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Work-Life Balance: The Value of Solitude
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Work-Life Balance: The Value of Solitude - Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: The Value of Solitude

Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: The Value of Solitude

Constantly Connected
Today’s forward-thinking workplace is all about connectedness, collaboration, and (in some offices) transparency, and although the benefits of working closely together are difficult to argue against, there’s a downside, as well. When we go all-in on togetherness, we sometimes lose the benefits of time spent working alone. There’s a reason we see so many people wearing headphones in the shared workspace, and it’s not a compulsion to listen to the latest Aerosmith album. People strive, even in communal open offices, for some time alone. The headphones aren’t about music: they are nonverbal Do Not Disturb signs, a kind of closed door without the door, critical to many of us for sustained focus and uninterrupted flow. Office headphone-wearers often don’t even have music playing, because their value is not in what they broadcast to the wearers, but what they broadcast to others.

Solitude: It’s Not Just for Introverts
In recent years, we’ve read a lot about the value of creative people and introverts, and how best to accommodate their preferences, but time spent alone each day is beneficial to everyone, not just introverts. The obvious boost to productivity when not being interrupted or distracted is evidence enough, but benefits to work-life balance cannot be overstated. A little bit of solitude at work, at home, and in points between give us opportunities to be completely ourselves, and not the roles we’ve chosen in each of these contexts. When we’re alone, we have a moment not to be someone’s mom, someone’s manager, or someone’s charge, but the person who makes all these roles function, and keeping in regular contact with person makes all the other versions of us better.

Deep Breathing and Deep Thought
A Psychology Today article reminds that “solitude provides time for us to think deeply. Day-to-day responsibilities and commitments can make our to-do lists seem as if they have no end. This constant motion prevents us from engaging in deep thought, which inhibits creativity and lessens productivity.” The a-ha moment we often have in the shower or while driving is evidence in action. Left to ourselves with minimal stimuli, we allow our brains to sort through the day’s trivialities, to move them aside to get to the important stuff underneath.

Doing What You Want
Teamwork means compromise. “You’re constantly modifying your ideas to accommodate other people’s desires and opinions,” writes Travis Bradberry for Entrepreneur.com. “Being alone frees you up to do exactly what you want when you want. You can throw on whatever you feel like wearing, eat what you feel like eating, and work on projects that are meaningful to you.” While the pajama thing might not fly in the office, private time in the office can be like metaphorical pajamas. Within the structure of our workdays, alone time can let us work the way that works best, unconcerned about what others might see (or think they see) if they glance in our direction. Without being interrupted or dead-ended, our train of thought can lead through multiple stops on the way to a better solution, a completed project, or a list of ideas undiluted by the input of others.

Fill ‘Er Up
“Socializing at work and with friends is definitely a positive thing, but it can also be draining,” says Hilary White for PopSugar.com. “When you're alone, you can use that quiet time to recharge and regroup. It's essential to do this so that when you're around people again, you feel refreshed, more energetic, and ready to interact.” Extroverts certainly need less alone time for recharging, but just as introverts need social time, extroverts do need some amount of solitude. Again, that time by ourselves reminds us of who we are; it allows us to reflect deeply on what went right in that last big presentation, and what we might do better the next time. It permits candor (even if only internally) and honesty; it gives us time to put on our best selves when we’re with others.

Balance is About Priorities
We often set time aside just to be with our significant others, or to be alone with each of the children for one-on-one communion. When we don’t get enough of one, or too much of another, we have trouble keeping everything running in a healthy manner. Time with ourselves should never be a forgotten piece of this equation. We wouldn’t forget to feed ourselves while we fed everyone around us, because eventually there’d not be anything left of us to keep functioning in our roles. Similarly, denying ourselves benefits to our personal, social, and professional health by not taking enough time alone eventually leads to there not being enough of ourselves to share. Open workspace is wonderful, but we must make sure get away from the openness for some time every day or so, and make regular appointments with ourselves.

Reference Links:
Psychology Today (Sherrie Bourg Carter)
Entrepreneur (Travis Bradberry)
PopSugar (Hilary White)


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Work-Life Balance: The Value of Solitude - Executive Leadership Articles

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