How INFPs Can Overcome Procrastination and Stay Motivated

A motivated INFP

Seeing the big picture, the larger purpose behind what you have to do, is one way to overcome procrastination as an INFP.

If you were a cop trying to flush me out of hiding, forget the smoke bombs and police dogs — just send in a list of boring ritualistic tasks for me to complete.

Shoot me now. I’d turn myself in faster than I could scream, “Ahhhhhh!….. Chores!”

Nothing is more mundane than repetitive, lengthy, uninspiring tasks that needed to be done yesterday, have to be done today, and will be around tomorrow.

And nothing is more embarrassing than being a stay-at-home mom who cared less about the very things one “should” be doing. But I couldn’t help it. I never understood why washing the dishes, tidying the house, or sorting out laundry felt like death to me.  

Then, after 20-odd years, I figured out that’s because — it is death! At least to an INFP, the most idealistic of the introverted Myers-Briggs personality types. 

INFPs are most alive when we’re away in our heads somewhere, contemplating the next creative adventure. How dare the spin cycle require me to descend from thrilling heights of philosophy, patterns, and ideas… to change loads. 

As a matter of fact, INFPs will try to avoid anything that would sabotage the flow of our creative juices — but then that sabotages our productivity.

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The INFP’s Archnemesis: Procrastination

Meet the INFP’s archnemesis: Procrastination.

To be quite honest, it’s been an uphill battle for me and procrastination — a perpetual cycle really. There’s a bunch of routine, uninteresting things I need to do. Oh, I totally plan to get to them, but… just as soon as I’m done with this random thought that led me down an overthinking rabbit hole.

So, of course, nearly nothing gets done and, eventually, it piles up. Then, in a whirlwind of spontaneity, I’m off to get my life on track again… The problem is, it’s all built up to an unbearable amount, which is too much stimuli for my INFP brain. So I start to think about something else, something that is way less stressful and, Mamma mia, here we go again.

But self-realization is the first step to improvement — and understanding the enemy is the key to victory. Right?

There is increasing hope as I further grasp how my restless INFP-ism affects my preferences (no routine) and tendencies (boycott the uninteresting). What was once depressing, unproductive flaws are now just personality weaknesses that can be managed with a little innovation — which my INFP brain is good at. So, without further ado, here’s how we INFPs can overcome procrastination — and (actually) stay motivated.

7 Ways for INFPs to Overcome Procrastination and Stay Motivated    

1. See the big picture, the larger purpose behind what you have to do.

There’s nothing we love more than to have a cause and a purpose. As INFPs, we’re really good at seeing the big picture. The flip side to this is that sometimes we can lose sight of the little things involved. But, that being said, I found that when I take a step back and remind myself of the larger purpose — like having a happy, healthy family and an efficient home — the less of a drudgery routine chores are in the grand scheme of things. And I can feel motivated about that.

2. Don’t wait for it… “just do it!”

Maybe you’ve heard of the “5-second rule.” No, not the one about food on the floor (though highly valuable to any parent, I’m sure). I’m talking about the other one, that’s actually a self-management technique.  

Coined by Motivational Speaker Mel Robbins, the 5 Second Rule advocates that one can overcome the overthinking involved in possibly unpleasant tasks by creating an impulse to action. And you do this, yep, by counting down from five — and just doing it.

It’s quite similar to Productivity Consultant David Allen’s “Two-Minute Rule,” which states that “If an action will take less than two minutes, it should be done at the moment it’s defined.” So, if it takes two minutes to do, it’s quick enough to do right now.

Making the bed, clearing the counter, loading the dishwasher — each of these can take around two minutes. It’s only two minutes at a time, and boom! I’ve gotten through three chores!

Now of course, some tasks will take more than two minutes, in which case the former 5 Second Rule can work.

Either way, with this option I’ve proven to myself that motivation often comes after the action, as some psychologists have said. When it comes to routine, if I wait until I “feel like it,” it probably won’t get done today. (Or ever.)

Getting started (in whatever tiny way) is a form of inspiration, which naturally produces momentum. Before you know it, you have a new ritual (which introverts generally love). As Sir Issac Newton discovered: “An object at rest stays at rest… unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

Sometimes, this force is free inspiration, other times, it’s a NIKE moment — “Just do it.” (If I can, so can you!)

3. Write down your tasks — and remember that “less is more.”

Okay, so I’m not chummy with schedules and forever lists of “wash, rinse, and repeat” tasks, but a bite-sizes list? That, I can do. INFPs like crossing things off a list as much as the next introvert.

Now, don’t go crazy with this. For me, anything over seven large to-do items will make me anxious. So to avoid the tendency to duck and hide, I max out at four or five tasks. Don’t make things too strict. 

As an INFP, you may have noticed you don’t fully appreciate feeling obligated to do (or finish) something. So, as a matter of fact, honor your love for spontaneity. You don’t have to go in a particular order. Mix things up and jump around your list if you need to, and be sure to pencil in “me-time” somewhere, too.

Seriously, less is more. Depending on the size of the project, it really may just be one or two tasks for the day. Sometimes, I break down one large task into as many micro-tasks as needed and work on them a section at a time. Sure, the idealist in me would rather knock down the whole wall, but chiseling away at my smaller tasks is just as valid. They do add up.

I used to feel guilty about only doing a mere couple of things while my friends and family could run through three times that. But it’s not a competition!

If you’re anything like me, it will take some getting used to. Don’t let anyone (including yourself) make you feel like you’re lazy or irresponsible. You’re just wired differently. What productivity looks like to an INFP may be atypical, but it’s productivity nonetheless.

4. Set a time limit for each task and stick to it.

If you’re not familiar with Parkinson’s Law, it’s “the amount of work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

Remember the “Two-Minute Rule”? If clearing the counter takes two minutes, you can do it in two minutes. If I say I have all day to do the same thing, psychologically, the task can stretch on all day. A simple equation can be: More time = less effort; Less time = more effort.

Here’s the thing: When it comes to projects we’re passionate about, INFPs prefer as much time as possible. Whether it’s writing, cooking, art, or what have you, we’re sure to be lost in our creative processes, especially since our ideas flow in, and mostly in a non-linear way. This just takes time.

On the other hand, dull routines and rituals are of little-to-no interest to us. We will quickly get lost in a procrastination pit if given too much time to complete such tasks.

In this case, “Less time = more effort” is just what we need. When I set aside 15 minutes to wash the dishes or fold laundry, I find myself racing against the clock to see how much I can complete before the time is up. When the alarm goes off, I take a break. Depending on what it is, I can choose to continue the same task or move on to another one, then circle back to the initial one.

Whichever I choose, it’s better to not give more attention to the item than the time that was allotted. That way, I give as much effort as I can during the task, get through my to-do list faster, and still give my mind a break to wander in between. (After all, we introverts are big daydreamers!)

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5. Visualize completing items on your to-do list — it works!

Ever since I started meditating, I can’t stop. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but those 10 minutes before my day starts — or late at night — have become invaluable. It’s one of the few moments where I’ve learned how to focus (finally!) and slow my thoughts down. 

And, at this point, I can choose to focus (for a brief moment) on even the most tedious of tasks. How? I simply visualize myself actually doing the items on my to-do list. Sometimes it’s in detail (if I can bear it); other times, it’s just seeing that the task was completed.

I’ve googled enough to know that visualizing my tasks is subtly suggesting to my subconscious, “Hey, we’ve got things to do!” As a result, I find myself more inclined to get those dreary deeds done before thoughts of boycotting have a chance to win.

6. “Go with the flow…”

It’s no secret — like I said before, we introverts are daydreamers, and INFPs know this well, too. We love thinking about what lights us up… for hours on end. Who said we have to fight against it? When all else fails, I just “go with the flow.”

The good thing about monotonous tasks is that, well, they’re monotonous. You may not have to focus on them too much. Things like scrubbing the bathtub or mopping are technically done on autopilot. This gives me a good chance to stay in my head, piecing together my next song or article. Whether you’re lost in future adventures or just letting the past day’s events sink in, it’s up to you — and it’s perfectly okay.

Before I know it, the bath is spotless and I’m on to something else. This way of doing things is not a total interruption to my INFP mind, and sometimes I actually look forward to the uneventful chore to see what inspiration might come up while I’m doing it.

7. Congratulate yourself — you deserve it.

My self-critical side can run amuck after I get out of a chronic stalling session. And it’s even worse if that episode caused serious repercussions in some other area of my life, due to my lack of planning or focus. It can be a downward spiral if I don’t catch myself quickly enough.

Depression in INFPs is common, too, because we feel things so deeply. That’s the “too hard on yourself” tendency. To counter this and stay motivated, basking in self-compassion, and recognizing your fundamental value, is crucial.  

Luckily, INFPs also tend to engage in a lot of inner self talk. So time to put my powers to good use, allowing my imagination to give myself the right words and needed appreciation. I congratulate myself on the little things I get done: “You know what? I am doing a great job.”  Taking a step back — and soaking in appreciation for what I’m capable of and actually did accomplish — can go a long way. You’ll see.

Yes, for us INFPs, routines can be a bloody battle between our ideals and our reality. Procrastination? A formidable opponent, yes. But this much I know: We may have lost a battle or two — but, with a little help, we will win the war.

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