How I Thrive as an Introvert in an Extroverted Office Environment

How I Thrive as an Introvert in an Extroverted Office Environment

Discovering the meaning of “introvert” in high school was, to this day, one of the biggest moments of clarity in my life. I knew I wasn’t shy. I knew I didn’t have social anxiety. I knew I wasn’t timid or afraid to share my thoughts.

But I did know that I sought more alone time and quietude than others. No matter how much I enjoyed (and still enjoy) being around people, I found that I needed extra time to recharge and reflect after social events or a full day of interactions.

It was a huge relief to finally have a way to describe myself: an introvert. (In case you’re curious, I’m an ISTJ on the Myers-Briggs personality spectrum.)

Knowing this has helped me understand why I act in certain ways and how I might respond to different situations. In school, for example, I nearly always did homework in my room because I knew that the constant stimuli in common spaces—or even in the library—would drain my mental juices more than the homework itself.

The professional working world has exposed and challenged my introversion more than anything else, though.

When I graduated college, I joined an amazing start-up company in Boston. Over the past two years I’ve been fortunate enough to watch the company grow and to work with some of the smartest and most talented people I’ve ever met…

…in an environment that doesn’t exactly cater to introversion: the open-plan office.

From communal desks to music playing over the speakers, we have so many of the office features and perks you think of when you hear “start-up.” No doubt, these things are an important and valuable part of our company culture.

The only problem is that—like many introverts—my job involves a lot of writing and deep thinking. Which is hard to accomplish given the constant chatter, noise, and distractions in an open office.

Much has been written about the challenges that introverts face in an open-plan office (“Why the Open-Plan Office Can Be Devastating for Introverts”“Saving Introverts From the Soul-Destroying Open-Plan Office”). Those titles are a bit dramatic, but I can relate to the arguments raised and the growing body of research about the disadvantages of open-plan offices.

It’s not a lost cause, though! I’ve been able to shuffle around and adjust my work habits to make the open-plan office work for me.


Here’s how I tailor my days to be more productive in an extroverted environment:

  1. I always try to be one of the first people in the office. That means I have 45 minutes to an hour to get started on my to-do list before the office fills up and the phones start ringing.
  2. I reserve writing and other high-concentration tasks for the mornings. As the day moves on, meetings and social interactions can completely sap my energy and my ability to think creatively. (This happens to everyone, but I suspect it’s even more drastic for introverts.) That’s why I devote the first chunk of my day to activities that require the most mental energy and focus. For me, that’s writing.
  3. I’m not hesitant to work from home if I need to complete a project without distractions. Luckily, the company I work for allows us to work remotely when needed. I definitely take advantage of this when I know I have a full day of writing ahead of me (and no meetings scheduled for the day).
  4. I do all of my brainstorming and problem-solving outside of the office, on my own time. Conventional thinking suggests that open, collaborative offices foster creativity, but research actually shows that solitude leads to greater creativity. This couldn’t be more true for me. My best ideas don’t come in group brainstorming sessions. (Oh, the pitfalls of the group brainstorm…  that’s a topic for another day.) My best ideas come when I’m alone. If I have a thorny problem to solve or a brainstorming task at hand, my best move is to step away from the office, relax, and carve out my own space to think. Usually my couch on a Sunday 🙂
  5. Worst case, I leave my desk and re-locate to a space in the office where people likely won’t walk by or interrupt me. Many articles about open-plan offices recommend wearing headphones to signal that you don’t want to be disturbed, but that hasn’t quite caught on as a social “contract” in my office. And that’s fine! If there’s something I really need to crank through, I’ll abandon my desk and find a remote spot in the office to work. Of course, that means losing my incredible dual-screen desk setup—but it’s totally worth the tradeoff.

This isn’t an exhaustive list and certainly doesn’t cover every aspect of being an introvert in the workplace. I could write a whole other post on how to contribute to meetings or how to approach presentations/public speaking as an introvert.

Still, I hope this is helpful to all of my fellow introverts out there. And if you’re an extrovert, I hope this has shed some light on how to best collaborate with your introverted colleagues.

We’ll all be happier, more successful, and more productive if we can support, respect, and create space in our workplaces for different personalities.

Putting in the Work: My Goals for 2017

Putting in the Work: My Goals for 2017

I like having goals. Everyone knows resolutions are made to be broken. (C’mon, when was the last time you kept a resolution?)

While resolutions can be fluffy and vague (“I want to eat healthier this year”), goals are usually more specific and—if you’re thinking about them in the right way—require a plan of attack for achieving success.

That’s why I’m kicking off 2017 with a small set of goals in mind, not resolutions. I know that none of things will happen unless I put them in writing and hold myself accountable, so here they are:

  1. Read 12 books (one book a month). I spend way too much time refreshing my Facebook newsfeed and scrolling through BuzzFeed at night and on the weekends. Consuming content on the Internet can be productive and worthwhile—but not when I decide to take a “What Hogwarts House Do You Belong In?” quiz, get offended when it says Hufflepuff, and proceed to take it two more times. My big thing is that I always want to keep learning, but that’s tough when you’re out of college and sit in an office all day (not that I’m not learning a lot at work). I probably only read six books in 2016, which is why my goal is to double that in 2017 for a total of one book a month.
  2. Do a pull-up. 2016 was the year I got serious about CrossFit. I’ve been doing it for two years now and can perform so many of the movements programmed in class—from snatches to push jerks to rope climbs. But not a pull-up. I feel like I should have mastered it by now, but it’s no surprise that I haven’t… because I don’t work on pull-ups like I do other strength and lifting movements. Clearly I’m not going to magically get my chin over the bar without putting in the work. So, this is the year I’m going to consciously train towards a pull-up. That means I’ll use the 5-10 minutes before every CrossFit class to do flex hangs and negative pull-ups, continue to attend my box’s gymnastics classes, and dedicate at least 10 minutes to ring row sets and assisted pull-ups when I’m working out at the regular gym.
  3. Write on this blog once a month. Ever since I became a marketer, a lot (okay, pretty much all) of my writing has been for work. Don’t get me wrong; I love that I get to write for a living, and it’s been fun learning how to create content for a brand. As much as I enjoy my job, though, I miss writing for just myself. I’ve got a lot to say and I don’t want to lose my voice just because I haven’t made an effort to set aside the time. This year, expect posts about marketing, music, fitness, books, and more. Until I’m able to recalibrate the focus of this blog, it’ll have to be an amalgamation of a bunch of different topics. As a bonus, I’m also going to make an effort to design images for my posts… like I did with the #GOALS image above.

I’ll leave it at that since three is the magic number. Here’s to a productive 2017!

How Can We Fix EDM Culture?

How Can We Fix EDM Culture?

I pose a bold question in the title. Right off the bat, you’ll notice that I am suggesting EDM (electronic dance music) culture is broken. I mean it. Coming from someone who respects and enjoys EDM and, as I’ve previously written, believes in the principles of the culture, this isn’t something that’s fun for me to say. However, I think that the PLUR (Peace Love Unity & Respect) narrative surrounding EDM/rave culture puts on a dangerous facade that conceals some really deep-rooted issues. Continue reading “How Can We Fix EDM Culture?”

Why Beats Music Wins At Branding

You’ve probably heard of Beats Music by now. A subscription-only music streaming app launched this week by Beats Electronics (Dr. Dre’s headphones company), Beats Music is expected to give mostly-free services like Spotify and Pandora, as well as other subscription-based music apps like Rhapsody and Rdio, a run for their (possibly non-existent) money. Lately the music streaming category has experienced massive growth given changing paradigms in the way that people listen to, access, and discover music. Still, we’ve yet to see a “big player” break through. No one’s truly figured out how to make such a business model work. With Beats Music, though, it looks like Dr. Dre is on a mission to change that. His celebrity status and the star-studded crew behind him will certainly be an advantage.

Beats Music

Now, I’ve never been a regular Spotify or Pandora user, and I’ve never even considered subscribing to something like Rdio or Rhapsody. When it comes to music, I’m a bit of a control freak and can’t stand not choosing songs for myself. Like, it even makes me nervous to turn on iTunes shuffle even though it plays stuff that I’ve hand picked to go into my own music library. I have to be the one curating my playlist from song to song, and I’m not going to let some weird, impersonal algorithm do it for me.

But we might as well scratch all that, because Beats Music has my undivided attention — and not just because it’s been all over the news recently. Continue reading “Why Beats Music Wins At Branding”

My Top Albums of 2013

Turning on a brand spankin’ new album for the first time — especially a new release coming from one of your favorite artists — has got to be one of the best feelings. 2013 definitely did not disappoint on that front. Whether I’d been waiting for the album for years or I was just checking out a hyped-up artist that I’d never listened to before, this year I was pretty much in a constant state of excitement about all the new music gracing the world. Here’s a rundown of my favorite albums released in 2013.
Continue reading “My Top Albums of 2013”