How Much Structure Does an INFJ Need Anyway?

INFJs are intuitive, sensitive, thoughtful, compassionate, and quiet. But we are also known as types that like organization and prefer to plan things out, rather than jump on an impulse. However, the INFJ has a strong intuitive side, and the idealist at heart can bring about spontaneous adventures based solely upon a feeling and an idea. While the nine-to-five job can be a good option for the INFJ, there are also many that prefer to have a profession outside of the typical working format. Whatever the INFJ chooses to do in terms of employment and home life, it is essential to understand what makes this personality type content in terms of scheduling and structure.

Understanding myself as an INFJ has never been an immediate light bulb experience. It has taken time for me to grasp some of these concepts. But with a growing life experience and research I have realized that embracing the seemingly contradictory nature of my INFJ personality. This not only makes me happier, but keeps me in a healthier, more focused state of being. 

INFJ and Structure

As an INFJ, I have spent time wondering why I make sense in my own head, but confuse others with my contradictory nature. This exists in many aspects of my life and my personality, but has even brought me a sense of confusion when wading through academics and the career world. Academics have always been a safe haven for me. As a young child, I took pride in my work in school and liked the routine. Enamored with scholastics, goal lists, homework, and showing up on time to classrooms, this carried over in my college days. After college, I found it never quite stuck once I entered the working world. With my artistic nature, I hated the routine and demands of jobs I worked and I longed for something more fluid. Hours of work and mental exhaustion were taking a toll on my creative side. The question was, what is this strange paradox within me? Why do I crave a schedule in academics, but feel like rejecting the typical nine-to-five position? The answer was right there in the INFJ personality profile.

Does an INFJ Need Structure? 

The answer is yes. Although INFJs may not be heavily focused on structure as some of the other personality types, we do suffer if we are existing in a completely irregular fashion. The reason for this is the Judging (“J”) component of our personality. We have an innate need for organization, structure and planning. But since there is a caveat to that, our desires are not always black and white. The caveat is that though our all-or-nothing tendency fights against us, INFJs require a balance. Over scheduled, we may find ourselves in a miserable rut. Under scheduled, and the INFJ feels a bit useless.

Judging Versus Intuition

The reason the INFJ fights both sides of the extreme is our Judging and our iNtuition. These two components of our personality create an internal struggle. While we want events planned, a schedule, and some form of consistency in our lives—thanks to the “J”—we also have an internal desire for spontaneity and freedom because of the “N”. Intuition gives the INFJ a free spirited approach to living, a need to follow our thought processes and our gut. On the other end, our judging component creates our need to avoid spontaneity and embrace plans, structure, and organization. 

How Much Structure Makes INFJs Comfortable?

Discovering a structure that works for an INFJ does depend on personal needs. However, most INFJs are the same in our pursuit of the greater good within our careers. Finishing my last two years of college, I was working 30-35 hours a week in a restaurant while taking full time course loads. This was my schedule for a year and a half. Despite my exhaustion, I enrolled in summer courses to complete the degree as fast as possible. While I felt fulfilled in my coursework, I began to feel very burned out. I did not have the energy to do anything outside of studying and working.  Though I kept feeling I could handle it, I experienced an overwhelming dread. I had to realize I was spread too thin.  

INFJs Benefit From a Daily Routine

Over scheduling is a problem—and INFJs can have a habit of taking on too much. But the INFJ may also swing the other direction, becoming complacent and lost inside their head, attempting to live without any form of schedule in their lives. After I graduated with my B.A., I found it hard to motivate myself to do much other than go to work. A clear sign of burnout. Once I was no longer burned out, I switched to freelancing. But in my new work, I found it difficult to find the right balance. I was working from home, meeting my deadlines, but I could not for the life of me decide on a set routine. 

Feeling worse than I did being over scheduled, I now found myself under scheduled. I was meeting my career goals, but just barely. This idleness in my life led to a growing disdain with myself. My personal life and pursuits outside of work were failing. All of which could have been easily avoided if I had spent the time to schedule my working hours in such a way that would allow me to include the time for my other activities. This complete lack of a routine left me feeling dissatisfied and meandering.

What To Structure, What Not To

It seems a bit intimidating to schedule out my entire day. I tried this method again and again, but the free-spirited side of myself (that spontaneity-craving creative side from my ‘N’) puts a damper on that idea. Though my willpower is strong, a full-fledged day of penciled in activities outside of my working life doesn’t stick. It seems I should be able to schedule a time block for creative writing, guitar playing, or arts and crafts. Oddly enough, labelling that time block and trying to manufacture creativity, makes me lose the desire to do it altogether. But scheduling out my freelancing work is a different story. Schedules with work help me maintain a sense of structure, clarity and purpose. 

Achieving the Right Balance

So what is the right balance when it comes to structure and the INFJ? It has taken me time to ruminate upon and plenty of experimenting to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Though the amount of structure one can handle may vary from INFJ to INFJ, I believe we all share that common inner struggle; we desire some form of repetition in our lives, but we also wish for those moments when we aren’t sure what is going to happen or what we are about to create. 

Avoiding a schedule altogether (a problem perhaps more so with unconventional careers and freelancers), or creating a packed one that leaves no personal time, creates an unbalanced, frustrated INFJ. Finding your perfect balance may take some time, but it can be achieved no matter where you are in your life.

Acknowledging When It’s Too Much

If you’re a college student, you may find yourself grasping at straws, trying to fit in too many classes, working to supplement student loans. If you’re a working professional, your work routine is most likely out of your hands—unless you are one of the lucky few who creates their own schedule. Remote workers, creative freelancers, you name it: we all have deadlines. We all have the potential to overschedule ourselves by agreeing to work late nights, accepting too many freelance and project contracts, or working to the bone to get through school quickly. 

Sometimes, we take on too much. INFJs can be especially ambitious if they are working toward a goal or a cause that they care about. I have called myself a workaholic, because I seem to almost enjoy running myself into the ground. Acknowledging that your schedule is overloaded takes maturity and honesty. If this is starting to sound familiar, then you may need to take a personal inventory for your own schedule.

Taking An Inventory

Sometimes we overload our schedule and pretend we are okay with it. Taking an inventory of everything in your life can help you decide what is best to keep structured and what is not. It may be difficult if you have adopted the INFJ tendency of an “all-or-nothing” attitude, but taking the first step to realize you may have a bit too much structure in your life (or too little) will help you find some compromise.
Accepting Our Need For Structure...But Not Too Much

With the INFJ’s Judging side, we do crave organization, structure, and discipline. Despite the fact that we are Idealists, we still need planning in our lives. It’s a matter of finding the balance. I am much happier if I have my routine with work, schedule some social events and necessary appointments, but manage to leave slots open for personal and creative pursuits. I do not schedule out each hobby and limit myself to a time frame for each activity. Instead, I do what I found to be helpful for myself when I was finishing my undergraduate degree.

The conversation I had with my academic adviser, or as Arizona State University called it, my Success Coach, is memorable to this day. His advice to me was setting a weekly goal for my pursuits out of work and school and making sure I met it. It sounds simple enough and it is. Instead of scheduling time for your hobbies or activities you enjoy, set goals for yourself that you can achieve when you feel like working toward them. Soon enough, you’ll find your end of the week list check marked. If you fail to include something in your life that you want to make time for, create a small goal. Don’t schedule it; especially a creative pursuit. INFJs do need creativity, but it is better when it is organic, rather than forced.

Keeping a Calendar and To-Do List

Not everyone likes planners. However, every INFJ I have met (myself included) swears by keeping a planner for work, school, or miscellaneous. Put the bare necessities in the planner, though, and keep a to-do list for other things you want to accomplish. The idea is not to force ourselves to be so structured that we feel stifled. Give yourself breathing room and a margin for error. We are all human, and sometimes we will not meet our goals. The importance is that you listen to yourself and your internal desires. Are these desires being met?

Setting Aside Time for Yourself

As any over worked INFJ knows, setting aside time for yourself is essential to your happiness. That means time for you to unwind, participate in personal care, and to take in what you love in life,. When life gets busy, this can sound like a tall order, but it doesn’t have to be. The easiest way to make an INFJ set aside time for themselves, is ironically, to schedule it. I know, it sounds counterintuitive when I said we should not schedule our creative pursuits down to the hour. But INFJs tend to neglect themselves and their health—and that is what I mean in this case. Because we are so focused on helping others, listening to others, making others happy, and being a shoulder to lean on, we find ourselves burnt out easily. We do not—and I mean, we often refuse to—do things for ourselves without the thought of other people. Unfortunately, that can mean we feel neglected, since we are indeed neglecting ourselves. Learning to schedule time for our own personal health and care will take time, but you will thank yourself for it once you get into the habit and notice how much better you feel.

INFJs Still Need Extended Vacations

With that structure versus spontaneity going on inside, sometimes the INFJ just needs a break. Whether that break is an emotional break, a mental break, or a literal vacation, INFJs need time to re-energize themselves. We are like anybody else who needs time off, except we do spend an awful lot of our time trying to please others, please our employers, and structure our lives without squelching our creativity. Balancing our internal struggles alone can cause a lot of fatigue, so INFJs need to take care to recognize when they are due for a vacation from their daily lives.

Scheduling is a necessity in the life of an INFJ, but there is a specific balance we must find due to our need for creativity and spontaneity. Finding that balance is difficult, but it makes for a happier, more balanced lifestyle when the INFJ is able to create their ideal schedule. If you are stuck in a rut, stepping away from your current schedule may open up a new perspective and help you reach this ideal lifestyle.

Cianna Garrison

Cianna Garrison holds a B.A. in English from Arizona State University and works as a freelance writer. She fell in love with psychology and personality type theory back in 2011. Since then, she has enjoyed continually learning about the 16 personality types. As an INFJ, she lives for the creative arts, and even when she isn’t working, she’s probably still writing.

Comments

Alya (not verified) says...

I totally agree with everything said in this blog. I never realised it before but I flourished in school, even with all the assignments and deadlines, and then I came to work and the hours and rigidity make me miserable. It makes sense to me now after reading this article. I love to use that creative side of me, more than anything, but spending so much time at work and commuting leaves me exhausted and unable to do anything else. Despite this, I continually take on course after course while I'm working. It does feel like spreading myself too thin; so I'll need to work on that in the future.  

Cianna Garrison says...

Alya, 

I'm glad you can relate to my experience with this. It can be really hard to find the right balance for our type, but the most important thing is to be honest with yourself and take that personal inventory once and a while. And realize when you're trying to take on a bit more than is comfortable for you. Sometimes it's necessary, but I often feel like INFJs simply like to prove to themselves how much they can juggle.

BarbaraJo (not verified) says...

This is so totally true. I loved school and the assignments. I loved being competitive with myself, spending lots of time in the library and reading every book on the subject I was researching. I loved waiting to the last minute which seemed was always when the inspiration hit me, to get a paper out for a class. However now that I am in the work world I find it very difficult to get any of my creative pursuits in. Between being married and my husband's schedule being similar to mine, so I am never home alone, and my 45 minute commute in the AM and then again in the PM I am too spent to want to sit down and play my guitar or open my journal to write. It is frustrating because I have so many books in my head and words to get down on paper but I cannot just turn it on and off. I first need the alone time with myself and my thoughts and a blank piece of paper. Eventually the words flow, either on paper or with my guitar, but it takes down time for that to occur and with my work schedule I find I have none. So this piece really hits home for me as right now I am all work and no spontaneous play and no alone time. Making for a frustrated INFJ.

Cianna Garrison says...

BarbaraJo,

I'm sorry to hear that you're struggling for that freedom to do things you'd like to do, as many of us can fall into this! It's difficult! But make sure your eventually about to reconcile and make some time for those creative hobbies. 

I understand completely, as I get frustrated in that same way. Eventually you'll sort it. Hang in there. Thank you so much for commenting.

Irene Loy (not verified) says...

Agreed! As an INFJ coming up on an extended vacation, I can see my need for one, to re-establish balance. 

Thank you for this post~!

Agapelos Liberty (not verified) says...

I've just figured out that im an INFJ, ....still gathering information about who am i and have found this useful...thanks.

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