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Why Do INTPs Procrastinate?

clock with post-it notes

Time management is a skill that some people are adept at. Such individuals tend to be prompt, organized and reliable in most aspects of their lives. They follow through on their commitments and adhere to schedules and plans. In the MBTI, these traits are characteristic of judging types such as INTJ, ISTJ, ESTJ, etc. Their structured and efficient approach to tasks, allow judgers to be highly productive and successful in both academic and occupational endeavors.

INTPs, despite being vaunted as one of the most intelligent and creative personality types, carries a reputation for underachievement. According to data collected across multiple sources, INTPs come out as the 6th lowest-earning personality type on average and they have been rated by psychologists as being among the 3 types most likely to have trouble in school (Roberds-Baxter & Baxter, 1994). In a study of middle school students, INTPs were also found to have lower grades than would be expected based on aptitude scores.

MBTI salary

MBTI salary – Business Insider

INTP Problems With Procrastination

So why do INTPs underperform? Are they just lazy? The reasons may vary, but INTP procrastination might be one of the greatest impediments to their own ambition. INTPs have an ‘all or nothing’ attitude and their strong interests often have a monopoly on their time and mental energy. Along with other perceiving types, INTPs can spend endless hours immersed in the things that interest them but when it comes to other responsibilities (boring, mundane, repetitive responsibilities they see little value in doing), they can’t seem to muster the motivation until it becomes a state of emergency.

The notion that the INTP is smart but lazy likely stems from the way INTPs prioritize their time. They prefer to either tackle tedious tasks all at once or postpone them indefinitely. When it comes to deadlines, INTPs have a tendency to avoid taking action until they are mentally ready to stage an all out effort attempting to complete the mission in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, even if they manage to accomplish the objective, the quality of the end result may be less than what could have been achieved had they allowed themselves more time.

INTPs would rather cook up an ingenious time-saving and labor-saving device, if they could,  to spare them the tedium of menial chore work. This ironically, would almost certainly require far more work and effort than if they were to just complete the simple task. This attitude is evidenced by a study in which INTPs were found to be the type most highly represented among “casual inventors” (people who indicated they spent approximately 40 hours a month working on their inventions). This, if nothing else, shows that INTPs do have the wherewithal to take their ideas and work to materialize them.

How The INTP Brain Works

INTJs like to put work before play and INTPs put play before work. When INTP is busy with their priorities, trash and dirty laundry will go ignored until they reach critical mass. INTPs have a high tolerance for disorder and disarray in their personal work environment and there are studies that have affirmed this. The INTP’s preoccupation with their thoughts and focus on abstraction makes their immediate environment nothing more than background noise.

INTP attention to detail fluctuates from razor sharp to wantonly slipshod. Although INTPs are precise with language and reasoning, they are prone to making careless errors in regard to physical tasks including that of grammatical oversights. Additionally, INTPs become very distractible when doing tasks that are detail oriented. Their minds wander away from these activities to more mentally stimulating pastures until suddenly they realize they’ve poured too much milk into their cereal and the bowl runneth over.

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INTPs lack of organization and absentminded forgetfulness compromises their ability to fulfill responsibilities. Although organizational discipline can be learned, it’s a struggle for INTPs and however long they manage to sustain it, they will likely revert to their natural instincts. It’s like training a dog to walk on it’s hind legs. It could become quite good at it, but in the end they are anatomically better and more efficient when on all fours. Being overly organized probably comes at some cost to the INTP’s creative temperament but a healthy balance can certainly be achieved.


On paper, the INTP personality looks a lot like a description of someone with ADHD, or more specifically ADD. According to WebMD, ADD is subset of ADHD without the hyperactivity/impulsivity component. Many symptoms of ADD coincide with descriptions of the INTP and “NPs” in general including their lack of focus on tasks that require extended time and effort. People with ADD are seen as often daydreaming and in their own world. They are inattentive and easily sidetracked.

Symptoms of ADD:

  • Trouble paying attention (easily side-tracked)
  • Doesn’t like or avoids long mental tasks (such as homework)
  • Trouble staying on task during school, at home, or even at play
  • Disorganized and seems forgetful
  • Doesn’t appear to listen when directly spoken to
  • Doesn’t pay close attention to details
  • Loses things often
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Struggles to follow through with instructions
  • Difficulty maintaining focus
  • Making careless mistakes; poor attention to detail
  • Complaints of being bored
  • Appearing unmotivated or apathetic
  • Being tired, sluggish or slow moving
  • Appearing “spacey” or preoccupied
  • A short attention span for regular, routine, everyday tasks (homework, chores, etc.)
  • Distractibility
  • Organization problems (like having a messy room, always running late, etc.)
  • Procrastination
  • Problems with follow-through
  • Poor impulse control (saying or doing something before thinking it through)

The traits of ADD are more often found in introverts. ADHD by contrast exhibits a more fidgety and attention-seeking form of inattentiveness that is distinct from regular ADD. ADHD people are restless and children with it are often squirming, tapping, talking and behaving inappropriately with poor impulse control. A study found that children diagnosed with ADD were 72% introverted while children diagnosed with ADHD were 60% extraverted. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, ADHD symptoms in children include:

  • Fidget and squirm in their seats
  • Leave their seats in situations when staying seated is expected, such as in the classroom or in the office
  • Run or dash around or climb in situations where it is inappropriate or, in teens and adults, often feel restless
  • Be unable to play or engage in hobbies quietly
  • Be constantly in motion or “on the go,” or act as if “driven by a motor”
  • Talk nonstop
  • Blurt out an answer before a question has been completed, finish other people’s sentences, or speak without waiting for a turn in conversation
  • Have trouble waiting his or her turn
  • Interrupt or intrude on others, for example in conversations, games, or activities

INTP Overthinking

INTP critical thinking ability is probably unmatched by any other MBTI type. INTPs in their ability to assess things from many different angles and viewpoints may often suffer from “analysis paralysis”. Analysis paralysis is basically an inability to take any decisive course of action because of option overload. It just so happens that INTPs have the ability to assess a multitude of contingencies and possible pathways but the INTP may feel there is always a better one or they may foresee how each one could go wrong. This dilemma of the INTP thinking too much can manifest into neuroticism and INTP negative thinking that may become self-defeating.

Many INTPs are absent-minded professors who would be content to while away their time pondering the mysteries of the universe like some lazy genius. INTPs have a busy thought life and they exhaustively obsess over problems, analyze ideas and arguments, and generate new ones of their own. The INTP thinking face is like a less menacing version of the INTJ death stare.

They are “thinking machines” but it is hard for others to appreciate this as work because it all takes place discreetly in the INTP’s mind. There is often nothing to show for all the mental work INTP performs because for the most part, the act of creating concepts and understanding them is an end unto itself. The process of actually testing out those ideas in the real world is a whole other bag of tricks the INTP may prefer outsourcing to someone else.

INTP and Organization

INTP can deal with procrastination a number of ways. Even though INTPs are inherently disinterested in following a regimented lifestyle, this does not discount the fact that incorporating a more systematic approach and adopting disciplined habits can increase their productivity and efficiency. Sure, they may have to forego their bohemian lifestyle temporarily, but when it comes to getting things done, the utility of having organization skill is worth it.

Many INTP need structure and there are various ways of helping the INTP get organized. For one, they can break down larger tasks into smaller bite sized goals and begin chipping away at them as soon as possible. They should work out a realistic schedule and make a serious effort to stick to it. Allot time for a focused work session interspersed with short breaks to allow the INTP brain to reset. Too much time spent doing one thing and the ol’ INTP brain fog will start to set in (either that or ADHD).

Tips To Overcome INTP Procrastination:

Don’t Catastrophize – A common reason why people procrastinate is because they fear the long and arduous drudgery associated with the task before them. They anticipate the misery they will endure and the pain it will supposedly cause them. This mindset generally exaggerates the actual situation. Get rid of the gloom and doom view and recognize that it’s probably not nearly as bad as you might make it out to be. Take it as a challenge and attack it with force.

Focus On Why It Must Be Done – Remind yourself of the consequences of not doing the task sooner rather than later and assess what’s really at stake. You may be minimizing the necessity of the task and erroneously overlooking or undervaluing it’s importance. Think of the benefits of completing the task and how good it will feel to have it done and over with.

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Mark Your Calendar – Plan ahead and clear your schedule to set aside time specifically for that task. This allows you to prepare mentally in advance for productive work sessions.

Chunk it – Break up large tasks into smaller manageable chunks. Doing things at the last minute puts unnecessary pressure on procrastinators. Give yourself sufficient time to whittle away at the task and focus on smaller portions at a time. This will save yourself a lot of time and stress and make the task easier to tackle.

Optimize Your Environment – Don’t underestimate the power of a tidy work space. A cluttered work area makes for a cluttered mind, as they say. Even though INTPs are often too engrossed with other things to even notice the chaos and disorder around them, an orderly and clean work environment can have an anodyne effect on the mind and probably remove distractions that could disrupt focus.

Forget Perfectionism – Sometimes, perfectionism is to blame for why people put things off longer than they should. Perfectionism can set too high a bar such that the possibility of not being able to reach it justifies not attempting to at all. It might be helpful to just throw those lofty expectations right out the window and give it your best. Just get it done and move on, there’s no need to torture yourself.

Reward Yourself – Give yourself a little incentive to get started by treating yourself upon reaching significant milestones of progress. Or just promise yourself a reward at the end, you’ll definitely be more motivated to reach the finish line once you know there is a something good waiting for you.


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Jetta Moon

One thought on “Why Do INTPs Procrastinate?

  1. The thing about “time saving inventions” hit close too home for me. When I was 9, I rigged my light switch up so that I could turn it off from bed after finishing reading my book or working on my own. The thing is, it took me about 3 and a half hours to get working. All that to avoid 5 seconds of work by just getting up and doing it like everyone else.

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