A Coach was recently helping me to process 360 assessment feedback that I had received from colleagues. One of my takeaways from the conversation was a need to consciously work on stress management during the work day. As an introvert who has learned how to flex into extroversion, I sometimes struggle internally with the busy-ness of most work days, where it is go-go-go and near-constant social interaction from the minute I arrive at work until the minute I leave. I am usually pretty good at decompressing after work or on weekends, but my Coach encouraged me to look at what I could do to improve my stress management during the workday.
The irony of this situation is that many of my colleagues view me as cool, calm, and collected, yet my own view of myself is that I often feel high stress levels beneath a calm exterior. I find that this is one of the benefits of a 360 feedback tool – gaps between self-perception and the perception of others can highlight possible areas for development worth paying attention to on our leadership journeys. My Coach challenged me to pay attention to this and consider what I might want to change, something that I could control, about my workday.
The first idea that came to mind was to insert a small pocket of “introvert time” into my day. As my Coach asked me how that would look, I mentioned how much I enjoy getting outside for a walk, but that most days I don’t make the time for it. As we talked it through, it became obvious that I could make the time for even a short, 10-15 minute walk outside on most days, if I prioritized it. The value of a short break to walk, breathe, and enjoy a few minutes of silence in nature was obvious to me – not only as an enjoyable introvert activity, but also so I could come back to the work clearer and calmer. My Coach suggested that I use that brief walking time, not to think about or mull over work matters, but to truly clear my mind and practice mindfulness walking meditation, paying attention to my breath and observing the trees, sky, etc. She encouraged me to use the walking time to slow down the busy-ness, not only of work tasks that need to be done, but also the busy-ness of mind.
Well, it is easier said than done, but I have tried my first couple of mindfulness walks during the workday and so far so good. If you are also an introvert working in an extrovert world, I encourage you to find your own way to create some introvert time during your work day. It can be brief, rejuvenating, and help you perform at your best when you return to the fray.