Ideas, ideas, ideas - they are like the blood coursing through my veins. They are the impetus that drives my passion, my purpose and my resolve. They are the driving force that motivates me to do bigger and better things and gives me single-minded focus.
As an INFP my mind is always engaged and fascinated by making meaning of the world and finding ways to make this world a better place. I am always looking towards self improvement and seeking to learn about my family and relationships. Understanding more about humanity and the way we live is like my personal quest. I soak up stories—the experiences of other’s—like a sponge. I can spend hours in that space – that space of exploration, curiosity, and philosophical musings.
But then there is everyday life.
What? I have to cook dinner? I have to wash those dishes? I have to fold those clothes?
The everyday routines, the (in my mind) boring tasks that just have to get done (and never seem to end) are sometimes enough to drive me crazy! It can be a challenge for any Intuitive perceptive type (or NP) to be content doing the mundane (and even aware of the necessity of it) when there are so many ideas to explore and so many issues in the world worthy of interest and attention.
Yet, life with three young children is busy, busy, busy and I realise that some things just have to get done to live a less chaotic life. I’ll be honest – sometimes it’s easy to feel like I’m just a little bit of a failure in the homemaking or housekeeping department. Some people seem to juggle career, kids, house, church (and whatever else they have on their overflowing schedule) with absolute finesse. That’s not me.
When I’ve got an uninspiring job to do, I am aware of how much my mind whirs and trips and yearns for something to wrestle with - other than what is right in front of me. I find myself easily bored, restless and distractible, beginning a task and then drifting away to read something that’s caught my eye or to attend to something that’s suddenly popped into my head. As a stay-at-home-mum and working from home, I can either get so caught up in something inspiring (like writing this article) that I’ll completely forget the practical tasks that need attending to (even to the point of forgetting to eat lunch). Or if a non-inspiring task is inevitable (like washing or cooking dinner) procrastination may rear its ugly head with mindless Facebook or internet scrolling, often in my desperation to find inspiration or motivation.
My levels of distractibility sometimes lead to frustration and I have to find ways to rein them in.
So what do I do to stay motivated and focused? How do I hone in on what’s important? How do I block out the thoughts and distractions that inevitably come my way? And when do I need to be kind to myself and recognise my ‘distractibility’ as a positive attribute?
Finding ways to get motivated and stay focused
At a most basic level, sometimes finding motivation and staying focused is a matter of looking to the accomplishment or completion, rather than at the task itself.
There can be motivation in knowing that my mind will be clearer, and I will feel better about myself, when I’m more organised and my chores are completed. Or that I will more quickly find what I need and achieve more if my desk is tidier. Or if the house is in order, my family life has the potential to be more harmonious.
Sometimes even reminding myself that getting the hard stuff done quickly and without procrastination means more time to spend with those I love and more time to do the things I love.
Some of the practical tools I also use to get motivated and stay on task are:
- Routines. If you are anything like me, this is not something that comes naturally. NP types tend to like to be flexible and ‘go with the flow’. Too many strict routines can lead to frustration. However, I’ve found that some basic routines serve as a great reminder and take the thinking and worrying out of the doing. Even a simple morning routine like: ‘get up, shower, get dressed, tidy bathroom, fold washing, have breakfast’, keeps me on task and helps me when my mind is wandering.
- Write a to-do list. This is crucial for me to feel focused. Not being highly ‘routined’, I often have so many thoughts and tasks swimming around in my mind. This can lead to feeling completely overwhelmed, and thus I don’t get anything done. Writing it down and then prioritising reduces the worry, the wasted time and the procrastination.
- Break it down into small tasks. At times the big picture seems tiring and overwhelming. If I break up my jobs into small tasks and do a small amount at a time I can see progress more quickly.
- Setting a timer. Knowing that I’ve set aside 10 minutes, 20 minutes or even 40 minutes can be enough to remind me to focus. I tell my kids I’m going to be ‘speedy mummy’ and stay focused 'till the timer goes off. This also helps to break down big tasks and not get too caught up in little details.
- Set rewards. This may be as simple as doing a 20 minute job and then rewarding yourself with coffee or a favourite drink. I used to always start my work day by making a cup-of-tea and checking emails before I did anything else. In reality, it was a little bit of procrastination. Getting into something straight up, then rewarding myself, helps me to plough through the uninspiring tasks.
- Work methodically. A chore like tidying the house can be overwhelming if you're not focused. I, too, easily find myself running from room to room not getting much done. If I start in one room, or one corner of the house, I seem to stay more on task and end up feeling much more accomplished.
- Listen to energising music. Energising or inspiring music can help to boost my energy levels when I’m feeling flat but have chores to do. A personal playlist or a Spotify mix is ideal for this. Blast it from the rooftops if it helps, or put it on your headphones and you might even find yourself doing a little jig.
- Plug into a podcast. This last one has saved me many times. Even with all of the above I can still find myself restless and distracted. Listening to an interesting podcast really helps to hold my focus. As my mind is engaged, I can immerse myself in the more ‘mind-less’ tasks that just have to be done.
Be kind to yourself
Finally, I am learning to be kind to myself!
As an INFP (most significantly the feeling part) the insecurities and the tendency to be hard on myself can be exaggerated. It is easy to feel inadequate when I perceive others to be more organised, more efficient, more motivated or energetic, and of course more focused or accomplished.
It is, therefore, important to remember that the beauty NP types bring to the world is in our creativity and innovation. Some of these types may seem less ambitious, but it is the drive behind our passionate values and conviction that contribute significance to the world. We bring a flexibility and open-mindedness to the table, greatly desiring to hear all the options and not making quick judgements. Although continually looking for meaning and possibilities, we are certainly not impractical, but rather able to create fresh and practical solutions as required. Particularly for the feeling types, the great well of compassion, empathy and willingness to see both sides of a story, often results in an acceptance of diverse ideas, opinions and people.
At times my distractibility, lack of routine and seriously challenged housekeeping skills may seem to bring an element of chaos into my life - but there is beauty in this too. A friend will find me available for a coffee and a chat without much notice. My children find a mum who will quickly drop what I’m doing to run out and see a bird’s nest, watch their latest skating trick (admittedly sometimes to the detriment of the dinner on the stove) or cheerfully grapple with their philosophical questions. My natural curiosity means I quite easily take time to ‘smell the roses’, happy to patiently explore with my kids at the park. I also have fairly high tolerance levels when it comes to messes—in the interests of creativity and exploration—and I do enjoy getting in there and getting my hands dirty. My attention on my loved ones is generally focused and compassionate and very often I will drop the to-do list to make playdough or build lego with my little one.
Having a spotless house is not high on my priority list, but managing my ‘everyday’ to live a full and productive life is. When I get weighed down by external expectations (perceived or otherwise), or I allow unrealistic comparisons to creep in, I don’t do anything well. It is crucial that I understand what is important for me, and my family, and prioritise accordingly.
I’m never going to get a ‘tidy house award’ but knowing I can cope with the everyday necessities, and still be true to who I am, is super important.
How about you? I’d love to hear your experiences.