Do you procrastinate a lot as an INFJ?
Is perfectionism getting in your way of getting things done?
Are you too hard on yourself for procrastinating?
A few months ago, I was chatting with a fellow INFJ reader and one of the topics that he brought up was procrastination. He asked me how he can stop himself from procrastinating and we have an interesting discussion. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing some of the insights that came out of our discussion.
But before I even do so, I would like to point out that every personality types procrastinate. It’s not just us, INFJs.
Procrastination has nothing to do with laziness.
So there’s no need to be too hard on yourself.
However, what’s separate INFJs and the other personality types though are the things that we procrastinate on.
For example, I have an ISFP brother, who will procrastinate on planning his overseas trip. As he has Se (extraverted sensing) for his second cognitive function, he prefers to live in the moment and he’s way more spontaneous than me, an INFJ. Sometimes, he only starts packing his luggage the night before or he will plan activities during the trip itself. He’s what I called, “The Last-Minute Procrastinator”. It feels thrilling to do everything last minute.
Then, you have my INFP brother, whose second cognitive function is Ne (extraverted intuition). He loves to brainstorm for ideas and possibilities. But when it comes to taking action, he might procrastinate on it. That’s because the fun is in the brainstorming, not in the doing. Taking action means that he has to commit to one thing and this makes him feels limited. He can’t explore other possibilities when he’s focusing on one thing.
We INFJs are rather different when it comes to procrastinating. As we have Judging (J) as our preference, we like to have things planned out unlike the Perceivers (P). We don’t like to do things last minute as it’s too stressful for us. Also, unlike INFP, we don’t like to have too many open projects. We like to have things decided or completed so that we can move to the next thing. We don’t like leaving things hanging.
So what does an INFJ procrastinate on then?
Types of Procrastination: What Do INFJs Usually Procrastinate On?
1. Socializing with others.
One of the things that I, as an INFJ, tends to procrastinate on is socializing with others. Sometimes, I will have conversations with my friends in my head but I don’t contact them.
Since young, I have this habit of talking to myself. I guess partly it’s because there was no one around in the family that truly resonated with the intuitive side of me, other than perhaps my INFP brother. But even when we talk, we don’t talk anything deep too. So sometimes, it’s easier to imagine a conversation than finding someone that can have a deep conversation with me.
However, INFJs love to connect with others and
our social skills are actually pretty decent too.
The problem is when you meet people for the first time, more often than not, we have to start with small talks and INFJs get drained and bored easily by small talks. We want to have deep conversations with other people. It’s too exhausting to go through a series of small talks before we can have those conversations that matter to us. And sometimes, those deep conversations don’t even exist after we get to know our friends better! So there is a tendency for INFJs to procrastinate on socializing.
Not to mention that some of us have social anxiety. We don’t really know what to do when we are in a networking event. We would rather observe other people from the sideline. Therefore, we might take some time to ponder or observe before we participate in a social event or join a social group.
2. Telling people what we really think and feel.
When INFJs don’t know other people well enough, we don’t feel safe to share our deepest thoughts and emotions. Especially in a group setting, the more unfamiliar people there are in a group, the quieter we get and the less likely we are going to share our real opinions.
Often, INFJs will observe the group and check if the group shares similar values and opinions as us. If they are too different, we won’t voice our opinions because we want to preserve harmony and not rock the boat. We don’t wish to create any conflict and possibly destroy our relationship with others. So we will just go along with whatever other people say.
The only time that we do share our inner thoughts and feelings with another despite our differences is when we trust the other person. We know that the other person is accepting and open and he or she won’t judge us even if we have a different opinion.
Even if we don’t like something about somebody,
we will wait for the other person to pick up the cues.
Rather than being straightforward and direct with others, we will drop hints (such as avoid contact with the other person) and hope that the other person will realize that we are unhappy with them on their own. We think that by being passive-aggressive, the other parties will change their ways or back off.
But most people aren’t that sensitive enough to pick up the cues. When we procrastinate on dealing with the issue, we let our unhappy feelings fester within and we might end up exploding with anger in front of them or giving them a permanent door slam.
3. Doing something that we find meaningless.
INFJs are always looking for a purpose in life and we tend to postpone activities that we deem meaningless or unimportant.
For example, household chores like washing the dishes, mopping the floor, and cleaning the fan. Even though these tasks are relatively important to our well-being and the environment we live in, we might prioritize other tasks that appear more important to us like our work, helping others or creative pursuits over these seemingly trivial tasks.
Or if we are in a job that we feel is insignificant or it doesn’t help people the way we wanted to help them, we might get easily frustrated and not have the motivation to do it. Some of us might even get depressed if we force ourselves to do such tasks for a long period of time.
INFJs are always thinking about the big picture
and the future instead of day-to-day obligations.
Even though INFJs will work well with some form of structure and routine, we will soon get bored with performing the same routine tasks unless they are linked to a bigger vision. We must be able to see how the task fits into the overall, big picture. If not, we will question why we have to do it or find the task pointless to do.
Also, INFJs don’t care too much about traditions, especially the outdated one. We might delay or even not perform some rituals except when we feel obligated or want to please the people around us.
4. Starting something new.
With Ni (introverted intuition) as our dominant function and Se (extraverted sensing) as our inferior function, INFJs might spend more time in our head, imagining about the future instead of taking action on our dreams.
Especially when it comes to new projects, we might feel excited to start the project, but we end up spending hours and days planning and researching the project or topic to death before we do anything.
On a positive note, we don’t rush the process. Planning and research give us a detailed action path and an overview of how to tackle the project. On the flip side, too much planning and research consume a lot of time and stop us from taking action.
Being perfectionists, INFJs often get into analysis paralysis.
Unlike other personality types who take action and then learn from their mistakes on the go, we INFJs usually overthink to minimize mistakes. If we can, we would want to get it right the first time.
But when we plan and research so much, we get stuck in analysis paralysis and nothing gets done. The worse is when we know how unhealthy, drained and obsessed we can become during planning that we don’t even plan and start a new project anymore.
INFJ Procrastination: Why Do We Procrastinate?
1. Perfectionism and fear.
INFJ procrastination is highly linked to our perfectionism. We put too much pressure on ourselves to getting things absolutely right and perfect. Our inner critic is never satisfied with the results or outcomes that we produce.
For some of us, our perfectionist traits and behaviors were developed in childhood because of the high standards that our parents impose on us. For others, being perfect helps us to cope and minimize some of the fears that we have.
There are fears lurking beneath INFJ perfectionism.
The most common one that everyone has (not just INFJs) is the fear of failure. Failing, especially in front of other people, can be somewhat shameful. After I wrote my book, Fearless Passion, and told everyone including my friends and colleagues that I’m pursuing a career in animation, I felt ashamed when I left the industry within six months. It took me two years to write another book because I was afraid to fail again.
There is also the fear of being judged. Many of us don’t start something because we are afraid of the outcome. First, we doubt our ability to accomplish the thing. Then, we are afraid of how others will perceive us and our completed projects. Putting our work out there gives others this opportunity to judge us. If we don’t do anything, we will never know what the outcome is. So we procrastinate on taking action on what we desire.
Furthermore, most INFJs are sensitive to criticisms. It feels like rejection when others criticize our work or point out our mistakes. So we INFJs will think things through thoroughly, collect all the information that we think we need, and make sure everything is perfect and in order before we let others see our work or share our opinions. Perfectionism is not only a way for us to gain approval but it also prevents us from feeling rejected.
2. Idealism and lack of deep motivation or purpose.
Due to our idealistic nature, we INFJs tend to have unrealistic high standards for ourselves, other people, and the world. But when we realize our standards and expectations can’t be met by ourselves and others, we feel disappointed. And this dampens our desire to take further action.
For example, if we have such eagerness to help others or save the world, but we realize other people don’t wish to be helped or they are not appreciative of our advice, we can get apathetic and stop helping them.
If something doesn’t live up to our high ideals,
we lack the motivation to do it.
For INFJs to take action, we must feel that our action has a huge impact or significance. If not, we would feel unmotivated. If we don’t know why we are doing something or we don’t resonate with the purpose of doing something, we don’t feel like doing it. The task will soon feel boring, uninteresting, meaningless, or unpleasant to us.
It’s more fulfilling to stay in our imagination where everything can be ideal and perfect than to execute our vision which usually turns out to be not as satisfying as what we have imagined it to be.
3. Unclear goals, path, and direction.
Unlike some other personality types who can start something immediately without much thought, INFJs want to spend some time thinking through the things we want to do before we start. We want to know all the steps to get to our goals and the details involved. Clarity is important to us because it let us know what to expect and what is required of us.
Without a clear path or structure to reach our goals, we get trapped in the planning and researching phase, looking for ways to do something instead of actually doing it. When we overwhelmed ourselves with details, we lose focus of the goals we want to achieve. To calm ourselves down, we distract ourselves with sensing activities such as watching TV reruns and overeating. This causes more delay in our action.
Sometimes, our ideals and vision are so grand
that it stops us from pursuing them.
INFJs have the ability to dream something grand and noble for humanity but we often don’t have the execution skills to support what we have dreamed of. It’s easier to imagine a grand vision than to actually do it. Therefore, most of us procrastinate and stay in the thinking mode instead of the doing mode.
How to Get Over INFJ Procrastination and Perfectionism?
1. First, ask yourself, “Is this something I really want to do?”
If you are procrastinating on a certain task, first ask yourself, “Is this something I really want to do?” This is very important, especially for an INFJ.
As an INFJ, I often find myself agreeing to things that I later regret. Due to our second function, extraverted feeling (Fe), we are very in touch with what other people need. Together with our desire to help others and our tendency to avoid conflict, we readily say yes to other people’s requests without considering much.
The tasks that we procrastinate on might be tasks
that we are doing out of obligations.
Sometimes, we do something for others because we don’t want to reject or disappoint them. However, deep down inside, we actually don’t want to do it. We are just doing it out of obligation. That’s why there is a lot of resistance in taking action. There is an inner conflict between serving your own desires and serving other people’s desires.
Other times, it could be our beliefs that get in the way. We believe to reach a certain goal, we need to do certain tasks along the way. For example, we might believe that to earn more money, we have to work much harder, which is not necessarily true.
Getting over procrastination is not always about getting ourselves to take action. Sometimes, letting go of things that we think we “should do” or “have to do” is a more effective way to remove our procrastination.
2. Have a strong purpose in everything you do.
After being in touch with what we want to do, does it mean that we only do things that we want to do and not do the things that we don’t like to do?
Yes and no. There are always things that we don’t feel like doing but yet, deep down inside, we know we have to do it. A simple example will be like washing the dishes.
It’s not because you don’t want to do it.
You have not discovered the deeper purpose of doing the task.
For INFJs, we seek meaning in everything we do. To feel motivated in doing something, we have to understand why we are doing the thing. Sometimes, we procrastinate because we have not taken the time to look deeply into the tasks we are doing.
Washing the dish is not just another chore that we have to do. It’s also a spiritual practice to stay present and enjoy being in the moment. Also, having dirty plates lying around the kitchen doesn’t make you feel good. When you wash the dishes, not only are you cleaning your environment, but you are also cleaning your inner space. It’s also a way to show love to your loved one. There are many reasons why we do something, you just have to dig deeper.
When we are doing a big project, sometimes INFJs will feel lost in the details and lose track of the purpose. It is always good to remind ourselves and align our tasks to our highest vision so that we feel meaningful in doing the tasks.
3. Break a big project into smaller tasks or phrases.
INFJs have big visions but all big projects start with a small, single task. Just like we don’t get ourselves to the top of the mountain in an instant; we take one small step at a time. And we also don’t eat the whole apple all at once; we take one small bite each time and savor the taste.
When you break down your vision into smaller, manageable, tasks, you are more likely to do them. It’s not as frightening when you approach your vision in this way. We have to keep breaking our tasks down into smaller tasks until we free ourselves from resistance. If you want to write a book, write a chapter first. If a chapter seems too huge, write a page or a paragraph or a sentence first.
Don’t seek perfection the first time you approach the project.
In animation, we learn this technique called Layering. Animators don’t do everything at once. It’s too challenging and time-wasting. Imagine doing everything at once to perfection, then your superior said that’s not what they want, how much time would you have wasted?
Instead, what animators do is they have several phrases. Usually, they block out the key poses first. Get them checked by the superior and then add in more poses and details in their second or third pass and so forth. Each pass, they focus and work on different things.
Writers use the same technique too. The first draft is just to get our ideas and words out. It’s usually incoherent and full of grammar and spelling mistakes. And we don’t show this draft to others, so nobody can judge us. We only start to polish the draft and rewrite in proper sentences in the second or third draft.
Perfectionism slows down the start of a project and cultivates procrastination. When you are starting a new project, just get everything out as quickly as possible. Impose a time limit for your research and planning. You will have plenty of time to perfect your work later.
4. Rely on existing systems and structures.
One reason why INFJs get into perfectionist mode at the start of any task or project is that there is no clear structure and path for us to follow. When we don’t know how to get to our goals, a lot of time is spent on researching and planning. Instead of moving towards our goals, sometimes we take unnecessary or ineffective action steps that deviate from our goals. Soon, we feel lost, overwhelmed, and frustrated and we stop taking action.
To overcome this, take the existing systems, models, and structures that other successful people are already using and apply to your work or life. This is how I gain momentum in blogging. I started writing for Lifehack a few years ago. From the platform, not only did I learn how to write a proper blog post, I learn other things such as finding images, keywords research, marketing, and etc. Basically, I adopt their system and apply to my own blog.
Improve on other people’s system and
customize to your own needs.
INFJ perfectionism is not that useful when it comes to creating and starting new things, it’s more useful when it is used to recreating and improving existing things. There are many systems out there, from health to wealth, from relationship to spirituality. Even MBTI and Enneagram are personality systems that can help you to discover more about yourself and understand how to relate to others better.
So choose a system that resonates with you and start with it first so that you don’t procrastinate and delay on taking action. However, you don’t have to follow it completely. In fact, customize and improve on it to perfection to suit your own needs. This is how INFJ perfectionism can come into play and be used to our advantage.
If you want to find out more about how to love yourself as an INFJ, be sure to download my free eBook called Self-Acceptance for INFJs.