Q: Dear Julie, I get really frustrated with myself when it comes to getting tasks done. Sometimes I’m really in the flow and can get a ton of things done at once. But most of the time it’s excruciating to try and get myself to take action when I know I should be doing something. I always get my tasks done on time, and I always do them well; I’m just annoyed with how long it takes me to get started a lot of the time. Is there any way to motivate myself to shift into gear on command? ~INTJ
A: Actually, as an INTJ, it’s not your functional makeup to charge quickly into action to get tasks done as they arise. That’s the realm of the dominant Te. Our society rather glorifies the Te. It’s the function that pulls itself up by its bootstraps, takes charge and makes it happen, wraps things up quickly and efficiently with no loose ends, and moves on to the next project. Te is the “Just Do It” function, the executive function.
Since this behavior is idealized in our society, we’re all encouraged to act this way, even if Te isn’t our dominant function. Many of us have spent miserable years in the work force trying to pretend we are dominant Te to fulfill expectations! So, in a way, you’re lucky if you have a dominant Te in our society. Of course, society is also quick to turn around and bite the Te for doing its job, calling it overly aggressive and bossy, especially if it should happen to be dominant in a female.
The rest of us without a dominant Te are meant to function according to our own set of dominant and subsequent functions. As an INTJ, your dominant function is Ni (intuition) and Te (organizing) is your auxiliary function. As you’ve noticed, you do have the ability to kick your secondary Te into action and mow through a To Do list, but it’s not your first reaction.
Your first priority is to mull your projects over in your unconscious, slowly digesting them in the background while you attend to other things. From a traditional Te view, it will look like you are not working on the project, but you are… unconsciously! No, that’s not just a cop out. This is how introverted intuition works — it is always synthesizing the information that comes in through perception, sifting it, sorting it, teasing out the connections, building an interconnected web of understanding. Until suddenly, the critical piece falls into place and you know what needs to be done.
That’s when your Te kicks in. She says, ah ha! Finally the plan has been uncovered and I can run in and implement it and get this job completed. If you ask her to do the job before she gets this guidance from your intuition, she’s going to drag her heels. She’s letting you know through her obstinacy that your Ni isn’t done yet and you’re going to waste her time forcing her to work on the project now before the information is all sorted out. If there’s anything Te hates, it’s wasting time! So when you feel this inertia against starting a project, it’s not Te who you should be bugging, it’s your intuition!
There are some ways of nudging intuition along. I’ve found, for example, that she works really well when you otherwise occupy yourself with something mundane, like doing the dishes and laundry (ha! and you thought you could use this post to get away with lazing about!). She (or he) also enjoys things like gardening or walks, or other activities that get you out in nature. Lazing about works too.
She needs a lot of sleep. In fact, she’ll often speak to you in dreams, so it can be helpful to keep a dream journal. You can also use a technique called “active imagination” to give her ways to speak to you. One way to do this is by having a conversation in your head. Think, write, or talk out both sides of the conversation with yourself. Yep, talking to yourself is a sign that you can converse with your unconscious!
If you let your lower functions get involved, Ni can team up with Fi while sorting things out. Fi (values) will make sure you are taking the human aspect into consideration as you formulate your plans. The typical INTJ “evil genius” is usually neglecting his Fi. Then when you work on the project, you can let Se (presence) team up with Te to make the work more fun!
To sum up, for the INTJ, it’s more important to take time to allow your intuition to work before jumping into completing a task.