How Boring IS Routine Exactly?

When I was a teenager, I thought my mom was so boring because she had the same exact thing for breakfast every day. I saw people who did things on routines and thought of them as slaves, zombies walking among us.

If the teenaged INFP version of me could see what I’m turning into, he’d roll his eyes. I’m so “boring!” Routine and process thrive in my life. I’m married, have a child and have started running. I eat nearly the same thing for breakfast and lunch everyday. How far a fall from my rockstar dreams!

But here’s the thing. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Probably about a thousand times happier than he (the teenaged me) was.

He was miserable, did whatever he wanted, generally disliked people, drank, smoked pot, hated god, planned to be a rockstar and never did anything to achieve that goal.

I’ve probably lost more battles than I’ve won against myself. But some of the big ones – quitting drinking and losing 20 pounds would not be possible without routine.

It’s funny, because as much as I hate working, I’m learning to appreciate the structure it gives me and my day. If I have a particularly unhealthy weekend, I know that going back to work will get me back on track.

I’ve lived a very unhealthy lifestyle. I’ve done all sorts of stuff while working – I’ve drank, I’ve eaten heavy meals, I’ve had way too much caffeine, I’ve come to work completely hung over.

What those activities lead to is being tired, moody and unable to concentrate. That means I can’t do my job, I get in trouble, look like an idiot and feel like a failure.

So I introduced predictable meals for breakfast and lunch. I know that what I put in my body is healthy each day and I feel like I can do my job because I’m not constantly suffering a sugar, carb or caffeine crash

Every morning on my way to work, I read an instruction manual that I made for myself. It reminds me of the importance of staying away from alcohol, sugar and resisting temptation to slack off at work. It ends with a prayer. Sometimes I skim it, but on the days I read the whole thing, I’m definitely more productive! Someday I may post it so that I hopefully inspire you to do the same.

Here’s a homework assignment. Think about the routines in your life. Leave a comment and tell me what the routine is and how it keeps you on track or how it brings good things to your life. I know, my INFP friends, this probably sounds boring, but just try it! It might enlighten you.

22 thoughts on “How Boring IS Routine Exactly?”

  1. I have a love-hate relationship with routines. When I can’t escape them, I feel oppressed somehow. But when I make routines for myself, they become magically A-OK!

    Every morning I leave the house at 8am, no matter what. Whether it’s the gym, work, or a cafe to do some blogging, I need to be outside at 8am. Then I have to write something before 5pm, at which point I have to set time aside for my relationships. Even if I’m introverting, I force myself to step outside of my comfort zone for an hour or two, then I need a handful of hours to decompress from that.

    For someone who openly hates on routines, it’s hilarious how many mandatory routines I have in place!

  2. “Every morning on my way to work, I read an instruction manual that I made for myself.”

    Thank you! I am going to do this… I already have it started, scattered across various entries in my diary, but I will consolidate it and type it up in a nice font and actually read it.

  3. I totally agree. I love routine and stability and I recognize that I absolutely need it in my external life because I don’t have a strong internal ability to regulate myself well.

  4. Thanks Mike for this blog and your insightful entries. I’ve bookmarked the blog and look forward to more of your articles 🙂

  5. I can’t say that I have any opinion for or against routine. In some ways I have developed routines and in other ways grasping any kind of routine has been … well a struggle. Being a server, my work schedule tends to vary by a little bit depending on how busy things are. When I feel I need money I work more. I try to have one of either Saturday or Friday night off so I can hang out with my 9-5er friends. I also used to meet-up for a movie or something small on weekday nights back in the day.

    When I did have a regular schedule I work overnights and swing shifts. I had routine though that routine included a lot a lot of recovery sleep from the off schedule. I once had a 8am – 4pm job that I didn’t mind; it just didn’t last.

    In general, there are some routines that I am striving to adapt – namely a daily meditation and yoga / chi gong. Often, when I get up for work on an a day shift I don’t give myself enough time to even shower, let alone meditate. On the days that I work just night I tend to be lazy. I sleep in. I read stuff online. I play with my boy. I have sex, watch a movie, play outside, or things like that. Ultimately, I am very easily distracted from doing the things that I feel that I should be doing. I’m very much a “go with the flow” type. I also in a big proponent of getting the most out of as little effort as possible.

    As for the question at hand, even when I had a routine, I gave myself some time for simply “whatever I feel like.” My wife is an INFP also though and compared to her I seem to be the more structured checklisty one.

  6. I relate to all the above comments. Today I’m feeling a bit fearful and a bit stuck and thought the way out might be to behave like an ESTJ for a day (ONLY for a day!). While it’s right and good and liberating to honour your personality type, it’s also good to recognise where it might be causing you problems. So I sought out people today, focused what was in front of me, changed some of my thoughts and created some order. Worked well. I know that on other days being fully INFP will be what is needed.

  7. It is very interesting to read this…and I find it so relevant to my entire life, even though I have spent much of it “floating” from one job/opportunity to the next. The only clear consistency in each of my job choices was to try to maintain some structure in my life, as without it, I was far less productive, social or “happy”. The few instances I was allowed pure freedom for an extended period, I inevitably got myself into some sort of trouble. Not legal trouble, but trouble in/with relationships, too much drinking, overeating, or just reading and sleeping for days on end.

    At one point, I even got a dog so that I would be forced to go home after work instead of staying out too late. And, that same pooch (now 11 y/o) also makes sure that I get out 2X/day for walks. As difficult and boring as routine can be, it provides some automatic structure in my daily schedule: it gets me up early every day and gets me moving. Once I get started, it’s easier to maintain the momentum. I agree that getting rid of the alcohol, caffeine and sugar/carb rollercoaster helps immensely!

    I think that after setting up some sort of general “structure” and automation to the necessities of my day (book-ending with a morning routine/evening routine that encompasses healthy food, exercise, household chores, personal hygiene and plenty of sleep), I may at some point be able to maintain productivity in the middle and still be spontaneous and creative for much of my day, even if I worked at home (which I ultimately hope to do). So, the more automatic and “boring” my morning and evening are, the more fun I can have with my work during the day! However, I do find it really difficult to eat the same thing every day, so I rotate 3-4 breakfast meals and have about a 2-week rotation on dinner choices. And, I do not ever make *exactly* the same thing (to my husband’s dismay at times)….even if the majority of ingredients are the same.

    I apologize for the length of this, but this article took me by surprise as I had been debating whether I was INFP or INFJ…or something else altogether. Does anyone know of the most legitimate way to get accurate MBTI typing? I’ve read so much that now I feel more confused and unsure than ever!

    I will be reading more on this blog in the near future, regardless if I ever feel confident about my “type”… Good stuff.

    • hey. if you still don’t know your mbti, I recommend visiting a website called and reading about both types. there’s actually a huge difference plus if you want to retake the test for free, there’s an option on there as well. good luck 🙂

  8. I’m 56 and still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. Work is a drag and all I want to do is curl up with a good book. Isn’t there a career where I could get paid to do that? I bet that I’d start to hate reading if I got paid for it. Catch 22.

    You make a good point though. Routine helps. I hate wrestling with menus. If I find something I like at a restaurant, I just keep ordering it. I don’t want to waste time & energy choosing something else.

    I was happiest when I got laid off in ’91. I had a temp job doing payroll and accounts payable, subbing for someone who broke their leg. It was very routine. I wasn’t always trying to reinvent the wheel. Just get the bills paid. Then go sit in the park with my lunch & read a book. No real responsibilities, no wrestling with decisions.

    Are INFPs all averse to making decisions? If you throw three decisions at me at one, my brain goes into gridlock.

    I’m an accounting manager. Managing people is exhausting. I want to find something that will capitalize on my strengths an minimize my weaknesses.

    Thanks for the post on routine. I’ll have to see how I can work that into my day.

  9. I like some of the things u said here. I can relate. But now u just made me more depressed that you are making your life revolve around your work. How dreary

  10. This is just the wildest thing ever. For such a LONG LONG time I thought I was broken. I always float from one gig to the next NEVER satisfied, and always dreaming of the PERFECT job. The perfect job feels impossibly out of reach. I feel like if I ever achieved getting the perfect job, I wouldn’t even know what to do with it. Would I even be able to stick around for that?!

    I often feel paralyzed, and have no idea what to do with myself, and often feel like I am wasting my talents by being dormant in life. I feel limited by myself, and my inability to change, and take a more active approach on life.

    No wonder you started this blog! How refreshing and wonderful it is to hear people say things that mirror how you feel about yourself and your everyday struggles. I have NEVER met another INFP in life, and struggle, thinking I am the only one like me with this huge paralyzing burden I carry around with me.

    You are right, knowing yourself isn’t enough to fix anything, but now I know that I am NOT broken. There are people out in the world who see the world through eyes like my own, and struggle with the things I struggle with. It’s amazing!

    • “I often feel paralyzed, and have no idea what to do with myself, and often feel like I am wasting my talents by being dormant in life. I feel limited by myself, and my inability to change, and take a more active approach on life”

      Great way of putting it Christine, I feel exactly the same.

  11. Hi! I can totally relate to this post. I am 32 and am going back to school to get an engineering degree. I used to be really lost in all sorts of ways, similar to what you’ve described here in your post. I found through my first full-time job that routine (or at least a good degree of accountability) are good for my emotional and mental state of being. I would rather be an artist of some kind, but I am at the point in my life where I need and want to be stable. I was so obsessed with finding a way to actualize my artistic, independent self-image that I was at a complete standstill. I completely lost sight of the big picture (for me), which was to simply go after a tangible, practical career goal and become an “adult” so that I could achieve feelings of self-worth and independence (my most important ideals in life).

    I think a career can provide us with a strong level of stability. I am excited to be on my way to a somewhat predictable career that will utilize my analytical side while providing me with the means to pursue my artistic interests on the side. Why didn’t I come to this conclusion ten years ago? If only … 🙂

    • “I was so obsessed with finding a way to actualize my artistic, independent self-image that I was at a complete standstill.”

      Wow Erin this really spoke to me! I spend almost every day dreaming of being a music or visual artist but never seem to take any action to move in that direction. Or if I do it is a painfully slow process to actually get anything done because I overthink the creative process so much and in the end just get sick of whatever I am working on and move on to something else. It actually gets really exhausting. I am 27 and taking a year off work to “find” myself but I do worry that at the end of this year I will be in the exacts same place!! Am I too old to stop dreaming??

  12. I am a INFP and can totally relate to your life before the routine. I am so against routines but I find myself more miserable than productive. I don’t know what’s up with the rebellion to the idea of it. I am married (3 years) and my husband keeps a routine and is very productive with it. After reading this I think I will give it a fair shot. I guess I want to stay true to who I am but maybe I’m not if it’s not offering anything of value to my life. Thanks for the post.

    • I’m glad to hear it Tiffany! We like to think of ourselves as “free souls” but I think of this as just another way that I lack self discipline.

      If you’re like me, you’ll go balls to the wall and try to put routine in place all over the place. You’ll soon give up because it’s too hard to maintain and keep doing all of these things.

      So start with one thing. Make a list of all of the problems you have, how many can be helped with routine and what the routine might be.

      Then look for something that seems relatively easy with a high payoff. Master it. Do it for months until you do it automatically. Then reflect on how much good it did in your life. Just don’t do what I frequently do and imagine it taking days to accomplish. Also, if you stop doing it, look at the chaos it created in your life.

      I’d say routine is essential to not going crazy with children. My wife is due in 3 weeks with our second child. I will be pulling out all of the stops to make sure we have good routines for getting bottles in the middle of the night and getting the baby back to sleep. I’m the bottle cleaner and the first time around I had a nice process to clean all of the bottles quicker each night. These little processes clear up your time so that you actually have some to yourself!

  13. I enjoy routine at work purely because I can then give it as little energy as possible. Ha! I know that sounds bad – and I’m actually very good at my job, honest – but it’s the only reason I haven’t looked into working for myself from home. While my desire to be at home is extremely strong, I know that I’d have to “put myself out there” and be highly motivated to obtain & maintain a customer base. With my current job, as much as I don’t wanna go I simply show up, work til it’s quitting time, and get paid with benefits. A routine paycheck is good and it’s the sole reason I do it.

  14. For me, waking up early (6:30 or 7) to make coffee, write a journal entry, and read the news has been a wonderful way to start the day. I hate the feeling of waking up and going straight to work, maybe for the very reason that I find work to be less inspiring that it could be. It also helps me get an early bed, and helps me feel like I am learning something new every day and progressing toward greater knowledge and self-awareness. At least that’s what I tell myself….

    John Henderson

    • Wow, thank you for all this info! I am an INFP and struggleing with working from hone vs working in an office. My desire to be constantly creative and work off of gut and instinct has me a bit perplexed about what direction to go in.

      I like the benefits of having a steady paycheck…. But I fight the daily grind to do the same thing over and over. What does a broke INFP wonen do? I think…. Get a job and fight to make the daily exoectations as an employee.

    • I agree with you, John. In the last year, I found myself getting up earlier and earlier so that I can squeeze in just these sorts of activities BEFORE I go to work. Morning has become my favorite time of day, even though I get up at 4:00. I read the news, write when I am inspired to, have a leisurely cup of tea, walk the dog, shower, make breakfast, and spend a little time coming up with a new and creative “look” using what clothing I have around….or in my husband’s closet, for that matter 😉 Rushing off to work puts me in the worst possible frame of mind. I’ll even take vacation time to get these things if I happen to get up too late (which hasn’t happened since giving up alcohol, caffeine and sugar!). I have to have my “mornings”, now. It is also the only time I am guaranteed to be alone during the day, so it is precious!

  15. I am currently experiencing the exact same appreciation for routines! Being married to an engineer and three children have done it to me, but now I enjoy the safety of predictable days, a healthy balance and a designated time to get things done. Sometimes I miss the freedom of my younger spontaneity and adventurous spirit, but I am finding a lot of contentment in the simplicity of our days.


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