Introverts, Here’s Why (and How) to Give Yourself the Gift of Time

An introvert controls his calendar

It’s important for introverts to own their calendar and defend their time so their energy can be applied wisely.

All too often, life seems to be coming too fast. We are running from one meeting to another. We fill our calendars with work commitments and social obligations. We are rushing to GO — to do as much as we can, to match the tempo of others, to hustle all day long.

It’s no wonder we peer up every once in a while, feel overwhelmed, and then look back and find our performance disappointing and our confidence wavering.  

Especially for introverts, this is not our way. Most of us are not great at thinking on the fly. Others are much more agile. They thrive off that pace and they are paid to be the quick, intuitive brainstormers. That is okay. We “quiet ones,” on the other hand, are hired to bring considerate thought and creative problem-solving to the workplace.

Our greatest talents are circumspect, thoughtful engagements, prepared meeting approaches, and resilience under pressure. These take time. We need to give ourselves the benefit of our time. And, in exchange, we will be proud of our work products, our decisions, our relationships.

So rather than push to GO, STOP, try the RSGN model: Ready, Set, Go, Next at work or at your next social event.

Ready — the framing stage. Is this event a valuable use of your time?

Ready is the framing stage, and it’s important to ask yourself some questions: What is the event? A business meeting? A social event? Are you excited or anxious about attending? Why? If you are anxious, must you go? Could you do this differently? Is the community social event something you dread? While it is healthy to stretch our comfort zone and try new things, we needn’t do that always or to the point of despair. Pick your moments.

This is also the time to challenge and ask: Am I truly a valuable participant in meetings I’ve been scheduled into? Often, meeting planners cast a wide net. So, do you bring important information to the table or do you need to attend to represent your team or get directives?

If so, move to the next step in our process. But if the meeting is not a valuable use of your time or if the social event is not critical, consider declining. Own your calendar and defend your time so your energy can be applied wisely.

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Set — the most essential stage, all about planning and preparation

Set is the most essential stage and is all about planning and preparation in our alone time. For those events you will attend, you will contribute your best and dial back your own stress with a dose of preparation. (After all, we introverts are great planners!) Think about these aspects of the event in question:

Venue: Where will it be held? First consider how you can use your own strengths to excel. Many introverts are creative, excel in small groups, and typically for shorter durations of time. How can you craft the event to fit those dynamics? Perhaps a meeting outside, a walking meeting, or attending with a buddy?

Agenda: Get the low-down in advance. If it’s a business meeting, be sure to get an agenda in advance, along with a pre-read for more lengthy or complex topics. This is a gift to yourself. Read the material. Jot down questions, concerns, opinions, and items you’d like to challenge or support. This preparation helps avoid many of the impromptu comments introverts often loathe.

Goals: Set them for the event. As an introvert, I’m sure your goal is not to gather a hundred business cards or get a standing ovation at a meeting. Perhaps it’s to strike up a few conversations, one or two of which you will follow up on later. At a meeting, your goal may be to know your stuff, convey your opinions, and gather important information to consider. Make these goals focused on what you can control and what you can celebrate.

List of four: The questions you can ask to get the conversation started. For social events, use the same tactics. Consider who will attend. Recall or scrub social media to learn a bit more about them: their hobbies, jobs, family, and school background. Then compile what I call your “List of Four”:

  • A few questions you can ask to get the conversation started. Everyone likes to be asked about themselves, and this is where our listening skills as introverts come in handy, too. Then, they will likely reciprocate with some questions of their own. Before you know it, you are having a conversation!
  • List some unique and interesting points about yourself. These could include your favorite vacation, a sport you enjoy or an event you attended, a family milestone you just celebrated, or a bucket-list item you are planning.
  • Some current event topics, like weather, sports, technology, or performing arts events. Avoid hotspots, like politics or religion. If you need some help, subscribe to a morning news feed to find a few topics to throw into a conversation.
  • If it’s a business engagement, prepare to share more than your work title and tenure. What sparks your passion? What attracted you to the field? What has been the highlight of this job?

These lists may seem like overkill, but many an introvert has suffered from Introvert’s Paralysis, when your mind freezes and you can’t think of anything to say. That’s when these lists will save the day. Review your List of Four before an event. Jot them on an index card and review them in the restroom or during an energy-boosting walk outside to refresh your memory.

Go — when it’s time to go to the event

Go, when the meeting or event is here. Hopefully, you want to be there or at least are prepared to be there and achieve your goals. Take comfort in your preparation. Familiarize yourself with the venue, interact early to break the ice, shower yourself with positive self-talk and encouragement (like, “You’ve got this!”), and aim to relax. Once we slow down and wrestle control away from the adrenalin that seeks to course through our veins and distract us from our purpose, we can let our knowledge of the subject matter and natural curiosities prevail.

In meetings, be brief. Share critical points and solicit questions that will steer the discussions where it needs to go to gain support. No need to drone on and share everything you know about a subject. Be concise and purposeful.

In social environments, ask the questions you prepared and then let yourself get lost in the flow of natural curiosity. Don’t fret about quiet patches. Silence is golden and often invites a new level of engagement. Remember, it takes two to converse. You needn’t wear that full burden yourself. And recognize that not everyone is symbiotic — some people just don’t hit it off. That is not a failure on anyone’s part, just a natural occurrence. Chalk it up to experience and move on.

Next — after the event, review how it went

Next is all about assessing the event. As much as we may often forget to prepare, we also tend to revel in the completion of a meeting or social event, and forget to review the event. Carve a few minutes out to consider, in this order:   

  • Celebrate the journey. Take pride that you completed something that may have been anxiety-riddled or a new adventure. Nothing is perfect. Celebrate your efforts.
  • Assess what went well. Did you achieve your goals?
  • Recognize how your RSGN process worked and benefited you. Did your preparation help calm you down to meet your goals?
  • Consider lessons learned from the event. Perhaps there are aspects of the process you want to prepare for or practice more. These are the nuggets that will help improve your performance and build your confidence for your next adventure.

So before you get swept away by the busy-ness of the day, step back and apply the RSGN Model. Schedule time in your day to prepare for these events and be sure to celebrate your successes along the way.

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“I have finally realized, to be happy I don’t need to change myself, I just need to be myself.” -Steve Friedman | When I wrote my memoir, In Search of Courage, I realized that the common thread of introversion I thought was a curse all my life was actually a blessing. For years, I wore a mask at work and coped with my stress by sacrificing my health and personal relationships. Now, however, I embrace my own introversion as a toolkit to become a happier me. My purpose is to help other introverts accelerate the process by which they discover their strengths and apply them to their personal and professional lives. I seek to inspire others to overcome past obstacles and find joy, pride, and confidence in life. I’ve retired from corporate America and enjoy sharing articles, books, quizzes, and resources through my website, BeyondIntroversion.com. I’m excited to combine my career experiences and my enthusiastic belief in introverts through my new leadership book, The Corporate Introvert: How to Lead and Thrive with Confidence.