6 Ways for Introverts to Manage Hustle Culture

A introvert in hustle culture

Just because society idolizes hustle culture and being “busy” doesn’t mean it’s good for us, especially if we’re introverts.

Hustle culture is that voice whispering to you at the end of the day that you haven’t done enough. It’s the guilt pangs that roll through your stomach when you sit down to take a break after you’ve already worked so hard. Another way to name it is “toxic productivity” — when you’re on your third cup of coffee by noon after burning the midnight oil the night prior, doing extra work. 

This culture grinds anyone down, but introverts are especially susceptible to it because our social reserves are already low. Plus, hustling often requires us to be at the forefront of jobs and pursuits, putting on a brave face. It means more face-to-face time with people, too, which we can only handle so much of before we break.

There’s a Difference Between Being Accommodating and Being Taken Advantage Of

I experienced this when I was in my first job out of college: I was excited to be given so much responsibility at a cool tech start-up. I was salaried, but came in early, stayed late, and was fueled by obscene amounts of caffeine. There were bean bag chairs, a fully stocked kitchen with snacks, and people riding scooters around the office. I thought it was cool to work on Saturdays.

On top of all the work, I had a million hobbies: volunteering at a meditation center, playing hockey on a team, going to 12-step meetings, and writing a book. I never took a break.

Most of these things put me smack-dab in front of other humans, truly exhausting my social batteries and leading to burnout. So much so that I was hospitalized for two weeks for my mental health and had to quit that job — as well as drop some of my other responsibilities. I reassessed what was important to me and now I refuse to grind myself into the ground.

I currently work a job where I do not work over 40 hours a week, and on the rare occasions I do, I get paid overtime. I do not overbook myself. I leave time in my schedule to take a breather and enjoy life. (And, of course, to have plenty of alone time.) Here are six ways I’ve learned how to take care of myself as an introvert in the face of hustle culture.   

6 Ways for Introverts to Manage Hustle Culture

1. Prioritize and drop a hobby (or few).

Dropping a hobby looks like giving myself some time off from writing, not playing the 10:30 p.m. hockey games with my team, and taking a second to meditate (I’m still working on doing this one with regularity). I try not to let my hobbies and passions turn into just another damn thing I have to do. I try to hold onto them like loose garments, optional and fun. 

2. Make sure to have a lot of “me-time.”

Hobbies are great, but they’re not enough to sustain us. Self-care and “me-time,” and lots of it, are essential. This will look different for everyone. I don’t have kids, so my self-care looks like having some solid time alone. I operate best in the world when I’ve recharged my social batteries with this time. 

Self-care also looks like writing and exercising for joy, rather than attaining a certain outcome. It can be bath bombs and massages, but it can also be taking a luxurious nap or playing a video game. The idea is, do whatever fills you up.

3. Evaluate your values and make sure you’re investing enough in them.

What is it that you hold near and dear? Is it family? Then, make sure you are spending time with them. For me, my writing is something I value extensively. However, when I was in the grips of hustle culture, I realized I was barely writing because I was so busy trying to be productive all the time. I was burnt out by the end of the day by so much interaction and work that I couldn’t even do the one thing that feels like my purpose on this earth. 

Checking your values is an important step because it reminds us of what we truly care about. We remember that life is short, so we might as well spend it doing things we love. 

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4. Rest, rest, and rest some more.

I can’t say this enough. I know taking time to rest may be part of self-care, but I think rest deserves its own call-out. Taking time to breathe, be, and relax is crucial to making sure we feel okay, especially as an introvert since we get depleted by too much time around people. 

Many of us are stuck in meetings with people on Zoom or in person, or we work retail jobs that require us to constantly be around others. This is draining! Even if you have a job that doesn’t require a lot of human interaction, the act of working depletes us, and rest replenishes our reserves.

5. Stop idolizing hustle culture and being “busy.”

“Ugh, I barely slept because I worked late last night” has become a brag because of the hustle culture we live in. The less sleep you get due to having worked late, the more impressive you seem. Even if it’s not impacting your work life, I bet at home you try to tick off as many tasks as possible and feel like a failure if you haven’t done everything. 

This is toxic productivity once again, at its finest. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be busy or getting things done. In fact, it’s necessary to live. It’s when we go on overdrive and burn ourselves out that’s the problem — that’s when we’re in trouble.

6. Don’t mistake free time for availability.

Just because you have a gap in your schedule doesn’t mean it’s someone else’s for the taking. All humans, but specifically introverts, need time to breathe, digest, and rebuild.

I used to schedule a task or person at every minute of the day, and it eventually caught up to me. Now I’ve learned that I need to set intentional gaps in my schedule so that I don’t explode. If we’re not resting, we’re not recharging. Look at how the muscles work: When you work them out, they break down. When they go to be built back up to be stronger than before, they can only do that during rest. It’s an essential part of life!

Plus, the energy of introverts is sensitive. It needs to be protected, maintained, and nurtured. If it doesn’t, we will break. Let my hospitalization be a warning to make sure you’re monitoring your gauges and gassing up before you hit E, not after. Life is a whole lot more manageable and enjoyable when we’re pushing back against hustle culture and taking time to just be.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

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