Yesterday I made an important discovery about myself. There are significant limits to my ability be in or around a group of people and continue to get things done.
I have suspected this for quite a while. An introvert by nature, I tend to find continued interaction with larger groups of people to be somewhat wearing and ultimately exhausting. Making a trip to the mall or attending a larger social function are hardly my sensation of having a good time.
But that is my social life. I had never taken a good look - perhaps never had to take a good look is more accurate - at how I work and my ability to produce. And perhaps I have never looked because I have never had to - for the past 10-12 years I have had a location in either my own office or in a quiet work area.
But no more. Currently - and for the last two months or so - I have been working in a shared cube in the midst of shared cubes. In one sense it is definitely an improvement as I am able to much more directly interact with individuals on a frequent basis and in real time. I am equally fortunate in that those with which I share cubes are those with whom I enjoy working with.
However what I think I have found is that working in this environment is not necessarily enough to give me the work environment I need to work as well as I could. Why? I do not know that I can distinctly tell you. Certainly focus is one thing - my ability to focus is greatly influenced by having a quiet environment around me, not only in the sense of noise control but in the sense of having a controlled environment, the ability to shut the door and go about my business. My current situation now is that I am available to everyone who walks through the door of the cube - and now that I am more centrally located I seem that much more available to all.
Another factor is the noise level. The sense of having a constant background of noise is much more disruptive than I would have anticipated. It is as if a string of thoughts is constantly getting cut off and then restarting each and every time.
The result of all this? My focus definitely seems to be less. My output seems to be less. My stress level definitely seems to be higher.
But perhaps it is not noise alone that is creating the issues. Now that I reflect on the matter, the issue of control of my own time looms larger in my mind. I feel as if I am constantly exposed to the wants and needs of others - I cannot count the times that someone brings something to our area and, seeing that I am there with only my back turned to the entrance, feels completely justified in sitting down and engaging in conversation to have their issue resolved. There is now no door between myself and others, no barrier I can engage to set aside blocks of time to work.
What to do? I am not sure. I have very little control of my sitting arrangements. Noise eliminating headphones? Possibly - that would seem to be the most useful option to at least cut down on the noise.
The question of accessibility? I have no ready answer for this except the impractical one of relocating myself periodically to not make myself so available, which sort of undermines a primary belief that at some level my job function should be available for questions and comments.
But availability is not should not be complete access and participation in the work life should not be a complete overwhelming one's ability to focus.