I learned about restorative niches from the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.
Many people who know me find it hard to believe, but I am very much a closet introvert. I appear to be very extroverted because I am a public speaker and can work a networking event with the best of them. However, when I’m done, I am toast! Done. Exhausted.
Susan Cain gave me a name for how I help my introverted clients and myself: restorative niches.
The term was created by Professor Little who, like me, is a closet introvert.
Susan Cain writes:
“Restorative niche” is Professor Little’s term for the place you go when you want to return to your true self. It can be a physical place, like the path beside the Richelieu River, or a temporal one, like the quiet breaks you plan between sales calls. It can mean canceling your social plans on the weekend before a big meeting at work, practicing yoga or meditation, or choosing e-mail over an in-person meeting. (Even Victorian ladies, whose job effectively was to be available to friends and family, were expected to withdraw for a rest each afternoon.) You choose a restorative niche when you close the door to your private office (if you’re lucky enough to have one) in between meetings. You can even create a restorative niche during a meeting, by carefully selecting where you sit, and when and how you participate.
The concept of a restorative niche is to find an activity or environment that recharges you and schedule that into your day. It is especially important to schedule these activities or environments before and after any time you will be doing something that “sucks the life out of you”.
Note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and was updated in May of 2019
Scheduling Restorative Niches to Recharge
Most of my clients who are square pegs need to schedule restorative niches into their day. Another way of saying this is that they must schedule a time to recharge.
Whenever I have a presentation scheduled during a day, I block out time prior to and after the presentation to be alone. I look for activities that recharge my batteries like taking a walk outdoors.
A good example of this was in 2018 I gave my Multi-Generational Workplace workshop to a bank based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. They wanted me there for an 11-12:30-time slot on a Saturday. It was a three-hour drive from Austin and a straight shot up I-35 to the venue. I got up early, ate breakfast and left around 6:30 AM with my coffee in hand. My iPhone was loaded with 7-8 hours of podcast episodes that I would listen to on the trip there and back.
The drive up was very quiet and restorative. I gave the workshop, had lunch with the attendees and left. The drive back was very quiet and restorative. I love giving the workshop but it “sucks the life out of me”. I need a restorative niche both before and after giving the workshop to maintain my well being.
Introversion and the Workplace
Most of us have learned to act like an extrovert. You would not believe the number of sales people I have worked with who are quite introverted. They have learned to behave like extroverts, but it saps their energy. They are closet introverts.
Almost all of the introverts I know are required to attend functions where they will be around people for long extended periods. This could be attending a conference, company events, teaching or attending a class.
What to do when the workplace demands you behave like an extrovert? You schedule restorative niches.
Laura is very artistic and is very introverted. She loves to knit which we used as a restorative niche.
As a tech executive, she has to periodically run all day team meetings, which exhausts her. The solution is scheduled short breaks during the day, get away from everyone for 15 minutes and she knits. She has to get away from people for short periods of time and do something that restores her.
As the leader, she feels compelled to eat lunch with her team but she sneaks away to find a quiet place to knit at the end of the lunch period.
Steve’s restorative niche is to read novels. When he has the time he loves to curl up with a good book, and he always feels better when he makes time for it.
He had to present four or five times over a couple of days at a conference. Which he knew from past experience would “suck the life out of him”.
In the past, he has always felt compelled to attend sessions when he was not presenting. This time rather than sitting in the room listening to other presenters, he would go back to his room and read his favorite novel for 30-45 minutes after each presentation. This had a tremendous restorative effect.
He was still tired after the conference was over but he was not exhausted as he expected.
Larry loves the outdoors. He is a sales guy who works out of his house and spends a lot of time on the phone. He has learned to schedule short walks in his neighborhood three times a day. When he gets stressed, he takes his phone and laptop out on his back deck.
The walks in his neighborhood help him manage his stress, and moving his work environment outside during these times has proven invaluable.
Sarah is an account representative for a major advertising agency. She is quite artistic and blends her creative side with a good bit of business sense to make her quite successful. However, as a creative, she leans towards the introverted side of the personality spectrum.
In her job, she has to be around people much of the day, which depending on how many breaks she gets, can wear her out.
What Sarah does is to set an alarm on her phone to ring twice a day. At those times, she takes out her drawing pad to draw.
Draw what, you might ask?
Anything she likes.
In each of these cases, we identified something the client loves to do and scheduled it into their day. It was not until I read Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking that I discovered it had a name for it: restorative niches.
Are you an introvert?
Do you schedule restorative niches into your day?
If so, tell us about them by making a comment.