The Work-Life Balance Dilemma for Introverts

This photo,
This photo, “The walk | Ueno, Tokyo,” is copyright jamesjustin 2009 and made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.

As one of my favourite lines from the Simpsons goes, “No TV and no beer make Homer something something…” Whether TV and beer are your ideas of fun or not, you inevitably need a work-life balance, just like Homer Simpson does. One thing I’ve been wondering is whether introverts have different problems, compared to extroverts, with finding their ideal work-life balance. I don’t just mean finding a way to balance paid work with personal life, but also how to balance schoolwork and household responsibilities and such. How do introverts find their happy medium of work time and playtime?

This can definitely depend on other parts of the personality. For example, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) divides the personality into four parts (described in detail here). One of those parts concerns how you prefer to live your life in the outside world (as opposed to your inner world of thoughts and emotions and cravings for strange foods, y’know. Mm, tofu).

Perceiving types like to keep their lives open to whatever may come their way, while judging types prefer a schedule. I’m a judger, for the record, and I can struggle with finding the right work-life balance because I like to schedule my work before my play–and work can often feel never-ending. (It’s a lot better, though, now that I’ve finished my undergraduate degree and have a job that I like that leaves me with no ‘homework’!)

Someone who identifies as a perceiver, on the other hand, may more likely take up someone’s offer to do something random and fun, in the meantime leaving their work to be completed later. While I like having my life in order, I envy perceivers sometimes, I really do. They’re just so fun.

Without digging into Myers Briggs any further now (I’d prefer to speculate right now… and yes, something in my personality type probably makes me susceptible to want to speculate!), I still wonder how the extrovert-introvert part of people’s personalities fits into this.

One thing to consider is that work that involves a lot of human interaction is draining to introverts. And a lot of work, whether at a paying job or school or elsewhere, does involve working with others. Overall, an introvert who is constantly drained may feel less able to have fun in their free time.

Of course, many (if not most) introverts have interests that they can do on their own, like reading or playing video games. But playtime, even for introverted adults, has to include some socialization. I find it difficult to believe that some super-introverts really don’t need anybody. (I’m open to being persuaded the other way, though!)

This is a phenomenon I’ve experienced in my own life: when I’ve had too much energy drained at work, in my free time I feel too exhausted to do all of the things I want to do.

The best advice I have if you are experiencing this is to find work that does not drain you until you’re dry. It’s easier said than done, I know. I’ve been lucky enough to have found interesting work in my new post-grad life that does just this, and it has made a huge difference to my overall life satisfaction. When I’m done my work, I have the energy to enjoy both (a) doing whatever solitary activities I’m into at the time (right now I’m reading the Anne of Green Gables series, totally recommend it!) and (b) spending quality time with friends, too.

Now I want to know, how do you balance work with your equivalent of Homer Simpson’s TV and beer?

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