When introversion became a thing – when Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking was published, and the internet started filling up with memes like “Introverts Unite… Separately… In Your Own Homes” — I felt a sense of relief. The modern definition of introversion as someone who simply needs to be alone to recharge one’s batteries fit me to a T. I no longer felt apologetic about wanting to leave a party early. Others, too, were coming out of the introvert closet.
Then I had a crappy year. The details are not important here — I’m not claiming mine was worse than yours… who knows? – but I found myself withdrawing even more than usual. I worked less with clients, networked less, and socialized less. Eventually I realized I wanted to do more virtual organizing than hands-on organizing, and took steps to make that happen, which was fantastic except for the part where I was slowly becoming a hermit.
My friend, and occasional houseguest, Jane, is a writer. She writes novels. She also has been an art teacher, worked with preschool kids, and done any number of bohemian part-time jobs to supplement her income. But she’s always been a writer. I, on the other hand, was an engineer at the phone company for 20 years prior to my 10-year stint as a hands-on professional organizer. It’s only been recently that we’ve realized I’m a writer too! I write blog articles and informational products, social media posts and website copy, e-books and action plans, meeting minutes, procedures, checklists, emails, and newsletters. This is becoming more apparent the less time I spend in person with clients and the more time I spend alone at my computer.
And what do writers stereotypically do? They keep to themselves and they write. They often neglect themselves and others in the process. Now, as you know, introverts usually enjoy being with others, for a little while at least. Being a hermit is no more a necessary characteristic of introversion than shyness is. So I’ve realized I need to get out more and spend more time with others. Since I have less time with others built into my routine now, I know I need to build some back in. And it’s not going to happen by itself.
I should probably mention that I live alone and love it. I see my aunt (and the other library volunteers) weekly; and my dad, brother, and I have a standing weekly breakfast date. Monthly activities include book club, a meeting of my fabulous professional organizing colleagues, and a business networking luncheon which I can’t just blow off because I have a job to do when I get there – one that forces me to talk to at least a few newcomers each time – which is to take photos of the event and post them on Facebook. I also cashier at the library used book sale once a month.
So that’s 12 out of 30 days where I spend time with others for a few hours (which is plenty) on a predictable basis. And 18 days where I don’t. Sure there’s the occasional spontaneous lunch date, get-together, or activity, but I think I need a little more.
So what’s my plan? I think the solution for me is to schedule at least one breakfast, lunch, or dinner date per week with a friend (rotating among several candidates). This is easier to work into my current working from home schedule than it was during a day of three-hour in-person appointments that I had to drive across town to get to. And I need to find an exercise class or physical activity that involves other people. I think those two things would get me back into my sweet spot.
What about you? What is your socializing sweet spot?
Are you getting just the right amount of me-time? Too much? Not enough?
And what are you planning to do about it?
Please share with us in the comments below!
Hazel Thornton is a professional organizer and genealogist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico; creator of The Clutter Flow Chart Collection; and author of Go with the Flow! The Clutter-Clearing Tool Kit for an Organized Life. Visit her online at www.org4life.com.