Work Traits

Work Independently

If you like to work independently you'd be great at staying motivated when working on projects and tasks that don’t require other people in your work environment.
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What does it mean to work independently?

Work independently means that if you could design your dream day at work, it would involve putting your earbuds in and being heads down in a project without any interruptions from your colleagues.

You’re a big believer in the importance of working independently. You’d much prefer to crank out work without other people around you, and you feel like you achieve peak productivity when you have some space from others. You’ve been known to come into the office early or stay late so you can get some quiet, uninterrupted time to focus.

While you see the value in collaboration and brainstorming, you prefer to balance that with plenty of alone time where you can get some breathing room to focus.

In F4S: Solo Environment

Your desire for working alone without a lot of social interaction with other people in your immediate workspace.

To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.

Henry David Thoreau

Leaders who work independently

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

Essayist and poet, Henry David Thoreau, is best known for his book “Walden,” which reflected on his time living off the land at Walden Pond.

While at Walden Pond, he resided in a cabin of his own making for approximately two years.

He wasn’t totally isolated and cut off from society (those are common myths), but he believed that getting some distance from the hustle and bustle of daily life and immersing himself in nature was key for living a simpler life and doing his best work.

Amelia Earhart

As the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, it’s safe to say that Amelia Earhart was comfortable working independently. 

NASA states that Earhart initially joined another pilot on his trip across the Atlantic. But, upon returning, she was frustrated with being mostly a passenger. She’s famously quoted as saying, “Maybe someday I’ll try it alone.”

That’s exactly what she did, becoming not only the first woman to complete that solo flight across the Atlantic, but also to fly solo from Hawaii to the U.S. For good reason, she’s remembered as a pioneer in aviation.

Amelia Earhart
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Sir Isaac Newton

As a physicist and mathematician, Isaac Newton’s contributions to science can’t be overstated. He’s credited with discovering the laws of motion and gravity, and those are just a few examples of his work.

He had a reputation for preferring to work alone. In fact, he had the tendency to view others as his enemies or direct competition.

Newton’s propensity for independent work reportedly started when he was ordered to head home from his college campus during the bubonic plague. He flourished without the guidance of his professors—proof that he much preferred a solo environment.

The benefits of working independently

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Give you a quiet room and a pair of headphones, and you could happily stay focused on a task for hours on end.

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Since you’re able to independently stay zoned in on the task at hand, you make meaningful progress in your assignments.

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Remote Natural

You can stay motivated without other people around to encourage you so you’d enjoy working remotely, as long as you have a private work space.

The blindspots of working independently

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You prefer a bit of physical distance from others when getting your work done, so you may lack some transparency into what your broader team is working on. Sometimes it’s worth joining in on casual team chats. They can solidify bonds and give you greater context for your work.

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Social Interaction

Your desire to get things done on your own means you aren’t always leaping up to participate in team bonding experiences, social activities, and extra meetings. While that makes you super productive, it also means you can appear less social to your team. It’s important to strike a balance.

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When you’re zoned in, you’re unstoppable. But interruptions and distractions still happen, and they can really throw you for a loop. You might struggle to roll with the punches and refocus after something derails you.

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How to increase your ability to work independently

1. Create an “interruption” system with your team.

Collaboration is a powerful thing, but it also limits the amount of time we can actually work independently. Try laying some ground rules with your team around when you can (and can’t) be interrupted for a question or friendly conversation.

For example, maybe you’ll all agree that earbuds indicate that a person is taking advantage of some independent time.

2. Give yourself some quiet space.

You won’t learn how to work on your own if you never give yourself the opportunity.

Try heading to a private space in the office, putting in some earbuds, or coming into the office when nobody is there. 

Even if you do these things for only 30 minutes at a time, they’ll help you get more used to working without people around you.

3. Use time-blocking.

One of the biggest benefits of increasing your ability to be an independent worker is being able to accomplish more in less time, due to fewer distractions.

If working alone feels unnatural to you, try scheduling in a small block of time each day to disconnect from social media, Slack, and email so you can focus 100% on your work.

You can let your team know you’re doing this by updating your status on Slack. And if you find your motivation waning, remember that getting more done can improve your work-life balance!

4. Explore remote work.

You’ll have plenty of space from your colleagues if you’re all working from your own couches or home offices.

If your team and upper management is open to it, explore the option of remote work—even if it’s only for one day per week or even one day per month.

That’s a day when anyone who wants to can skip their commute and work from home. Being physically removed from your coworkers will help you get more used to working on your own, especially if you combine it with time-blocking and silence your email and instant message pings.

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