Nooo! It’s the “S” word!

Seriously though, I’ve never hated the idea of structure. In my mind, structure is a way to regularly show up for what is important to me.

But the reality is that as an INFP, it is really challenging to create daily structure that works because I’m naturally spontaneous, and I hate feeling suffocated.

However lately, I’ve discovered some concepts for structuring my day that don’t make me feel as restricted. So I’m excited to share this with you. Much of the inspiration for my daily schedule comes from the book The Power of When by Micheal Breus.

I’m not obsessive about following my chronotype perfectly (I’m a Dolphin, BTW), but learning more about chronotypes and natural cycles has helped me to build a simple, three part structure for my day that is flexible, enjoyable, and helps me to show up daily for what’s important to me.

Picture: How I Create Gentle Daily Structure as an INFP

Here’s My Current Daily Structure

I’ve found that my day works best when I divide it into these three parts:

  • Action and focus. Includes chores, being creative, working through to-dos, making plans, etc…

  • Receiving and connection. Includes reading, learning, watching stuff, being social, assisting others, etc… Can also include connecting with myself through art and journaling.

  • Relax, let go, restore. Includes gentle workouts, tidying spaces, taking a bath, journaling, checking in with my feelings, massage, aromatherapy, etc…

After being aware of the three modes of my day, I asked myself:

When do I feel the most ready to…

Take action, be creative, and do focused work?

Receive outside information and connect with others?

Relax, let go, and restore?

And to get more specific, I also asked:

What activities do I believe fit with…

Taking action, being creative, and focused?

Receiving and connecting?

Letting go and restoring?

After answering these questions, I found that I had created a daily framework that was flexible.

I’ve noticed that I’m the most ready to get things done after breakfast. After lunch, I tend to read a lot, and in the evenings, it’s important for me to let go of and process the day so I can get some sleep.

So my schedule looks like this:

Morning: Take action, be creative, and do focused work

Afternoon: Receive outside information and connect with others

Evening & Night: Relax, let go, and restore

This is a natural fit for me, and I’ve been enjoying approaching my days with this kind of rhythm so much. My day is split into “buckets” instead of specific tasks matched with a specific time, which gives me more freedom.

However, another person can take the same approach, but have a totally different schedule. If you’re the type of person who needs a slow and gentle start in the morning, your day may look like this instead:

Morning: Relax, let go, and restore

Afternoon: Take action, be creative, and do focused work

Evening: Receive outside information and connect with others

It’s easy to move things around to fit the needs of the day.

Other considerations

Make exceptions

I believe that the best structure has room for flexibility.

The exceptions I make for following my schedule include:

Dealing with feeling overwhelmed. When I’m overwhelmed, I need fresh air and space. Sticking strictly to a schedule is not that. So I allow myself to step away from doing stuff to enjoy nature or sit quietly with my thoughts.

Sometimes I feel tired and prone to being overwhelmed all day. On days like these, giving myself space, rest, and care is more important than following a schedule.

Needing to fill my well. As I’m still dealing with chronic pain, I’ve made it a rule that I cannot take on any tasks until I fill my well. Filling my well involves doing whatever I need to restore myself physically and emotionally so I have the energy to go through the day. There’s nothing worse than trying to get through the day on empty. I also allow myself to stop what I’m doing to take moments to refill myself as well.

Feeling called. Sometimes I have days where I feel like I’m being called to do stuff that is not on the schedule. I’ve found that when I pay attention to what’s calling me instead of being super strict with what I “have” to do, I end up feeling better about my day overall, even if I didn’t stick to the plan.

Following the flow. What if once in a while during “relax and restore” time, you notice that you’re actually in the mood for cleaning? Or socializing?

If you have the circumstances to indulge that, by all means go with it.

If you find yourself falling into a flow, ask yourself if you realistically have the time to honor that. If so, don’t hold yourself back just for the sake of fitting into a schedule. And if the circumstances aren’t right at the moment, you can find comfort in knowing that the right time for that task will come around.

Simplifying. Although my daily schedule is very simple, sometimes I feel moved to make it even more freeing. So I go from:

Morning: Take action, be creative, and do focused work

Afternoon: Receive outside information and connect with others

Evening: Relax, let go, and restore

To…

Morning: Do what makes me feel loved and free

Afternoon: Do what makes others feel loved and free

Evening: Do what makes me feel loved and free

Going this simple is good for days when I struggle to keep my daily structure in mind.

Take Note of Natural Cycles

The Power of When refers to an interesting study on moon cycles. Turns out, humans make the least melatonin during the full moon. This even happens if you’re fully indoors with no outdoors exposure.

So theoretically, the decrease in melatonin production leading up to the full moon means you’re more ready for action. Then the increase of melatonin production after the full moon means you’re more ready for rest, reflection and relaxing.

Other natural cycles to consider are seasonal cycles, and if you have periods like I do, menstrual cycles as well. For example, I know that during PMS, I cannot stick to a consistent schedule. I’m scattered and my memory is terrible. However once that passes, it’s easier for me to be more disciplined. In the winter I tend to be lethargic, and it’s the worst time of year for me to work on creative projects.

So take note of your natural rhythms. Knowing them can create some context around why activities that were easy before are suddenly difficult or why you feel a shift in energy.

What if you have little control over your daily schedule?

I’m very fortunate right now to have pretty much total control over my day. This definitely wasn’t the case a few years ago. If you don’t have much control over your schedule, try to adding little elements of these activities to parts of your day:

Can you take 10 minutes to do chores or be creative in the morning?

Can you do a little bit of reading or chat with others during lunch?

Can you take 10 minutes to journal before bed?

This can be especially powerful if you include meaningful activities that you would like to show up for every day, even if for a little while. Although your schedule is mostly out of your hands, you can still do what it takes to nourish yourself.