I’m a Myers-Briggs type ENFP. As with any personality type, there are positive and negatives to this: on the one hand, I can be passionate, relationship-oriented, good at improvising, and creative; on the other hand I can be disorganized, procrastinating, impractical, and bad at planning ahead (Anyone else with a “P” in their type, and ESPECIALLY a “P” with an “N” shares these difficulties.)
I have always felt like I’m always late, always behind, and always a mess. Now, that was okay when the mess was confined to my childhood room or my high school locker. I was the only one who suffered for it. But adults are usually responsible for other people. In growing up, and especially in becoming a mother, I’ve had to learn how to get things done. Here are the strategies that have helped me:
- Get rid of things that “don’t spark joy.” Now, I don’t follow all of Marie Kondo’s specific guidelines (I’m still an “NP,” after all!) but when there are drastically less things to clean and organize, and you really love the things you do have, taking care of them feels much more manageable.
- Stick to structures, not schedules. I’ve often tried to make detailed daily schedules for myself assuming they would solve all my problems. The problem is that strict schedules sap my joy; they make me feel trapped and like a failure when I inevitably don’t adhere. But I also know that some amount of structure and routine is healthy for everyone— especially my kids. So, we have some basic set time periods like prayer time, nap time, meal times, and bedtime, but I rarely schedule specifics, hour by hour. Instead, I start the day with a short list of a few things that just need to happen that day, and then I allow myself the freedom to decide when those things happen.
- But make some things non-negotiable. Everyday I must sit down and read with my homeschooled preschooler. I must pray. I must make the bed and clean the counters. And if I don’t do these sorts of non-negotiables, I need to admit and accept that it’s because of laziness or willful distractedness. Not because of my personality or my circumstances. It’s important to distinguish between an improvising, spontaneous personality and simple bad habits. And it’s important to make sure I feel some good old-fashioned guilt for those bad habits.
- Make someone hold me accountable. My husband is not a “P” and so he’s better at this stuff than I am. Whenever I make a commitment or a plan I always ask him to proactively help me stick to it. He won’t ever nag me on his own accord, but I frequently ask him to!
- Be obsessively limited with Internet usage. These days it’s so easy for anyone to be distracted by the Internet. But if you’re a head-in-the-clouds “NP” you’re even more likely to get whisked away on some Pinterest or blog trail journey when you should be paying bills or cleaning the kitchen or trimming tiny fingernails. Treat the Internet like it can ruin you. Like it’s potentially toxic. Set ridiculous limits and stick to them. Have someone hold you accountable with this too.
- Don’t excuse vice as personality, but don’t treat personality like vice. Until I got to college, I went through this same thing every August: I’d buy a pretty planner and pretty pens and commit myself to writing in it every day, beautifully, like all the other girls did year after year. But year after year, I’d make it to September. The handwriting would get messy, I’d lose the pens, and eventually I’d lose the planner or I’d end up using it for writing little poems. I still get that planner urge every now and then, especially as a mother. But I’ve found that focusing on these exterior qualities of organized people is just another way to distract myself from acquiring their virtues. Discipline is what I need— not a pretty planner (although I still envy those who have one!) I can be an ENFP, making last minute plans for the way we spend our morning or preferring to improvise on the piano than to read music— as long as I figure out how to show up when I say I will and keep my house clean.
image source: http://anneofgreengables.com/articles/what-does-anne-of-green-gables-look-like/
Brenda Steele says
A very interesting read, Elizabeth! It prompted me to take the Myers-Briggs personality test as well. Ouch! I’m grateful that those who respond to the personality types mix in plenty of the “good” along with the “weaknesses” in their results 🙂
Eileen Nielsen says
Thanks for this encouragement. I am a very tired “P”, who works hard at keeping up in a “J” world. My creative side suffers since I often too tired to create at the end of the day. The Internet is toxic for ENFPs and our tendency to follow all the rabbit trails in life and study. Continue your blog, it is a much welcomed voice of for those of us “P” trying hard in this “J” world.
Elizabeth Hanna Pham says
Yes I do think restraint with the internet is harder for ENFPs! I actually recently got off social media completely and it has helped so much. My INFJ husband barely even used social media when he did have it (he also has deleted his.) But, for me, it was just too much!
This is great advice Elizabeth. So helpful for a guilt ridden enfp like myself. I need to remember when I procrastinate that it’s laziness and not my personality
Elizabeth Hanna Pham says
It’s not an easy thing to remember!