As an INFP, I have a love-hate relationship with routines. I have always been envious of others who can lay out a schedule for themselves, and follow it to a T. Previously, I wrote about how INFPs are good at starting things without finishing, and I do just that with routines. I can write out a pretty schedule, make all the calendars and to-do lists in the world, but that’s where I get stuck. It is just so easy to shove it aside after awhile.
I sometimes find routines so limiting. They can keep me from being able to spend my time doing things I want to be doing after all. And when routines are not flexible, it can be miserable. I am someone who could be perfectly happy spending a whole day in my day dreams, not being very productive. I just don’t feel this sense of urgency that I need to be productive every second of every day. This makes a schedule not a top priority for me. I like the freedom of being able to use my time in a way that will make me happy. That can often mean falling out of routine or off schedule.
On the other hand, I find routines help me feel motivated or accomplished at the end of the day. I mean there is a reason I am envious of others who do have a set routine they follow. I guess what I want is to follow a schedule but also to be happy doing it. The second part is often what I find lacking. I usually can start things with good satisfaction, but find that the same thing every day becomes mundane.
Why is it so difficult?
Routines can be too much
I found as a super introvert like me, I need a lot of time doing nothing. Doing nothing meaning basically anything I enjoy doing that has nothing to do with what I should responsibily or socially be doing. I want a lot of time to watch interesting movies, follow creative pursuits that go nowhere, start looking up something and get lost down a rabbit hole of interesting information, etc. And sometimes I literally just want to do absolutely nothing. I can enjoy just laying on the ground and listening to songs for hours while imagining stories in my head.
I often found it difficult with school, internships, volunteering, work, and whatever else it was. If it left me so little free time, I felt overwhelmed and very unhappy. The biggest problem I had when I was a student was that the school day didn’t end once school was over. I had to go home and do homework and study as well. It left so little time to just do nothing. I’d find myself not being very social in my free time. I needed that time to just not see anyone and do things that were not so stimulating.
The introverted lifestyle can find itself mismatched with the competitive fast-paced extroverted style common in the western world. We all know those people who have their day full from start to end every day of the week. They somehow still seem energized and full of life. I would probably have a mental breakdown before the week is halfway over.
If I have a routine I have to follow, but still have a lot of free time in my week, it makes it less exhausting and I can feel productive. However, having a “simple” routine often left me feeling guilty. I should be using my time more wisely and doing more to get ahead. A person will obviously have more credentials and be more marketable if they can maximize their resume. People leaving their schedule open to too much free time can seem lazy.
What people would call being lazy, I would call staying sane.
Routines can be mundane
Routine gets boring if it is mundane. If I have to wake up every day and go to the same place and do the same thing every day, it gets boring fast. I think INFPs have a hard time seeing themselves in many careers largely because of this. It feels limiting to have to do an eight hour work day that seems dreary and repetitive. In the beginning, it might actually seem alright. But after awhile, there is this itching feeling to go out and do something new and creative. I think INFPs are one of the types that would be happiest if they are self-employed and are their own boss, therefore setting their own schedule. It allows every day to be malleable and different instead of set in stone.
I find I often have this mindset of “I can’t wait to get this done” or “I can’t wait until this is over.” It feels terrible to always be wishing for things to be done instead of being able to enjoy them as they happen. I believe INFPs care a lot about their values and want to spend time doing something they love. If we are unable to, it can create the sense of feeling trapped in a routine that is making us miserable.
It’s so easy to get sidetracked
I can’t be the only one who often experiences something like this: I start something and get super excited about it. I lay out a plan and I even follow the routine really well…for awhile. Then my initial passion or excitement starts to dwindle to a more normal amount. I’m still interested in what I’m doing, but feel less dedicated as I once was.
I think the good thing about school or work is you are kind of forced into following the routine. So even if you dislike it, at least you are not the one holding yourself accountable. When I set a schedule for myself, it is so much harder to hold myself accountable. When I fall off the routine, I have to reel myself back in. I don’t know about other INFPs, but in those moments I am not a compliant fish on the end of the line. I am trying my hardest to get off that fishing line and swim away to a new beautiful destination.
So, Can an INFP Live Happily with Routines?
If I am honest with myself, I get the most accomplished if I have to follow a routine. If I have a deadline, I might panic and scramble in the end, but I usually meet that deadline. With no deadlines, I am free to do things whenever I want with no real repercussions. I believe routines and even strict routines can help an INFP thrive. It just may take a lot of troubleshooting before we find a happy medium between following a routine and not feeling contained.
INFPs can be very value driven, but we often get value from things we might not consider right away. I found that even when the work was not always that interesting, if I was surrounded by coworkers that created a sense of community I felt a part of, that provided value. It made waking up and going to work or school something to look forward to instead of something to dread. After all, it is so much better to have someone you can complain about the boring routine with. Personally I would rather work in a healthy friendly environment than be doing exactly what I want to be doing in an unhealthy environment. On the other hand, there might be a goal or a cause that drives someone to trudge through the necessary boring tasks in a daily routine.
In life there are routines that will be set for us and routines we want to set for ourselves. Both offer different challenges. I think the former can cause an INFP to be unhapppy if they feel restricted, undervalued, bored, or uninterested. The latter can cause an INFP to be unhappy because they find themselves struggling to follow it in the long term. Sometimes I think the fact it is a routine regardless of what it is makes me rebel against it. I believe INFPs just enjoy a flexible routine and daily life over a super rigid one. We are definitely not the people who hound on someone for being one minute off schedule.
INFPs need a routine to make sure things get done and they are not completely falling into la-la land. However, too strict, rigid, or boring of a routine can leave INFPs completely unhappy and rebelling against it either physically or mentally. I believe INFPs can be happy in their routine if it creates structure in their life and doesn’t feel soul-sucking. It is a difficult task to find a healthy balance in this love-hate relationship with routines.
I’d be curious if any INFPs have found the secret formula to being happy in their routine.