I’m pretty sure no one out there who knows me will be surprised that I’m an extrovert – with a capital “E.” Extroversion and introversion get a lot of pop psychology attention due to all of the readily available online quizzes, mentions in profiles, and memes setting up (in my opinion) unhelpful dichotomies. One type is not preferable to another, and wouldn’t the world be an even more strange and stressful place if we all tried to be extroverts (or vice versa)?
And to digress briefly, if you’re interested in a Myers-Briggs assessment, I believe it’s worth it to invest in something more than a quick online quiz.
All that said, I love (and frankly can’t live without) opportunities to withdraw into my interior world. Connecting outward is lovely and stimulating. Reflecting inward gives my psyche a chance to catch its breath. So when I’ve had a week of happily bouncing between clients, family, happy hour with friends, folks at church, the people installing some new light fixtures, and the random people I strike up conversations with, plunging myself into an opposite extreme is just what the brain ordered.
If we take some purposeful extended time to do nothing more complex than staring at a tree or doodle on a blank page, we open something up. We declutter a little brain space. We might call this mindfulness, but I think it’s less intense. We might call it being bored, but I think it’s less negative. Those of us GenX and older – do you ever stop to remember what it was like before we had all of these screens? Yeah, we used to get bored. I used to read cereal boxes at breakfast. I used to watch the power poles out the window speed by on long car trips. I know, I know…next I’ll be talking about walking 10 miles in the snow uphill…the point is, there are plenty of benefits to a bit of boredom now and then. Unfortunately, it’s gotten a bad rap.
I might suggest that stepping back for 30 minutes to an hour once a week by yourself to do absolutely nothing is like a personal productivity retreat, a little spa time for your synapses. And I do mean nothing. I think we sometimes kid ourselves that we’re retreating when we go for a walk (gotta count those steps!) or get a massage (ever had a talkative masseuse?). Going about such a retreat purposefully gives everything that has occupied and overwhelmed our brains a chance to just be. When the mental fuzz from all the busyness clears, I find that decision-making, creativity, and taking action flows easier.
It might feel really uncomfortable at first. You might have tons of thoughts and judgments creep in – “OMG, I’m just wasting time!”. But honestly, aren’t you already killing plenty of minutes scrolling Instagram, or spinning your wheels at work because your mind is so taxed?
Of course, I can’t know how introverts would plan or go about personal productivity retreats – perhaps that’s like asking the fish how they set up the water? Introverted friends, please chime in. Maybe the key to the whole business is intentionality – do you think of your alone, do-nothing time as an opportunity? Do you insist on it for yourself as a critical component of your overall life order?
Give a little empty, unstructured, productive time a try (set that timer if it helps) – and let us know how it goes.