November 15, 2009

The shy connector’s schedule: making time to breathe

November 15, 2009 - Categories: connecting, productivity

hamsterwheelIt starts innocently enough. You’re asked to attend a meeting next Tuesday. You accept. Your coworkers invite you to lunch on Wednesday. You agree. A friend invites you to her birthday party next week. You put it on your calendar. Then another meeting invitation comes, and another, and another. Networking events, coffee breaks, and presentations crowd into your schedule.

If this has ever made you feel suffocated, exhausted, and in dire need of some alone time, you might be an introvert.

I know it’s difficult to say no to opportunities. I’ve accepted too many invitations and tried to attend too many events. Last year’s conference season was particularly stressful. The first week, I was in New York for the Best Practices Conference, giving a presentation on blogging. The second week, I was at the even bigger Technical Leadership Exchange in Florida, giving a presentation on Generation Y. By the time I got to the Web 2.0 Summit (which I was helping organize), I was ready to hide. (And I did, behind the podium.)

As much as I enjoy learning from people in conversations and conferences, needing to be “on” all the time is incredibly draining. I’m learning how to manage my schedule and how to say no.

It’s important to figure out what works for you. For example, I don’t want to be out late two nights in a row. In fact, I’d rather not be out late at all. This means that before I accept an invitation, I look at my schedule for that time and my schedule for the week, making sure that I’m not trying to pack too much in.

In addition to getting better at saying no, I’m also getting better at scheduling time for myself. I’ve blocked off time on my calendar for planning, working on important tasks, and responding to mail. Sometimes people still schedule meetings during those times, but in general, I can be sure that my day won’t be full of conference calls. I sometimes block off time during evenings and weekends for particular projects, too. If I’m going to travel for a workshop or a presentation, I want to have a quiet week before and after the trip, and I plan accordingly.

Does this limit opportunities compared to extroverts who are out there schmoozing? Maybe. But I’ve tried running in extrovert mode for extended periods of time, and I can’t do my best if I feel like I’m coming apart. Besides, the things I do in my quiet time—read, write, reflect—also help me connect with people, although in a more introvert-friendly way. It’s better to work with the grain instead of against it.

It’s important to make time to breathe. If you find yourself running ragged because you feel that you have to say yes to everything, stop and slow down. Schedule introvert dates with yourself. Make time for breaks. Say no. You’ll find that the quiet time you give yourself will make it even easier to connect with people when you do, because you’ll be happier and better rested.

What can you do to free up some time for yourself?

Weekly review: Week ending November 15, 2009

November 15, 2009 - Categories: weekly


  • Planned
    • Finalize the recording for the presentation
    • Prepare for workshop
    • Customize my benefits
    • Write user’s guide for community
  • Also
    • Started “How I learned to stop worrying and love the webinar” series, reflecting on virtual presentations
    • Suggested webinars for WITI
    • Submitted my personal business commitment results
    • Had lunch with my manager
    • Summarized rest of Idea Lab results
    • Helped fill a critical need for talent
    • Sent SIN card scan to IBM reference check
    • Set up the training community and the first call assignment
    • Shared our communication plan with others, connecting with the Collaborative Learning Community


  • Planned
    • Make bathrobes Mostly there
  • Also
    • Picked up toasty fleece blankets
    • Helped with yard work
    • Baked a blueberry pie
    • Talked to my sister about Lucas


  • Planned
    • Enjoy some more quiet
    • Keep biking to work
    • Get the paperwork ready for the permanent residency passport request Will have passport pictures taken next week
  • Also
    • Started tracking personal time in detail
    • Kicked off editing experiment
    • Reviewed all of my blog posts
    • Started drawing more
    • Tweaked my blog navigation

Plans for next week:


  • Facilitate Innovation Discovery workshop in Boston
  • Facilitate tech prep call for training community
  • Support call #1 for training community
  • Update wiki links
  • Interview Jason Wild about working with the C-suite
  • Finish virtual presentation series


  • Finish bathrobe
  • Tidy up around house
  • Bake another pie
  • Chat with Clair


  • Send paperwork for permanent residency request
  • Summarize time tracking insights
  • Experiment with ways to make travel less stressful