6 Ways INTPs Can Finally Focus — at Least for a Little While

As an INTP, I get distracted… a lot. But by implementing some “rules,” I’ve finally been able to reign in my wandering mind.

I never thought I had a problem with focus. 

Thinking back, though, I was always quickly coming up on deadlines since I had many of them for both work and college. My only option was to get things done, knowing the clock was ticking. 

I’ve now graduated, giving me much more time to work and start some passion projects. As an introvert, I am a big thinker and enjoy time alone, so having this excess of time is perfect.

However, being left to my own devices, without deadlines (or deadlines that are far in the future), I lack focus. A lot. And it may be because I’m an INTP.

After doing a deep dive into all the facets of being an INTP, one of the eight introverted Myers & Briggs personality types, I’ve found that it makes a lot of sense. INTPs famously have a million ideas and thoughts floating in their heads at any given time. We’re also not big fans of following routines, making it difficult for us to be happy doing the same types of work for long stretches of time. 

With these dominant traits of the INTP personality type, it’s no surprise I have trouble focusing on a task and want to drop it to do research (or whatever else has popped into my head). 

But the good news is, I’ve found that the following systems have been effective in increasing my productivity and helping me achieve my goals — even as an INTP.

(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)

6 Ways INTPs Can Finally Focus — at Least for a Little While

1. Set up rules that make it harder to get distracted.

In typical introvert fashion, I’m good at deep work, but to achieve it, it was necessary to evaluate the typical ways I’d get distracted. And then I put obstacles in my way. 

The difficulty of getting to your modes of distraction — like checking social media or your phone — will remind you that there was a good reason you put those difficulties in place. So, ultimately, you’ll put your attention back toward your work.

Setting rules that make it harder for you to get distracted is the name of the game. If looking at your phone is your number one distraction, make it a rule that your phone will be turned off or on airplane (or “do not disturb”) mode. For social media, log out of social media sites until your work is done (no excuses).

2. Set a timer to help differentiate “work time” from “free time.”

Setting a timer has been a game changer for me and my INTP brain. Primarily, it helps me to better identify “work time” vs. “free time.” 

For tasks that I’m especially not eager to work on, the timer method also helps to remind me that there is an end to the work and that I just have to push through the determined amount of time. The use of specified amounts of time to increase productivity is actually quite popular, with certain methods being commonly used. 

For example, there is the Pomodoro Technique, which has 25-minute intervals of work followed by five-minute breaks. And the Golden Ratio uses longer intervals of work, with 52-minute work intervals and 17-minute breaks. 

Both of these methods employ amounts of time that feel doable to keep up with work rather than giving myself hours of unspecified time that could ultimately be counterproductive (like if I take a “five-minute” break and it suddenly turns into an hour).

3. When it’s “break time,” make sure to really take a break.

Both of the techniques brought up in the last tip include making time for breaks — they’re important to overall productivity and to prevent getting burnt out. And experts say breaks can increase creativity and motivation, too.

This is especially true for INTPs; once we’re deeply interested in something, we have trouble stopping what we’re working on. 

So take your breaks and recharge. Chances are they’ll also give you some time to explore the 101 thoughts and ideas that came to you while working.

4. Keep a list of mental interruptions, like thoughts about another project.

I keep a list of mental interruptions. This way, instead of interrupting whatever I’m currently working on, I can jot it down on a notepad and come back to it. (I keep a physical notepad, but have also used the sticky notes on my computer and the Notes app on my phone.) 

In the past, I would stop my work, open up a new tab, and spend way too long looking into whatever idea had just hit me. (Gotta love our INTP brains!) 

But by jotting down the ideas instead of immediately looking into them, I don’t lose focus on my current work and it gives me a place to store them until I’m ready to go back to them. 

Then, when I take a break or at the end of the day, I can explore what I wrote down on my notepad with a clearer mind.

5. Make a to-do list with time constraints or mini-tasks.

When making to-do lists, I’ve found that it’s best to be as specific as possible, especially when it comes to writing down the amount of time I will spend on a to-do list item. 

Similarly, if the task is part of a larger project, I will break it down into mini-tasks. I do this to get rid of ambiguity and to hold myself accountable to actually moving toward the larger task it’s a part of. Plus, since my INTP self gets easily distracted, these bite-sized tasks are the perfect length. 

For instance, it’s very easy to write down “work on blog post” — and then end up writing two sentences, saying that I technically “worked” on it and can cross it off my list. But this makes it harder for me to feel like I accomplished my to-do list (because, really, I haven’t).

Instead, by saying that I will “do an hour’s worth of work on it” or that “I will write a headline and finish the introduction,” I am setting more specific tasks that I can see clear results from. 

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6. Listen to music… but without lyrics.

I always listen to music when I do any type of work. It’s just a habit. Typically, it has lyrics and it doesn’t bother me, and noise-cancelling headphones can help, too. However, there are times when it’s particularly difficult to focus on the task at hand and becoming distracted by lyrics doesn’t help. 

When this happens, I turn to instrumental types of music. This can be anything from movie scores, classical music, or ambient music. White or pink noise are especially good to listen to at these times — they are soothing sounds that maintain consistency, so they won’t make sudden changes that will draw you out of focus. While white noise can be something like the sound of a whirring fan (the Relax Melodies app has good options), pink noise is similar, yet deeper, with a bass rumble.

Many streaming sites and apps have playlists dedicated to sleep or study music like these and are also easy to find via YouTube. I often use Spotify for pink noise, white noise, and a sleep mix (and not just for sleeping purposes).

I’ve found that having a more soothing backdrop to my projects has helped me focus, and it can do the same for you.

Reining in My INTP Personality

Applying these processes to my “get things done” time has been very helpful. While it’s not perfect and my INTP personality sometimes wants to take over, they have allowed me to reduce mental clutter when I’m trying to focus. 

I then feel more accomplished and not guilty for shirking my responsibilities or ignoring hobbies I resolved to take up. Yet, at the same time, having a focusing system in place allows for the spontaneity of thought that is the cornerstone of the INTP personality.

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Written By

I am an INTP living and writing in Southern California. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Riverside. I am currently taking a year off from school to work on graduate school applications, as well my own writing, in the eventual aim to be a professor and scholar working with 20th-century American literature and film.