Like a lot of Americans, I’ve been doing my best to stay home and avoid other people to help limit the spread of COVID-19. I count myself lucky, because, being a somewhat introverted writer-type of person, staying socially distanced is closer to my natural state.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t hate people, and I don’t have an irrational fear of crowds. I love my family (immediate and extended), and I’ve had some great and meaningful times in groups and gatherings of all sizes.
But my default setting is me. I work best alone, and I’ve always been blessed with the ability to entertain myself.
As such, while the age of COVID-19 social distancing hasn’t been fun for anyone, I suspect it hasn’t been as difficult an adjustment for people like me compared to folks who are more extroverted – especially those who thrive while interacting with other people.
From what I’ve read lately, extroverts who are self-isolating for the greater good deserve some exceptional praise right now – because they have it exceptionally tough.
For those extroverts out there, here is a shortlist of four tactics many introverts use in their daily home and work lives. My hope is that some of these thought processes, while perhaps strange and a bit unfamiliar to the extroverted, might help them cope and provide a few ideas to pass the time until the day comes when we can all start working, playing and celebrating together again:
1. Make yourself accountable to yourself. Especially when telecommuting, it’s tempting to let things slide. You probably already have a boss or supervisor you report to when working remotely, but many decisions – adhering to consistent working times, keeping your home office organized, wearing pants – are all up to you now. So, in those areas where you have to be your own boss, do so – and be a good one. Set expectations for yourself. Congratulate yourself when you meet or exceed them; provide admonishment but also encouragement to yourself if you fail. And wear pants – you know you want to.
2. Give yourself things to do. Outside of work, this is essential, and it’s especially important to include healthy doses of fun. If you’ve wanted to see the best 10 movies ever made, learn a foreign language, read that stack of books on your shelf or in the queue on your e-reader, memorize the first 50 inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, learn a new game or learn an instrument, now’s a great time to start. Make keeping and staying busy a major goal each day. In fact, adding items to your “to-do” list should be a part of your daily “to-do” list.
3. Schedule time to connect with friends or loved ones. Introverts do this to avoid their social lives interrupting their hobbies or projects. But there’s no reason extroverts can’t turn this on its head to make sure they get at least some social interaction each day. Thankfully, technology makes it easier. Video calling, social media, voice calls, instant chats – today, reaching out is as easy as reaching for your phone. So, carve out a time each day when you can video conference, call – or even just text – to someone or a group of someones close to you. Also, don’t forget to reach out to other extroverts – they need social contact, too!
4. Live life vicariously through media. My love of movies is well known, and I’m also a big fan of novels and video games (at least ones that don’t involve other people playing over the internet). It may sound strange to people who thrive in actual reality, but for many introverts, there’s nothing better than the mental escape provided by the many worlds of well-written and/or well-produced fiction, whether it’s on the page, the screen or embedded in software code. Even if it’s just you watching or reading, don’t be afraid to take a trip down the rabbit hole of a new series. These days, if you crave the water-cooler conversation that follows many books, shows or games, there are countless groups and chatrooms on social media where you can visit with others. But take a tip from an introvert and just enjoy the experience of what you’ve read, watched or played until someone else brings it up. Until then, it’s all yours.