Introverts tend to have tremendous powers of concentration, enabling them to dig deep and work in happy solitude for long periods of time.
But in today’s fast-paced workplace, challenges abound. After being bombarded by a constant stream of emails, distractions, and external stimulation, introverts may find themselves feeling frazzled and losing focus.
By blocking distractions and thoughtfully approaching your day, you can ward off information overload and accomplish great things. Here are six tips to help you avoid distractions and maximize your productivity.
1. Preserve the peace.
We’ve all done it. We wake up and immediately reach for our smartphones to check our email, social media, and the latest news. In one study, nearly eighty percent of participants checked their phones within 15 minutes of waking up. But for introverts, concentration and a clear head are precious assets. By stuffing our minds full of new information from the moment we wake up, we begin to cloud our thoughts and divert our energy. To maintain mental clarity for as long as possible, minimize Internet-surfing in the morning.
2. Tackle your most challenging tasks first.
For introverts, morning is often a magical time of day when your mind is uncluttered and your energy levels are at their peak. Use this precious time to dive into your most challenging tasks. Write the tricky email you’ve been putting off, tackle a difficult project, or schedule an important meeting with a client. After you make progress on your most challenging task of the day, you’ll feel light and energized. Following a productive morning, catch up on routine tasks that don’t require as much brainpower (such as reading emails and getting organized).
3. Block distractions.
As the day wears on, introverts may find that constant distractions scatter their thoughts and chip away at their concentration. Make a conscious effort to minimize distractions and set aside uninterrupted chunks of time for work. Unsubscribe to unnecessary email lists, and turn off pop-up notifications on your computer. Check your email every half hour, rather than every five minutes. If you suddenly remember that you need to pick up milk or the dry-cleaning after work, write it down instead of dwelling on it. Every small step counts and helps keep you focused on the task at hand.
4. Take regular breaks.
Introverts (and extroverts) tend to feel overwhelmed by a constant barrage of emails, meetings, and hustle-and-bustle, especially in an open office plan. Commit to taking regular breaks before you reach the point of mental exhaustion. Exercise at lunch, walk around the block, or stretch and breathe deeply in your office. If you work in an open office, find a private refuge away from your desk; even a nap room or bathroom will do. Before important meetings, steal a few quiet moments to gather your thoughts. By taking strategic breaks, you will avoid burnout and sustain your energy levels throughout the day.
5. Get moving.
If you’re overloaded at work, you may think that exercise would be a waste of time. In reality, the opposite is true. Research shows that people who exercise on workdays are happier, calmer, and more productive than days when they do not exercise. Exercise also strengthens your immune system and helps you fight off bugs that can slow you down. Instead of seeing exercise as an indulgence or chore, think of it as a smart investment in yourself. A healthy lifestyle can help you combat stress and ultimately boost your productivity.
The world now moves at the speed of the Internet — in other words, instantaneously. But you can reclaim your sanity by unplugging every now and then. If you’re not on call, stop compulsively checking emails in the evenings and weekends. Designate “digital free” times in the day, for example, during your workout or dinner with your family. To truly get away, schedule a hike or weekend getaway in a remote place without Internet access (notify your colleagues or clients in advance, so they can plan accordingly). You may be surprised at how fresh and clear your mind feels after escaping the constant “ping” of emails. When you return to work, you’ll feel energized and ready to dive back in.