with tiny white Christmas tree lights, played a tinny-sounding Jingle Bells from a single speaker, proving to be too much electricity for the overloaded contraption. The whole thing shorted out, and Santa froze mid-wave.

    “Ohhhhh,” wailed the crowd lining the street. They wore mufflers and snow boots and thick ski gloves, and held hot cups of cider sold by volunteers in front of the real estate office.

    A tall man standing next to me groaned and shook his head—probably one of the parade committee members who thought he had hired a jolly old Saint Nick, and not some retired bearded guy afraid of being electrocuted.

    The lights and music flickered back on.

    “Ahhhh!” said the crowd.

    Santa settled back to waving his huge white paw, and the lights flickered off.

    “Ohhhh,” said the crowd.

    And flickered on.

    “Ahhhhh!” said the crowd.

    And off.

    “Ohhhhh.”

    And on.

    “Ahhhhh!”

    And so on, until Santa disappeared around a corner, and the man next to me wiped the sweat from his brow.

    And that was that. The parade was over.

    The crowd dispersed, volunteers packed up the cider and took down the sawhorses, and I returned to my car and sat behind the wheel in the dark.

    That winter, I often felt like the parade passed me by.

    And it was that kind of parade.