From the outside in




As an INFP, I have external space that’s a physical reflection of my internal space. For some INFPs, that external space might be their writing table or a reading nook. It could be as small as a shoebox of memories to sort or as large as their entire house. For me, that external space is my home office.

Since I only get things organized to a certain point inside my head, my office has never been completely organized. I have piles. Stuff gets put away to a certain point but I’ve always had orphaned piles that have no place to go. Much like the thoughts in my head.

In my internal space, my current projects are those piles in need of organization. At any given time, I’m migrating between multiple projects, but as I go from working on one to another, they never quite get put away in my head. So as I’m working on one project, I might get an idea for something else. Those projects are like separate piles occupying my brain and sometimes the piles fall onto each other.

There’s a max limit of things that can occupy internal focus. I can shift focus between four or five current projects. Any more than that and there’s external bleed over. That’s when I can’t get all the thoughts and to do’s for each project organized in my head, and my external space starts getting messier and messier. At a certain point of physical disarray in my home office environment, I realize that I need to step back and clean my office. Somehow the act of sitting in the midst of my piles, I start to clear my head as I put piles in the trashcan, the give-away box or in their place.

I’ve been thinking about this phenomena lately and whether it derives from being an INFP or if it’s just a personal quirk. As an INFP, I don’t prioritize personal projects because they’re all important to me or I wouldn’t be doing them. They’re all what I consider “growth” project because some aspect doing the project helps me grow into my Ideal Self.

I have no problem prioritizing non-personal projects like house maintenance or my dayjob projects. So why don’t I finish my personal projects one at a time? It’s like weight training. No one goes to the gym and works out just their arms for a month until they can curl a set weight before going to the next body part.

As I get older, I’ve learned to set a time limit on how long I spend to complete milestones in a project. If I haven’t hit my targets, I go back and re-evaluate in order to figure out what results I’m really trying to achieve. If I’m not getting a project done and my office is getting messier then it’s mostly likely that even though I may be getting what I thought I wanted, I’m not getting what I really wanted so I delay and procrastinate. That re-evaluation process is where I decide if there’s a better way or a better project to get what I want.

Usually this happens after I clean my room. I guess my mom was right.

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8 Responses to “From the outside in”

  1. Crysti Couture

    Jan 26, 2010

    11:33 am

    I love how you can really analyze your self in this post! It is definetly hard for me to set a certain time for milestones. I usually just keep going until I complete it.

    Coincidence, as an INFP we are labeled as ‘writers’ and through writing about my results, so many other INFP’s both on Twitter and the Blogosphere have responded to my little post!

    “Shoebox of memories to sort or as large as their entire house” made me smile, I’ve got a vintage traveling trunk full of photos, my son’s hospital tags from when he was born, and hundreds of carefully organized letters from high school!


    ockhamdesign Reply:

    For me, “until I complete it” can take years and some things just drag on and on.

    I see INFPs get labeled as ‘flaky artist types’ whether it be writer, photographer, poets, etc. That’s such a generalization for me. We are flaky artist types, but we’re not ONLY flaky artist types. It’s just a part of us, not the whole.

    So do the things that needs to be put in your traveling trunk pile up as you end up taking on too many things?


  2. Lindsey

    Jan 26, 2010

    2:55 pm

    Most INFP writing on the web is either of the “aren’t we special and wonderful?” variety, or the “help I’m a basket case let me tell you about it ad nauseam” sort. I deeply appreciate your blog because you are writing about the day-to-day, about keeping on an even keel, about understanding your own weaknesses and making the most of your strengths. I’m at a time in my life when I need to stop trying to fit into the mold of other personality types and find balance in who I am. Thank you for modeling this here. Every post gives me another little spark of much-needed insight into what it means to be a functional, contented INFP.


    ockhamdesign Reply:

    I appreciate your comment. I read so many INFP blogs and forum posts hoping to figure out what to write about that would be useful.

    I love personality psychology. I’ve also read a zillion self-help books since I was 20. Some of those books are really amazing, but a lot of what they teach would be awesome for me if I was an ENTJ or an ESFJ. All my blog posts so far have been leading towards figuring out how I can communicate what I’ve learned so it works for INFPs.


    Lindsey Reply:

    If you’re finding anything out there (especially on the web) that might be useful to the rest of us, please consider doing a post about it, or adding a “recommended reading” area to your sidebar!


    Sue London Reply:

    One of my favorite books out of the kajillion I’ve read is “Finding Your Own North Star” by Martha Beck. Have you read that one?


    ockhamdesign Reply:

    No I have’t read that one yet. I’m currently reading 9 Things You Simply Must Do by Henry Cloud.

    I still ove all the Tony Robbins stuff from his beginnings neuro-linguistics programming to his current result-based methodology. Tony Robbins work really changed my life at 20.

    I’m still enamored with all the Brian Tracy stuff, especially his Luck Factor. I like the Robert Kiyosaki stuff even though it’s very finance oriented.

    Sue London Reply:

    Yep, me with the Tony Robbins, too! Haven’t read Brian Tracy or much Robert Kiyosaki. New things to read! Yes, we obviously need a place to list this stuff…

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