Thanks in part to Susan Cain's groundbreaking book Quiet, there is plenty of discussion showing that the introverts among us can lead as well as the outspoken. Jack Dorsey is saving Twitter from destruction from his quiet stoop, just as Mark Zuckerberg has made Facebook the ultimate unicorn with more silence than words. I lean toward introversion myself and successfully sold my startup and hit the TED stage, so I'm all for introverts getting their due.
And the latest one to shine? President Obama.
As he wraps up his tumultuous tenure as president, Obama shared his daily rituals with The New York Times. The biggest surprise is that he is most productive in silence:
"Almost every night that he is in the White House, Mr. Obama has dinner at 6:30 with his wife and daughters and then withdraws to the Treaty Room, his private office down the hall from his bedroom on the second floor of the White House residence.
"There, his closest aides say, he spends four or five hours largely by himself."
If the leader of the free world can thrive as an introvert, then all of us can. Here are three big takeaways from his routine.
1. Find your space: For Obama, it's after he has dinner with his family and until midnight. For me, when I led my startup, it was the wee hours between 3:15 a.m. and 6 a.m., before my baby woke up. We both sacrificed some sleep and social time to thrive, but the productivity makes the sacrifice worthwhile.
Carving out the quiet time isn't just a nicety but a necessity. Unlike our extroverted colleagues, who recharge by being around other people, we get our energy back by being alone. It also gives us time to process our thoughts, which is much easier in silence or solitude, as opposed to extroverts, who process their thoughts out loud.
2. Honor your time: In the profile, it is clear that Obama rarely deviates from his schedule. Previous chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who has worked with Obama for years, talks about how dedicated he was to using the late evening hour. "Everybody carves out their time to get their thoughts together. There is no doubt that window is his window," he says.
It is the very reason you should create blank days, minimally viable days, and other spaces that are blocked off for you to maximize productivity--and that's true whether you are an introvert or an extrovert.
3. Create boundaries: Finally, Obama has set boundaries: After dinner, he's heading to the quiet part of the White House. That takes an incredible amount of discipline. It's one thing to know what we need, but actually creating the environment to foster it is quite another thing. That means saying no. That means minimizing cluttered scheduling. That means being dedicated to being your most productive self.
How busy is your schedule? When world wars, civil unrest, and economic development are on your plate, it must feel nearly impossible to focus and create the space you need. If the president does it successfully, though, then it gives me hope that we can too.