In a world of inter-connectivity and collaboration, it seems like solitude has not only been pushed out, but is actively hunted down and pulled apart in many industries! When looking for work, many job seekers see the repetition of people skills: teamwork, able to work well with others, values collaboration… etc. Furthermore, we still see many businesses that want people who can wear multiple ‘hats’ all the time, multitask well, and be able to juggle many things easily. We have already looked at the multitasking fallacy in our last article and why it’s a problem.
While these skills are important to have in the workplace, there is an argument to be made for the ability to work alone, on a dedicated task, for periods of time and indeed, there are benefits to doing it and doing it regularly! So while it may not yet be as popular to say as being able to work well with others and handle multiple tasks at the same time, in the long run, it may make you more productive and less exhausted at the end of every day. So how can you carve out some solitude in the day to focus on one task and get it done without distraction or worrying about your job?
We run our lives on the calendar and the schedule and that means that if it isn’t scheduled, it may not get done. Time to work in solitude is no different; you should be treating it as any other meeting, only you’re meeting with yourself, your brain, and your own creativity. You don’t have to spend hours at it per day (in fact, you likely can’t); but scheduling a fifteen minute pocket here and there can be very effective.
You can start this out using a simple timer on your phone or computer and then dedicate that block of time to a single task that doesn’t really require the attention of other people. This could be something like problem solving an issue that you’ve been bashing your head against, working on strategies in the long term, writing blogs for your company website, doing the scheduling, or any other task that requires your full attention and a bit of time to get done without distractions.
The benefits of this are immediate and long term. First of all, it’s far more likely you will get that single task done and can move on to other things. Secondly, a bit of solitary time at work has been linked to increased creativity, less burn out, and more work getting done overall. It gives you the time to think more deeply about a topic and to problem solve. So carve out that time for solitude and stick with it: turn the phone over, block the social media, lock the door; whatever it takes to get your fifteen or twenty minutes of peace and quiet in the day!
A huge problem that many people have, particularly those in leadership positions, is that they feel like they have to be involved in everything and doing everything! This is a problem as it quickly leads to burn out, feelings of needing to micromanage (which the team hates), exhaustion, and a general lack of trust around. We are so busy making to-do lists that we end up swamped under a big pile and end up spending our energy on the wrong things.
Instead of trying to throw yourself into every team, every project, and every meeting, take a step back and reassess. Do you have to be involved in everything that happens in the office or can you take a step back and enjoy some solitary time to work while people who are need to be in those meetings are doing their work? It’s fine and good to want to be involved, but not if you’re running around like a chicken with your head cut off. Take some time in solitary to reflect on what you need to do, what you want to do and what you can dump doing in favor of doing things that are going to be more useful for you and by extension, your employer.
You may have locked yourself in your office, but if you’re connected to social media and your email, then you’re not really in solitary anymore, are you? We have more ways to connect than ever before and it can quickly become all-pervasive so that even when you think you’re alone, you’re really not. Therefore, it’s also important to give your social media and email a break in your times of solitary work or else you just end up distracted, stressed, and trying to do three things at once all over again, which rather mitigates the whole point of the exercise.
(Struggling with this? There are some great apps out there that can block your social media for a period of time, such as Cold Turkey. You can also set locks on your phone to not let you into it-except in cases of dire emergencies-for a period of time)
The ability to focus on one task and be able to complete something thoroughly, properly, and in a timely fashion, is still an important one and is even more important with so many people trying to do so many things all at the same time. You can stand out a bit from the crowd by putting the brakes on the constant immersion of people and technology for even just a few minutes a day. By focusing on just one task, in solitude, for a few minutes a day, you may find that you become more productive, less burned out, and less distracted and tired. It’s worth trying out!
Charlene is a full time instructor and published author. She enjoys writing about education, digital career paths, job hunts, and for her books, fantasy/mysteries. You can learn more about her novels at Kellan Publishing.