A few months ago, I read an article I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. It said that people who are constantly interrupted at work make 50% more mistakes and take twice as long to do a task.
The problem, it seems, is worse for either creative types, or introverts. Those of us who are both, I think, might benefit from a well-placed door in our professional lives. We creatives need time to think. We need people, too; we love people. We just don’t necessarily want to talk to them while we are in the middle of creating. We want to collaborate, but we want to refine our ideas first. Open office spaces, in other words, can kind of suck sometimes. Therefore: it’s not the work that drains me. It’s the office.
I just finished this book, and now I can’t stop thinking about that, either.
Most people, I’m guessing, understand the thing about introverts getting energy from solitude, and extroverts getting energy from being around other people. I know a lot of gregarious introverts, and I know some extroverts who are extremely reflective. It’s not about being shy versus being outgoing; it’s just about how we process. If I’m learning something new, I want to think about it a for a minute before I talk through it. If I’m writing, I want to finish my thought. If I’m doing something intricate such as, say, architecture, I’d like the time and space to work through all the issues, and then do it right. It’s been quite some time since I’ve had five consecutive minutes of uninterrupted work time at my desk. I stay frustrated. It’s partly my office culture, and it’s partly just what I need, versus what I have. It’s a mismatch.
I’ve had some notable colleagues who process externally. That works extremely well if there are two of them. They can chit-chat and you-tube and bounce ideas off each other all day, saying “let me just think through this out loud,” and “why don’t you come over and look at this?” to each other. When it’s one on one, though, the poor neglected extrovert can’t think straight because there’s not enough noise, and the harried introvert can’t think straight because there is no possibility of sustained concentration.
It’s been a long day. I left an hour early. Within twenty minutes I had an unnecessary phone call from office extrovert, who ceased to be able to function when there was nobody to talk to.
Know when I really appreciate extroverts? In my social life. I dearly, dearly love my extroverted, chatty, process-out-loud friends every bit as much as I love my reserved and introspective ones. I love it when we’re all together and complement each other’s strengths, and as a group we can achieve quite a bit with our mix of personalities.
As far as work goes, I’ll continue to dream of my van down by the river. A place to breathe easy and create things. A safe haven, to which I’ll invite all the people I want, when I’m done thinking hard. A respite. Since I’m in transition anyway, I might as well acknowledge the things which would help me thrive in my next work space: sunshine, for starters. The right mix of people, who complement each other and collaborate well. Beautiful work to do.
I think we could all benefit from that.