Thoughts on INFPs and Routines

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.

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18 Comments

  1. Thank you for this! I’m an INFP who is definitely feeling a little lost right now. You’ve described exactly how I feel about routines. I haven’t found the secret formula yet, but your post is really helpful and encouraging to me.

    1. I’m glad you found this post helpful and were able to relate to it. I hope you can feel a little less lost soon haha. Maybe one of these days we can find the secret forumla ;).

    2. for me the secret formula is finding something that will take the minimum amount of effort. because INFP don’t like routines, we like the IDEA of routine and what that would do for us in our fantasy world where we actually follow it and become the ultimate human being. in the real world, we want to do whatever we feel like at the moment. here’s something that worked for me. google “2 hour timer” to bring up the google timer… and on your chrome options you can make a shortcut on your desktop. i just click that every day whenever i am ready, and then make stuff for the 2 hours.

    3. Wow. I am glad I read this. I do not feel alone. I am much older than you. I am a newly empty nester who has the luxury of being home if I want. My husband has encouraged me to explore the next stage of life with whatever I want to do. With so much time on my hands, I forced myself to follow a schedule this past year so I can accomplish something. I couldn’t follow it. I feel the pull of ‘what to do next with my life’ and ‘I don’t really want to do anything’ at the same time. Sigh!

      1. I hope you can find some clarity on what to do next. I have similar feelings to you. Some days I feel like I want to do EVERYTHING. And other days, I think there is really nothing I want to do at all. It can be so hard when there is so much societal pressure to have a clear set out path in life that we should constantly work towards. And trying to keep a consistent schedule is really difficult when I feel like a free spirit wanting to do things at my own pace. Good luck. Let me know if you ever find out the secret to keeping a routine with our personality type. Haha!

  2. this is where you get into people with the same type being clones of you.
    i get excited making schedules and processes for myself to be a better artist…but then i don’t follow them after a couple days
    what i’ve found is the more complicated it is, or the more trouble, the less likely i am to do it.
    i’ve had a lot of success in simple things. like, have a shortcut to a 2 hour timer on my desktop, and say i’m going to click it and make stuff for 2 hours every day. contrast that with this scheduler program i made that tells me what to do at 30 minute intervals on my screen, well, i just ignored it after a while because it was too much trouble to remember what i was supposed to be doing or what time it was.
    in conclusion, we need a process…but it should be simple, easy, and comfortable for us, and give us clear results, or we’re just going to drop it like anything else we don’t like.

  3. Yeah i am an infp too and struggling with following routines on my own. Actually i do feel i will have better work performance working under supervision of others. They can give me a dateline and sort of thing to make me move my ass. Lol. I work alone.. And my mind wasnt right, i guess i should find other job to suit with my ‘good follower’ abilities

    1. As an INFP I think what you have hit on here is the key. Process or sequence for me is important. It creates a framework that allows flexibility and directly relates to what I want to achieve and therefore provides the meaning and sense of purpose I as an INFPs crave. A schedule on the other hand feels too fragmented and task related, especially if those tasks lack the sense of meaning, purpose and direction toward the realisation of a creative project that I feel a connection to. A process or sequence appeals to my sense of making “connections” and relationships between different elements – so long as that process relates to something that I believe and will enable me to realise my creative endeavours that I see will add value and make a positive difference to the world around me in some way.

  4. Wow, thanks for this article that lights a lot of truths. As an INFP I can definitely relate with what you explain. I am trying to figure out how to leave “happily” in a certain kind of routine but as you said it, the danger is to feel easily bored. Personnally, it makes me feel unsueful, irritated, frustrated.
    It’s like: you are happy in your routine, and then you need more.
    I relate a lot about the part where you speak about things you get really excited about and get really interested in, and then is just “falls” in the “normal”interest level. It frustrates me not to “control”it cause in the beginning it feels intense and real, and then it’s like it was kind of false. This leads to another point you mentionned, which is to begin a lot of things without finishing them.
    I love our spontaneity as INFPs, and how flexible we are. That’s what makes us authentic, enthusiastic. It is just hard to live it as it fullest in a world with a lot of rigid rules and obligations and with people who need to have a very organized life and environment. Hopefully it gets better with time :).

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Being an INFP has a lot of good points, but yeah, it can be a struggle when the world sometimes doesn’t value our good points, but values our weaknesses. However, I love my fellow INFPs and hope we all can do well and succeed 🙂

  5. Thanks for this post and the comments! I am an INFP and can definitely relate to everyone here. I keep a planner and try to schedule things in, but I can get off track a lot of the time. I realized I have such a hard time managing my time. I’m a poor time estimator, so like Michael I too have found setting timers to be an awesome strategy to keep to task. Creating and keeping a good routine will be a lifelong process. At least we are all good at being flexible 🙂

    1. I also think the timer idea is very practical, and so is having a planner, if I can remember to use it haha. I think I would need a very cute one so I’ll want to decorate it and make it nice, and hopefully THAT will motivate me to use it and keep me on task. I agree, I appreciate my fellow flexible chill INFPs and think we are good at adapting when things go off schedule, which often happens everywhere! Thank you for sharing what you do :).

  6. I can relate too.. sometimes i want to do everything and sometimes i dont want to do anything. some times i also feel like time is running out to make something out of my life, the next day and it’s like it never even crossed my mind. i get so anxious at first about a new job and all then it just burns out and i just want to get it over with. i envy people who balance so much rigid routine but i think my flexibility too is a plus. i’d welcome a planner too, where I don’t have do one thing for too long.

  7. I only discovered my “type” INFP late last year and realised the struggles are REAL. I hate to be labelled. But yet it was liberating. I am not lazy but yet I am. I have tried one year doing things by being purely efficient – fully exercising my Extraverted Thinking. Life seems to favour cognitive functions that are practical like Extraverted Thinking. Yes I was very efficient, organised but totally out of alignment with my “heart”, unfulfilled and even more lost than ever.

    Still trying to find my way. Thanks for this blog…

  8. What, there are others who dread the tyranny of the routine and always having to be productive?! For some of us, the time to think,dream, or do nothing should be the goal, and to not feel bad about it. It’s step one, which must be take care of before any other goal can hope to be accomplished. Otherwise, at least in my case, depression can set in. If I keep going for too long this way, I just shut down.Thank you so much, for this blog.

  9. I love this, I did wonder if I wrote it in my sleep or such haha. 🙂 I have a theory I’m going to try to put to the test in 2019. I read a thing about “the elephant brain”- symbolic of memory and subconscious “auto pilot” and the “elephant rider”- symbolic of training or programing “auto pilot”. The theory is we remember “discipline is choosing between what we want now and what we want most” and dedicate ourselves to developing an autopilot program. So in the morning while we are exploring our creative, imaginative world our body goes through the motions and gets the laundry done 😉

  10. *Raises hand* I know the secret!
    We follow our own infp routine.
    This year am trying out self-employment.
    So today, i did one thing because i have to. Another thing because i loved to which is I re-organised my blog and decided to start writing to my heart’s content (Even if no one reads). I accomplished a lot today! On certain days i complete lots of things on the “have to do” list because i felt the momentum. On other days, i simply do nothing – take walks and read.
    … So maybe & maybe, This might work.

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