Cultivate quiet time. Protect it so you can generate innovative ideas and creativity. Key for the introvert personality type is the ability to think deeply and recharge our energy in solitude. When introverts use solitude to super-charge innovation, the results can be remarkable. Whether we need to step away just to recharge or we are working on something that requires deep concentration, this idea applies.
Many introverted individuals are excellent writers and artists because these activities lend themselves to going solo in accomplishing the end result. They share their work eventually but they prefer letting their creative momentum flow in solitude, not to push people away, but to simply be in a quiet zone…their zone of genius. But not all of us are writers and artists. Some introverts can be found doing their best work in a corporate office.
And that’s where it can get challenging…
Oftentimes, we find ourselves working on teams or in offices without walls. Perhaps your work-space is in a sea of cubicles providing moderate privacy (70% of Americans work in open-plan offices). The idea behind these open structures is collaboration. And while collaboration has its place and great value, it’s not the answer to everything. We need to find balance.
We need to consider the “solo-spirit” nature of introverted personalities. While many extroverts appreciate the open spaces where they can work alongside each other, we as introverts often prefer our private space. Still, collaboration remains very important. The goal then is to find the right balance where there is a hybrid of open and private spaces—to use the open space for swapping ideas when the task calls for it, and to use the private space to develop these ideas privately and quietly.
Albert Einstein said, “I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
Research suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom without interruptions. This is exactly where introverts use solitude to excel. It’s certainly important to exchange, communicate and advance ideas, but solitude has long been associated with creativity and innovation.
Consider Steve Wozniak, the introverted engineering wizard behind the invention of the personal computer. He unveiled his solo-minded creation to his friend, Steve Jobs, who then persuaded him to co-found the Apple company (now Apple Inc.). This is where the beauty and brilliance of collaboration comes in. The initial creation, however, was a solo endeavor.
Okay, how can you carve out this time to focus? Here are some strategies.
- Schedule it on your calendar and block the time as if it were a normal, everyday meeting. This meeting is with yourself. If you work in an office, putting it on your calendar allows other people to respect your schedule because it shows on your calendar status that you are in another meeting. Hence, they will avoid this slot when inviting you for a different meeting and they won’t interrupt you for inquiries or other matters during this time. Stick to it and see how your productivity improves.
- If you work at home, negotiate for this time and set up an arrangement that grants you interruption-free, distraction-free time blocks. Discuss these matters with your offsite client or employer so that they know you are not neglecting your job but only want to be more focused on what you do. You can submit a daily end-of-day report to summarize the progress of your deliverables and output for the day. That way, your client or employer knows that you are quietly doing your job without the need for supervision. If your office is home-based set up a system that works within the schedule of the household so family members understand when you are working and when you are available for other things as they come up.
- If you need to, start your day an hour earlier than the rest of your household. Early morning can be a great time to carve out some solitude. Most people find it very helpful to enjoy quiet time before they start their day. Pick a book to read, sip a hot cup of coffee or tea, and take in the sweetness of solitude. I suggest that you do not really plan out your day during this time alone. You can do that at the end of the previous day or first thing when you begin your work day. During your quiet morning time, just feel the serenity of being alone while the rest of your household is still asleep.
- Don’t be tempted to give up this time when something else needs to be scheduled. Honor it with the same importance as any other meeting or commitment. Your time for yourself is as important as the time you give to another. If you think you are too busy for some quiet moments, that’s when you really need a quiet moment. It will help you reenergize and release worrisome thoughts as you allow yourself to breathe and steer clear of distractions.
- Close the door, turn off your phone, and allow yourself time to work uninterrupted. Momentum is precious. The amount of things you can do during high momentum is greater than when you are interrupted frequently. Leave a note that you will return the call or come see your colleague after you are done with the work you’re doing, stating that the only time you can be interrupted is “if” their points of concern are highly urgent.
We, introverts, are quiet by nature. We can use this characteristic to stimulate our creativity and innovation. This can help us thrive, no matter what field of expertise we are in. The key is to allow for time alone while tackling creative tasks.
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