How Much Structure Does an INFJ Need Anyway?22 September 2019 / By Cianna Garrison Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on September 22, 2019
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.
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...
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.
Me too, Alya!!! I couldn't identify with this article more. It explains everything about my work life (scheduled and organized, but also subject to extreme procrastination and self-hatred, feeling trapped in the building when there are so many interesting things to explore outside, or just desperately needing to be home). It also explains how I prize creative self-expression highly, but never end up making time for it, so always feeling that I've let myself down. I do the same thing even with non-creative tasks that I enjoy- I always push them to the end of my to-do list, and then feel "fun-deprived." And if I have nothing at all going on during the day I get restless, at loose ends. This is the first article that makes sense of these tendencies I have.
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...
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.
Kayla Bakkum (not verified) says...
My mind is blown because this is what I'm currently experiencing. As a first time single mom and coming out of my postpartum depression. I literally lost myself in a dark place. My thinking and vision were so foggy. I was only able to focus on my son. I think I'm also experiencing mental and emotional abuse from my son's father. I felt this deep and intense connection first time ever. Like he's my first genuine true love. And I held onto that for so long here. We never were in official relationship just friends with benefits. I was too scared to let my walls down. Then finding out he got into a relationship but still chose to be intimate with me. I wished him the best of luck and he finds what he's seeking. Door slam. Month later I found out I was pregnant and I ripped that door off it's hinges. I tried. And I feel like I am failing my son and also myself. Sadly I think I am emotionally damaged right now that I want to make amends. Apologize for not communicating my feelings effectively and for misunderstanding him but address he has hurt me and was poorly communicating his feelings and misunderstood me. But for at least the last two years since having our son. His patterns and behaviors are toxic. I have to beg for him to want to be actively involved with our son. It seemed we were an inconvenience for him. He's an ISFJ and I understand he has a much healthy structured routine which I just crave so much because his is well balanced for room to have my spontaneous moments. Idk. I just hurt so much and I really want to drop my bad habits and replace with new and healthier ones. It's been challenging since I'm a single mom and have my 2year old 100%. So I have neglected myself and burnt myself out terribly. But slowly coming out of it and feeling more myself. Thank you for sharing this. I'm so glad I came across it online. Much love.
Wyncey Stacey. (not verified) says...
Hey there,I really love your article.I'm from Kenya, East Africa,and in these parts such knowledge is very hard to get.
God bless you.
Chantel (not verified) says...
Resonates for the most part ! INFJs are actually perceivers, their dominate cog. Function is a perceiving function (introverted types are labelled backwards, if that makes sense..so Ps are actually judgers and vice versa) with this said, INFJ's prefer having a broad picture plan, a general idea of their day/routine, but are really quite flexible and almost do a better job with their days when working organically. A lot of INFJs don't even keep planners, or calendars...but rather use their Ti to keep track of daily tasks (internally) They will want to get "stuff" done...and if they don't they can feel down and as if they are not accomplished product beings in society. They'll have a general routine such as -get home, shower, cook, clean, rest ....the order will be the same but the details will not. They are no the types to read the same material over and over, or drink the same evening tea. INFJ's can often lack consistency, which is a trait that generally goes hand in hand with people who thrive on routines and plans. INFJ's are this strange mix of routines spontaneity. ....procrastinating doers. As they are with most things, highly complex and contradictory grey matter.
(Ni, again, being a perceiving function can make an Infj at times seem lost in a world of ideas and imagination. If an Infj has a relatively heavy Ni, they will be even less productive, routined or goal orientated...and more in their headspace...(Ni-Ti loop) an Infj would actually do REALLY well with a strong set schedule ...but it can't be them putting it in place and they need a very real person holding them accountable. It also has to align with future goals. So taking a new course for instance, would be best done daily between a set time, not "online on your own time" ...a gym membership should be expensive and paid for for months in advance. ... A work schedule should be ok very specific days without rotation, so that the Infj can know when to turn on and turn off. ) ...I could continue...haha but I'll stop.
Ewelin (not verified) says...
Amazing , I Just need that, I was wondering If I am organised or Not for a long time ,becuase I was always trying to write down the moste important things yet I hate to feel beeing to much boxed,so I was always looking for the best way for my self to organise things. I had no problems to keep with exercising daily ,eating properly but with other more artistic goals I always had problem. So thx for advice I will try to consider it and look for a better balance becuase I definietely lack this. I tend to be overorganised and then be not enough organized.
Sahana (not verified) says...
Love this blog and I (an INFJ) resonate with everything that was said! This has really helped me re-think my needs around planning vs too much structure.
MarkLH (not verified) says...
These are good thoughts. I will be turning 70 in a couple of months, so I have a lot of INFJ experience. Your advice that weekly goals are better than daily schedules is so true.
I get up before the sun comes up and write in my journal, every day. How long have I been doing this? For about 30 years. For the past 20 years I've listened to an acoustic playlist by Pat Metheny every morning while I journal. Same thing, every morning. It's like filling my tank. I try to get $ work done before noon, and then the afternoon is free form.
The hardest thing about being an INFJ, for me, has been working around other peoples' structures and anti-structures. I'm finally at a point where I rarely have to worry about that.