Why is my working style slow and scattered? And most confusing of all, non-linear?

INFPs tend to have a scattered thinking style due to extroverted intuition. I've noticed that when I force myself to work linearly--working on a project by going to point A to point B to point C and so on-- I get things done faster, but I often miss details. On the other hand, working with my natural rhythms is slower because my brain goes from A to D to F and then to D. And maybe A. Or it might introduce letter Z...you get what I mean. This circular way of thinking allows me to catch little details and come up with new ideas in the process, but I don't get results as fast as when I'm working sequentially.

Being an intuitive introvert means thinking deeply, which takes more time. And I'm highly sensitive on top of that, which means I notice more details than the average person, so I have MORE to think deeply about.

Being slow isn't a bad thing, because that means you notice the details. And being scattered isn't so bad either, because that means you're using divergent thinking which is great for creativity. But it can be a challenge to get a grip on things...

How I've Tried to Work With It

Have a Map

A map can tell you where to go. When working on a project, try to figure out what steps you need to take. If your brain is spitting out steps and to-dos in a random order, try:

  • On a piece of paper, write the steps as they come, spreading them out randomly. Sort of like a mind map. 
  • Draw arrows between the steps to get a better idea of how they relate to each other. 
  • Number each of the steps to create order and so you can have an idea of what direction to travel in. 
I've found that making my map on paper works the best. I can see my ideas more clearly. For some inspiration on how to map out notes and ideas on paper, I recommend checking out how to create sketchnotes

When I'm in a pinch--like if I'm getting ton of ideas and the quickest tool I have on hand is the computer--then I'll let go of my paper only preference and make a digital mind-map. OneNote is my favorite digital tool. I can randomly write my ideas on the page without having to draw circles around them, and then I organize by coloring coding, boxes, and arrows. Plus, OneNote has rainbow, galaxy and rose gold pens!😍So what's not to love? When paper isn't an option, I use OneNote. 

Ask Questions and Write Them Down

Questions are great because they make your brain more aware of missing information. When you write your questions, your mind starts to work on finding answers, even when you're not fully conscious of it.

I recently tried a technique like this when re-planning a story I'm working on.

One day I would write: What does the main character want?

And then I would write an answer.

The next day I would write: Why do they want that? What do they hope to gain?

And I would write the answer to that.

Even if I wasn't sure that I liked the answers I had at the moment, I would write them anyways. Then my mind had time to think over the answers and come up with a better solution if I needed to. Thanks to this process, I was able create a cohesive story plot without much effort.

Another nice thing about questions is that they can be asked in a linear way. When plotting my story, I went though questions that I needed to have answered at the start of the story, at middle of story and at the end of the story.  Asking questions and trying to find answers is also a good way to move forward when you feel stuck.

So maybe an approach to try is to first create a map with numbered steps. And then ask and answer multiple questions about each step over a period of time, if necessary.

Be Patient

It can take time for your mind to find answers to the questions you have about your projects. Don't rush it. Give your mind working space instead. That's why I only answered a few burning questions about my story in progress per day. I was surprised that when the next day came around, I had more good solutions and ideas waiting for me.

Ways to give your mind working space:

  • Work on other, non-related things
  • Go for a walk
  • Schedule time to do nothing
  • Take a bath or shower
  • Go outside, watch nature, enjoy the sun.
  • Do menial mindless chores like vacuuming, washing dishes, etc..

Get Good at Stitching

Sort of related to creating a map. Take note of your various thoughts, and see how you can tie them together. See if any thoughts that come up answer the questions you have about your projects.For example, if snippets of story keep popping into your mind, write them down and see how they relate to each other. Also, see if those scenes answer any of the questions that you have about your story.

A notebook with perforated tear away pages is a good friend to have when trying to find relationships between more lengthy, detailed thoughts. You can rip them out and group similar concepts together or arrange them in a sequential order or whatever you need to do to make sense of them. Index cards can be another option.

Find the Rhythm

Now that you've harnessed your thoughts, it's time to get started. I soooo wish there was an easier way, but so far the most effective way I've found to get into a groove with my projects is to work on them a little bit every day--especially if it's a big project. For smaller projects, working on it for a set day once a week or once a month is good enough.

With inspiration from Creativity Takes Courage by Irene Smit & Astrid Van Der Hulst, I also try to figure out the smallest task I can do with little to no effort.

For example, not too long ago I started working on the script for a new manga. My goal starting out? To write one line of dialog every day after breakfast.

It took me less than two minutes, but even that little bit of progress felt great. The thing is some days are busier than others. Some days I have the time work on a comic script for an hour. Other days, I'm doing good to get in five minutes.

The important thing is that by committing myself to the most microscopic tasks of my project, I can work on it every day, even if I'm busy.

So this is how I try to add some control to my scattered way of working on things. If I find any more helpful tips, I'll share them. And if you've found anything helpful, feel free to share in the comments.