Many aspects of our personality can affect what productivity approaches and tools work for us, and what challenges we face in making a productive life. In this episode we look at some of the unique productivity challenges and strengths of introverts and extroverts.
Introverts and Extroverts Face Different Productivity Challenges
What does it mean to be an introvert or extrovert?
Introverts are energized by time alone and tend to lose energy by being around people for long periods of time. Being an introvert is not the same as being shy or socially awkward, though. There are many sociable and socially adept introverts, who enjoy being with people but then go off by themselves to recharge.
Extroverts, on the other hand, are energized by social interaction and typically lose motivation and energy when they are alone for long periods of time. Extroverts are not necessarily bold, outgoing, or hyperactive.
The primary difference between introverts and extroverts is how they refuel emotionally and physically, or in other words, how they get energized and what things deplete their energy.
It's not just all in your head (the physiological basis for the differences between extroverts and introverts)
Introverts are more sensitive to stimuli. Too much stimulus (especially in social situations) exhausts them. If they are happy to be working in a room alone, they are likely an introvert.
Extroverts, however, seek out stimuli and social interaction and most likely would enjoy working in the middle of a busy room.
It is thought that the whether or not someone is an introvert or extrovert may have much to do with biology.
“Dr. Jerome Kagan, a professor at Harvard's Laboratory for Child Development, developed a 45-minute evaluation for babies to predict which ones were more likely to turn into introverts or extroverts. Kagan and his team exposed the infants to a wide range of new experiences (e.g., balloons popping, colorful mobiles, voices, and smells). About 20% of infants were ‘highly reactive' to these stimuli, while 40% were ‘low-reactive.' Kagan showed that, counterintuitively, the ‘high-reactive' infants were more likely to become introverts, while the ‘low-reactive' children were more likely to become extroverts. Introverts simply become overstimulated more easily than extroverts.”
Another great explanation is found here:
“An introverted person wants to understand, and an extroverted person wants to act. We can look for the cause for that on the biological level. Researchers found that introverts are highly sensitive to dopamine – the neurotransmitter that helps control pleasure and reward centers – and that the part of the brain called amygdala becomes very active with interaction (introverts have an extremely sensitive amygdala), thus introverts can feel overwhelmed very quickly.
On the other hand, extroverts have relatively low sensitivity to dopamine and therefore require large amount of outer stimulation. The reason for that is that stimuli travel a longer path through the brains of introverts. Understanding that can help you to realize that introversion is not simply a personality trait, but a nervous system setting.” (This last emphasis is mine; the other bolding in this quote is from the original.)
Introverts are not necessarily shy or timid, but they need to retreat for some alone time to recharge, whereas extroverts are the opposite.
Why does understanding the difference matter to us at the Productive Woman?
Managing your productivity is about managing your energy. A key to maximizing energy is understanding how you recharge and what exhausts you. Being self-aware helps us to maximize our personal productivity.
Understanding the difference between extroverts and introverts also allows us to make work collaborations and family relationships more effective and enjoyable.
What productivity challenges does each face?
Introverts may be reluctant to ask for help because they may not be comfortable with interacting with people in a particular situation. A deeply introverted person needs to gear themselves up for social interaction. They may procrastinate tasks that involve working with others.
They are also easily distracted in a busy environment because they are more sensitive to the stimuli around them.
Large meetings can be a challenge for introverts as they feel overwhelmed and therefore may not want to speak up. This can sometimes lead to introverts not being recognized for what they can offer.
In addition, sometimes introverts are not recognized to be on part of a team because they tend to hold back and not speak up.
Extroverts are oriented to look for social interaction and, consequently, may be distracted from the task at hand.
Extroverts may procrastinate on tasks that require them to do things alone.
Extroverts rely on talking through the process with people to find a solution. They need a support network who can be mentally and physically present.
Extroverts may also easily overcommit because they want to be socially involved. They may get burned out quickly because they take on too much in an effort to stay busy. Sometimes the important, deep work doesn’t get done as a result.
Extroverts may act without thinking and jump into a project without a plan.
Practical steps to improve productivity
- Introverts need to balance social time with quiet time. If they have a project that involves a lot of people, they will need to balance it by scheduling time to be alone to work.
- Introverts should schedule their day according to their needs, such as starting with some quiet planning time before jumping into meetings.
- Simply checking email or social media first thing in the morning might put too much in an introvert’s mind at the beginning of the day.
- They also may prefer scheduling one-on-one meetings over large group meetings if possible.
- Introverts should prepare for meetings ahead of time and be prepared to speak up. Sometimes introverts are not seen or heard even though they have a great deal to contribute.
- Introverts can also focus on their strengths, such as thinking before they speak, strategizing, and tuning into people’s needs and body language.
- If you are an introvert, consider your workspace and try to have an office with a quiet workspace.
- Extroverts should organize their day to work with their style. They may want to start their day interacting with others.
- If working alone de-energizes an extrovert, then they can reward themselves with social interactions after accomplishing the undisturbed, deep work.
- Extroverts may like the Pomodoro technique where one sets a timer for 45-50 minutes, during which they work productively without interruption, and then take a 10-minute break and go chat with a co-worker, etc.
- Extroverts may want to take their work to a social setting like the coffee shop or mall in order to get some social stimuli.
- Extroverts tend to think out loud and may do best to have a conversation with a secretary or spouse to make a plan for their workday.
- Extroverts tend to easily make friends and can capitalize on this to make the allies needed to accomplish goals.
- They can get other people involved to help them move along, but should make sure their meetings and activities will help to accomplish their goals.
Introversion/extroversion is just one piece of the puzzle
Productivity is also affected by other parts of our personalities, not just whether or not we are extroverts or introverts. Other factors to consider: health, habits, personality, etc.
What do you think?
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What productivity tools and techniques work best for you. I'd love to have your insights on this topic. Share your thoughts in the comments section below, or email me!
Resources and References:
An excellent source of information about introverts (and extroverts) is Susan Cain's fascinating book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. In addition, here are links to some articles I consulted in preparing for this episode. You'll find a ton of useful information and good ideas here.
- Are Introverts or Extroverts More Productive?
- An Introvert's Guide To Surviving (And Thriving) In The Workplace
- Six Essential Productivity Tips For Introverts – Forbes
- A Success Guide for all Introverts – AgileLeanLife
- 9 Traits That Make Introverts More Productive than Extroverts
- The Modern Workplace: Introverts Need Not Apply | Inc.com
- The Power of Introverts: A Manifesto for Quiet Brilliance – Scientific American
- Who's More Productive, Introverts Or Extroverts? | Fast Company | Business + Innovation
- The Challenge of Being an Extrovert
- Introverts/Extroverts Productivity
- Effective Management for Extroverts vs Introverts
Announcements & Reminders
- If you haven’t already done so, please join me in the new The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, a private group where we can meet up and interact more—directly ask questions, share info, insights, and encouragement—basically talk about productivity. Find the group on Facebook and click the “join” button. I’d love to see you there.
- If you’re looking for encouragement, motivation, accountability in achieving your goals and moving forward in a life that matters, consider joining me and other like-minded women in The Productive Woman Mastermind groups. Visit the Work with Me page of the website for more info or email me with your questions.
- I was recently interviewed as part of an upcoming online productivity summit that will feature numerous speakers sharing tips and information to help entrepreneurs be more productive. You can watch the Solopreneur Time Management Summit live, for free, between September 7-16; visit the summit website for more information and to sign up.
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