Introvert micro energy management

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Most of us introverts are conscious of how we have to be careful to allocate our days and people-energy to the people and things that we care about most in our lives. We want to spend time with loved ones and other friends. We need to give our very best to our job, and that may include interactions with coworkers. I’ve always been conscious of making sure I don’t have social events too clumped together on the calendar. It goes without saying that if there’s a wedding I absolutely have to go to on Saturday, then I’ll most likely turn down an invitation from a friend for a Friday night movie or Sunday dinner. I hate having to choose something that I don’t want to do over my real friends or family, but sometimes it’s necessary. I also try to avoid needless errands in order to preserve my time and energy so I’ll be at my best with friends, family, and work.

Although I’ve always made the effort to keep a ratio of at least several open evenings for every one social evening, lately I’ve become more aware that I need to manage my energy on a “micro” level too. A few months ago I went to a family reunion full of people I genuinely wanted to see, but after a couple of hours I was so exhausted I desperately wanted to close my eyes or even take a nap. My department has bimonthly meetings for our whole staff, including lots of training, team meetings, and dinners, and I really like my coworkers but in the August meeting I was totally wiped out by early afternoon. Since I really want to be able to participate in family and office events, I had to consciously make a plan for my energy management – not just planning the other days that week, but managing my energy within the day and event itself.

The first event where I tried my new plan was the October staff meeting. Like the August meeting, this one lasted just about the whole day, including a group lunch at our meeting tables. After the work day was finished, we were all supposed to go dinner together. So when I woke up that morning, I knew I had about 12 solid hours of togetherness ahead of me. And of course I had thought about that 12 hours of togetherness quite often over the several days preceding the meeting too. 🙂  Here’s how I managed to make it all the way through the meeting and dinner without getting exhausted.

  • At the August meeting, I had tried to be extra vivacious and talkative, because I had decided that introverts don’t get heard enough at meetings. It went great at first, but then suddenly that afternoon I was exhausted and didn’t really recover from my zombie-like state until I got home that night. For the October meeting, I decided to be more conservative with my energy. I did the group activities and answered questions when they were directed at me, but I was a lot more quiet and relaxed – I was myself.  This was really the key to  making it through the day.   I was like a cell phone on standby – not using energy as fast as when I’d been forcing lots of talking and laughing last time.
  • Many of the guys bring their laptops to the meetings and either type notes during the day or respond to emails or …something. I almost did that, but then I realized that during meeting breaks I would have to sit in the meeting area to return emails and browse the web. I decided to leave my laptop at my desk, so every time we had a break, I’d retreat to my desk to return emails or do other things on the laptop. After I ate my lunch with the group, I had the rest of the lunch break to use my laptop at my desk while the others used theirs at the meeting tables we’d been at all morning.

After this meeting was over, we had a two hour break before dinner.   An extrovert invited me to go for coffee with him and a new employee, and believe it or not I went!   I just stayed relaxed, comfortable as an introvert, and enjoyed talking and laughing a bit before we returned to the office.

The next time I needed to plan out my energy for the day was for Thanksgiving Day.   My family and I drove 150 miles to my sister’s house to be with her and her family, including my mom.  I love everyone who was in that house, but I was a little concerned that I’d be totally exhausted by the time I tasted the sweet potatoes.   (I know the last two occasions when I’ve arrived at her house I was already out of energy and thought it had been the car ride that wiped me out).

  • Usually when we make a drive as a family, we all talk to each other all the way to my mom or sister’s house.   It’s not really continuous and it’s not intense, but this time I brought a James Patterson thriller and read some while the other three people talked for the two and a half hour drive.   No one minded or was offended.    We’ve all brought something to do in the car from time to time, depending on what we need to get done that weekend.   So by the time we arrived at my sister’s, I felt as if I’d been curled up in my favorite chair with a book – happy, refreshed, and eager to see everyone.
  • Of course when we got there I jumped right in to help my sister, and since we get along great and I know where she keeps most stuff, I was able to help – and a lot of the time I wasn’t even talking. I was taking things to the table, going out to the extra fridge for sodas for the kids, or whatever else was needed. That gave my “conversation center” another rest, before I even needed it.
  • By the end of the day, my nephew suggested we play a family game – a game of strategy with dominoes. Being able to just enjoy playing the familiar game, talking when appropriate but without the focus being on the talk, let my battery last all the way ’til time to go home.

Of course these were positive occasions with very nice people. What if I were preparing for a full day of less friendly fire, such as intense meetings with an unhappy customer, a day in court, or similar? I realize my poor battery would drain a lot faster due to the stress alone, but at least I am learning to relax and realize I am not a loser when I don’t try to make unnatural chitchat. I’m an introvert – smart, thoughtful, and sometimes quiet.

Photo credit: Sea Frost

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24 Comments

  1. I’m glad to here that you had a successful meeting and a holiday weekend.
    I just returned from a visit to my families house out of town. Here is a couple of things that helped me maintain my sanity.

    1. I planned only 2 days rather than the whole 4 day weekend.

    2. I couldn’t get a ticket out of Atlanta for decent price so I flew out of Birmingham. This was a blessing in disguise. It’s a 3 hour drive which was a good time to pre charge my battery and decompress after it was over.

    The planes I was on were little puddle jumpers, not a small prop plane. I’ll just say that I could barely stand up. Luckily they were short flights (1 1/12 hrs) with a layover.

    All in all it turned out to be a great visit even though my family probably would have preferred me to stay longer.
    .-= Nick Laborde´s last blog ..Quick Update…I’m Still Alive =-.

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    • Thanks Cameron! I’m learning – it has really helped that I consciously think about being an introvert and what that means instead of what I did in the “old days” – just faking extroversion then letting the exhaustion take me by surprise. 🙂

  4. I am an introvert who wishes I was extrovert. 🙂 The energy issue discussed here is very real to me. Fortunately for me, my job and my lifestyle doesn’t expose me very often to so much activity like you were elaborating here. The idea of consciously managing energy ‘expenditure’ is cool though.
    .-= James M.´s last blog ..Photo Fun =-.

  5. I’m glad you found ways to manage the craziness of the holiday season. This is the time of year I wish I was an extrovert because I’m around people constantly whether it with family,friends, or at work (craziest time of the year…not looking forward to that). I don’t keep tabs on how I manage in the past , but now at least I have a site where I can vent and not be judged : )

  6. Question for you Christy and others bloggers…I’m going on a roadtrip to texas for a week w/a friend. So I’m wondering if there are any sight and food places that are resonable in price range. I’ve never been there so any recommendation is helpful…

  7. Living alone, I find that my energy management comes pretty naturally. (Enough that I didn’t know I was an introvert despite some rather obvious-to-me-now signs!) But…having friends or family in town and staying with me, while a fairly rare occurrence, stumps me.

    I’ll have tons of fun, yet find myself having to work hard by the end of the 2nd day to respond at all to conversation, and I’ll wish desperately for a nap (doesn’t help that my cats do not believe in a full night’s sleep), and I end up very relieved when they leave to go home.

    I don’t have a TV (because I hate TV), which I suspect a lot of people use in these situations. Fills time, mimics being social, yet it is a time of no interaction.

    I’m getting to where I dread visiting my out of town friends or having them visit me, and that’s not something I’m happy with. These are good friends! Makes me wonder what’s going on, in general, because I feel like I need an ever-increasing amount of recharging time. Do our batteries fail us after a while?

    • Deb I am in exactly the same boat. I envy people who still live in their home towns so they can see their family and close friends WITHOUT the overnight stuff. As it is, I often have just day trips to my family 150 miles away because by the end of the day I am ready to be alone. And likewise I don’t invite family/friends to come and stay with me as often as I used to – or as often as I’d like to see them.

      TV is a great crutch – especially if it’s something you can all be involved in, like watching a sporting event. Or I also used to go and do things with the animals at my parents’ house years ago. Then the hours would just fly by. Anything is preferable to sitting and looking at each other and making small talk. 🙂

    • Emily Roberts on

      I have that trouble too whenever my friend from out of town visits: She often stays the entire weekend and is very high energy, never happy in one spot or with less than three people around for more than an hour or two, and after two days of that, I am ready to get some serious time alone! Usually by the time it’s all over, I’m too tired to feel guilty about wanting everyone to leave!

      • I understand that feeling! And it’s such a shame – sometimes by the next morning I wish the person was here again, for the day. But before I can miss them, I needed a good break from them!

  8. I’m so glad I came across your site. I’m an introvert and after reading a couple of your articles, I can honestly say that you capture an introvert’s inner life extremely well! Your site should be recommended reading for – well – everyone! Both introverts and extroverts. Thank you so much!

    • Hi Mildred – thanks so much for the kind words! It’s funny; I used to just think I was a little bit of an “odd bird” for some of my tendencies/preferences, but I’m learning more and more that I share those tendencies/preferences with a lot of people! Thanks again for your comment, and I hope you’ll join us here at IntrovertZone often!

  9. I’m late chiming in, but this touched on perhaps my biggest problem regarding my “introvert energy”: houseguests who stay for WEEKS. My extended family lives hours away, so they feel a need for very long (by my standards) visits. (Anywhere from 8 to 20 days.) They are all very extroverted, and seem totally perplexed that I start to get irritable after DAYS of uninterrupted chit chat. It has damaged our relationship because they just don’t understand that I need space – they think I’m “hiding” and don’t like them. I like them, but not underfoot for weeks at a time with no break! Having to be “on” at work and then coming home and getting no relief makes me crazy. Asking them to stay in a hotel is out of the question. Maybe I’ll stay in a hotel myself the next time they come….

    • Oh no! That is so awful. I actually don’t know how you do it. I would have already totally melted down at least once under those circumstances. Yep – if it wouldn’t hurt their feelings, a hotel for you would be very refreshing! 🙂

  10. This is a very wonderful thing to bring up. I do it naturally, thank goodness. When I worked in an office setting, in a job and environment I loved, whenever I had to go use the bathroom, I would take a book, walk slowly while reading, and walk slowly back reading. I always take a book or notebook anywhere I go, which means I carry my own little bubble of aloneness with me. Now that I’ve left that job (and miss it very much), people there tell me they miss seeing me walk around with my nose in a book all the time. It was the best environment ever, social but pleasantly, not intrusively, so.
    Also, I always get up in the morning at least an hour earlier than I need to be anywhere and spend that hour alone with my Bible and coffee. And at night I retire to my room an hour before I need to go to bed and spend that time reading or writing. Having that time at the beginning and at the end makes me very healthy.

  11. I can relate so much it almost hurts. I usually can manage 2-3 hours, but then I am drained most of the day. Usually need a couple of hours to recoup alone. This really is driving me INSANE as I always felt that I never got to live my life to the full extent. I am only 24, but there is still so much I have never managed to enjoyed.

    The time that I have “wasted” before is fine, and I am actually glad I finally know whats with me. On the other hand I just began a super expensive study and I feel that I cannot get the full deal out of it as most of it is based on networking and I hate chit chat. There are usually events hosted every weekend. Everyone keeps pushing me to events here and there. If I don’t go then I won’t get to meet the people as those events are the only ones class mates and other people attend. AAAAA!!! What to do? Any suggestions?! :E

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