How to Balance Work and a Social Life
“The love of peace of mind is often wrongly identified as the hatred of people, some people, or some person.”-Mokokoma Mokhonoana
It’s a common misconception that introverts don’t have or want to have a social life. Most of us enjoy socializing just fine when we’re doing activities that we like, with people that we love, and with plenty of time on our own. We’re humans, after all, and we need some social interaction to feel good.
Just like extroverts, introverts struggle with balancing commitments such as college or work with a social life. It might even be harder for us. College and work drain our social battery with forced interactions such as meetings, water cooler talk, lectures, and group projects. Then, although we might want to get energy by hanging out with our favorite people, we’re simply too drained to make it work.
It’s hard to avoid getting trapped in this feedback loop, but here are some tips for striking a work-life balance as an introvert, whether you are a student or working already.
How to Balance College or Work and a Social Life
Maintain a Routine
The most helpful tip for maintaining balance is maintaining a routine. A routine helps you achieve a baseline of wellness that makes it a lot easier to handle challenges at work and retain enough energy to hang out with your friends. If you’re sleeping well, eating well, exercising, and doing your hobbies, you’ll feel so much better.
The real test of your routine is how well you can stick to it when times get stressful, such as finals week. Your busiest periods are when you need your routine the most, but also when it’s the most difficult to stick to it. Choose a routine that has enough structure to get you through your life but is not so complex that it becomes just another onerous task on your to-do list.
Schedule Your Socializing—Mandatory and Fun
Besides your daily routine, having a weekly schedule will make it easier to block out socializing time. Reminding yourself that not all human interactions are negative and pumping yourself up to go hang out with your friends can help you ensure you maintain a social life despite your busy schedule.
If you have any control over your work or college schedule, then you can schedule activities that you know will rejuvenate you so they’re not on the same day as activities that drain your social battery. For example, try to move your meetings to Monday so that on Friday you can hang out with your friends and kick back after work.
Schedule Time for Yourself as Well
When you’re making up your routines and schedules, don’t forget your most important commitment—the one to yourself. Pencil time for yourself into your schedule and honor it with just as much commitment as you would for your work meeting. After all, without that time to yourself, you won’t be able to do anything else.
Other people may get judgmental if they know you’re blowing off invitations to hang out by yourself, but want to know a big secret? You don’t have to tell them. Just say that you have another commitment and leave it at that. You won’t be lying, and not everyone has to understand the sacred bond between you and your home.
Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper
You probably have that colleague or friend that seems to be able to do it all. This person is the best worker in the department or the best student at your university, has tons of friends, and has time for ten different extracurriculars from intramural soccer to volunteering with sick puppies. If you compare yourself to them, you might feel awful about your struggles balancing your social life and work.
However, comparisons are not useful because you don’t have the full information. You don’t know what resources the other person has that might make their life easier or what struggles they have that you maybe don’t know about.
Plus, before you start comparing yourself unfavorably to someone who seems to be able to do it all, ask yourself one simple question: do you actually want to do what they do? Do you need everyone in the department to talk about how brilliant you are, or are you happy to quietly do your work and be recognized by the few that matter? Do you want to go to a million activities after work or school, or does that sound exhausting and like a superficial way of living?
If you ever had a teacher tell you, “keep your eyes on your own paper,” this directive works for life as well. You know best about what you want to prioritize and what works best for you. If you’re not sure, you won’t get closer to those answers by comparing yourself to other people who have different lives and values than you do.
Find Introvert Allies to Make Tasks Go by Easier
Look around your next college lecture or work meeting. Want to know a secret? There’s probably at least one other introvert in there who is pretending to be an extrovert just until they get home. Your secret to making college and work a lot easier, giving you more energy for your social life, is to find that fellow introvert and become friends.
Other introverts are important allies in adjusting life to your needs. Work with a fellow introvert on a group project, and they might agree with you that you don’t need to meet in person and can finish even more efficiently through a shared document. If nothing else, you can commiserate with your fellow introvert about the banal awfulness of meetings, group tasks, and semi-mandatory office holiday parties.
Befriending another introvert can also serve as a reality check if you start comparing yourself to extroverts too often. It’s nice to know there’s someone else who thinks like you do.
Balancing a Social Life with Work and School Is Possible!
After getting drained at college or work all day, you may despair of ever having enough energy to also maintain a social life. Especially since so much of university or work requires socializing, the toll on your social battery can be very high. However, by making a schedule and sticking to it, finding fellow introverts who understand your pain, and making time for yourself, you can achieve the balance you want.