How this introvert business owner protects her energy
Running a business as an introvert is hard.
Sure, in some ways, it’s a dream come true: no open-office concept, no random coworkers dropping by to “chat,” no ice cream socials, no team projects, no snide comments about how you’re “shy” or never participate…
(Hey, vomit squirrel, there’s a difference between introverted and shy. Just FYI. How would you like it if I announced on a conference call, “He’s just an arrogant douche?” Doesn’t feel so good, does it?)
But…there are stumbling blocks.
Even though I don’t want to be around people all the time, it’s still lonely AF sitting behind a computer solo. Even though there are fewer team meetings, there are still calls and video chats with clients. Even though there’s fewer email chains about happy hour on Friday (whoo – margaritas!), there will always be email. And Google Docs and Facebook and Slack and Instagram…
And, even though it’s apparently cool or more acceptable to be an introvert these days (like we have a choice…), it’s still not easy. Especially when you’re running a business and you’re the face of said business.
I mean, what do you do when the face of your business is mid-introvert hangover from a meeting that went too long but has another meeting (with a potential client, no less) at 3 in the afternoon?!? On Friday?????
Here’s some ways I’ve been protecting my energy as an introvert running a business.
In the corporate world, you’re (supposedly) given a few breaks a day. You get a lunch break. You (supposedly) get to leave the office at 5.
When you’re running your own business, there’s this belief that you have to work all. the. time. That if you’re not working, you’re not making money. That you’ve gotta hustle for the hundred dollar bills, y’all. That you shouldn’t tear yourself away from your computer to eat, drink water, pee (or poo), stretch your legs, or have an impromptu YouTube concert in your living room.
When I don’t take breaks, when I try to power through, when I tell myself, “Ugh, but there’s just so much more to doooo,” I get tired. I feel drained. And I don’t want to push through or even attempt to cross another item off my to-do list.
So, instead, I build breaks in to my day. I take a lunch break. I take a yoga break. I take a talk-on-the-phone-with-the-boyfriend-like-a-teenager break.
Sometimes…I even take a holy-hell-I-can’t-deal-today-I-just-need-to-sit-on-the-couch-and-watch-90s-movies-all-afternoon break.
(That might also be the cocktail of introversion, anxiety, and depression shaking up some fun…)
No, I’m not getting any work done. But you’ve heard of a little thing called self-care, right? Just like you can’t take care of other people if you’re not filling your narwhal mug, you can’t run a business if you’re running on less than empty.
Don’t feel guilty for taking said breaks.
Remember how I mentioned that “if you’re not working, you’re not making money” mentality? That thought process kept me pushing through for the first year of my business.
I worked 30+ hours a week. I tracked my time and used my little Pomodoro timer, so, yeah, those were all actual hours worked.
(Don’t think that sounds like a lot? Did you know that people working in an office are, on average, productive for less than 3 hours a day? So there I was working 30 hours, while I could have been working 15 back at the office. Not taking into account all the overtime, of course…)
And I got burnt out and stressed out and overwhelmed. I felt even worse than when I was working those 15 hours a week plus overtime. (I kid, I kid, I was totally productive for, oh, 20 hours a week. Maybe.)
I decided that breaks were important. But, instead of just taking them, I needed to approach them with the right mindset.
You see, a break isn’t doing me any good if I’m sitting there for 30 minutes noodling over that email I need to respond to, mentally composing a blog post in my head, or staring forlornly at my computer, willing it to magically pitch that guest post of its own free will.
I stopped feeling guilty for taking a break. It’s what I need to make it through so I take it. Un-fucking-apologetically.
Then, I’m recharged – physically and mentally – and better equipped to handle whatever’s up next on the agenda.
Batch your client meetings.
Speaking of agendas, I didn’t have one when I first started my business. I mean, I had an agenda if you mean a goal. But I didn’t really have a schedule that I wanted to stick to. I just wanted to grow my business dammit.
Which, unfortunately, meant my calendar was wide open for meetings and calls.
Some weeks, I had meetings every single day. And that was incredibly exhausting. I had to psych myself up for a meeting, actually attend the meeting and do my best impression of an “extrovert” who loves making small talk, and then calm down after the meeting.
That was pretty disruptive to my day. I’d spend three hours getting ready, attending, and then decompressing every time I had a meeting. That didn’t leave a ton of time for me to do other stuff the rest of the day.
Somehow (like some next-level magic), I came across the idea of only allowing clients to schedule meetings on certain days of the week. Freakin’ godsend, I tell you what.
Now, I have more control over my schedule and plenty of time to do uninterrupted work.
It’s still tiring to have multiple meetings a day, but at least I can focus better on other non-meeting days without having to worry about pumping up the Jock Jams for my next client call.
Have a social media allotment.
I have a love-hate relationship with social media: Love because it allows me to network, connect, and make friends from the comfort of my own ass pillow. Hate because so much of it feels inauthentic (I know, I know, eye roll at this overused but still totally necessary term) and isn’t so hot for our mental health. Well, definitely not for mine.
Which is why I don’t spend a ton of time mindlessly scrolling through my feeds. My strategy is to post once a day, Monday through Friday; respond to all the comments on my posts; leave comments for anyone who left some love on my posts; respond to DMs (or ignore them, you know, in case they’re spammy); and check in with the people I consider friends.
This takes me less than an hour a day. Usually about a half an hour.
No, I’m never going to be mistaken for an “influencer” with hundreds of thousands of followers and my following isn’t going to grow quickly. But I’m not interested in fake likes and copy-and-paste comments. (Looks awesome! Pass the barf bag…)
I’m interested in real, genuine relationships and conversations. So I protect that interest and my energy by only engaging for a short amount of time.
Otherwise, I’d get exhausted feeling like I have to constantly engage, give my energy to others, and get stuck in the social media rat race. (In my mind, it comes complete with albino rats wearing party hats.)
Do something I’m good at.
Okay, some people will tell you this is an avoidance strategy. But, when I’m feeling all “I need to hide in my introvert cocoon of comfort,” I like to do something I’m good at.
For me, that means I write. (Introverts generally love to write. Not to stereotype or anything, but most of us express ourselves quite nicely with the written word. Please stop asking us to actually talk about our feelings.)
Luckily, I have a copywriting business so that works out for me. It’s truly a salve for days when I’m not wanting any human interaction. I can sit here, typing away on blog posts, social media content, client work, random ideas for my as-yet-unplanned novel… (That last one is DEFINITELY a distraction.)
I also rearrange my schedule so I start and end the week doing what I love to do. This means, on Mondays, I’m generally working on my next blog post and newsletter, and, on Fridays, I’m wrapping up client work for the week and leaving them love notes in our collaboration docs.
True, these strategies aren’t foolproof (show me something that is!), and there are still days and weeks (hell, months) where I’m tuckered out from interactions. But they generally help me feel like a saner version of myself than if I didn’t employ any strategies at all.
I’m curious…If you’re a fellow introvert business owner (INFJ, if I haven’t planted my stake firmly enough in the ground), how do you protect your energy? Lemme know what works for you! Or, you know, shoot me an email just to say, “Girl, preach. By 11 a.m. on Friday, I AM DEAD.” I’ll totally commiserate with you.