Creatures of Habit
Routine, for some people, is reassuring. Sticking to a regular routine can help ensure that all the responsibilities of the day get taken care of in a timely, efficient manner. For others, routine is the enemy of freedom, creativity, and spontaneity. While creatures of habit like schedules, patterns, and processes, others prefer to depart from consistency and improvise at points in their day.
To what extent does personality type influence our feelings about routine? We asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “You like having a routine you do not deviate from.” The overall agreement was neutral: 50% of readers agreed on average. But looking at individual personality types, there were few neutral results – most types had stronger opinions about the concept of sticking to a routine, as shown in the chart below.
While the Tactics aspect was the key to this survey (with Judging types being the most likely to agree), every personality aspect except Nature played an important role, indicating that there are other reasons, beyond a general preference for planning and structure, why certain personality types like having a routine. Let’s take a closer look at this idea below.
Sentinels (69% agreeing)
The phrase “creatures of habit” might remind you of Sentinels right away, and indeed, Sentinels generally do like routine – a function of their core Judging trait, which is all about planning ahead, staying organized, and creating structure and stability. Overall, Judging personalities (67%) were 34% more likely than their Prospecting counterparts (33%) to agree. Sentinels also share the Observant trait, which means that they’re practical and they tend to form strong habits. Meticulous in their methods, Sentinels stay on track by maintaining a consistent routine, an effective approach but one that can sometimes make them vulnerable to inflexibility.
Logisticians (ISTJ) (81%) were the most likely of all personality types to agree with our statement. Patient and responsible, Logisticians thrive in structured environments where they can keep things running smoothly. These self-sufficient personalities often prefer to do things on their own, so being in charge of their own routine is a great way to satisfy their need for autonomy as well as make sure that they’re meeting all their obligations and achieving their goals.
As an example, consider Hermione Granger, the Logistician member of the trio of best friends in the Harry Potter series. Academically motivated and highly organized, Hermione runs a pretty tight ship at Hogwarts, drawing up strict study schedules not just for herself but for Harry and Ron too. Putting forth anything less than her best is unacceptable to her and following a routine helps her stay at the top of her game. Still, while Hermione may be a stickler for routine, even she recognizes the importance of occasionally throwing the schedule out the window and throwing on Harry’s invisibility cloak to chase a mystery or solve a problem.
Analysts and Diplomats (45% and 43%)
You might be surprised to see that Analysts agreed at the second-highest rate – after all, aren’t Analysts the personalities who are always rejecting rules and restrictions? In fact, Analysts were quite divided in their responses, mainly by the Tactics aspect. Architects (INTJ) (69%), as Judging types who like to have a plan and a strategy for everything, also tend to like to stick to routines, whereas Debaters (ENTP) (27%) are Prospecting types who need freedom to test their ideas and hate being bogged down by the daily grind. In general, as Intuitive personalities, Analysts do need more space in their lives for creativity and exploration and thus, as a group, lean slightly toward a dislike of routine.
Intuitive Diplomats tend to be somewhat averse to routine for the same reason. Again, this Role was divided by the Tactics aspect. Diplomats’ Intuitive–Feeling combination of personality traits may explain their slightly lower agreement compared to Analysts. Diplomats may be more willing to stray from routine in order to address the immediate needs of a group or project, to accommodate others’ schedules or ideas, or simply to go where their emotions take them. Many Diplomats would rather focus on the journey as opposed to the destination.
Of all the personality types, free-spirited Campaigners (ENFP) (25%) proved to be the least likely to follow strict routines. Imaginative and independent, Campaigners need freedom and flexibility to thrive. In the right environment, their unstructured approach can be a real asset that helps them juggle priorities, come up with innovative solutions, and inspire others. In a restrictive, routine-oriented setting, however – like a typical nine-to-five office job – Campaigners’ aversion to routine can become seriously distracting.
Michael Scott, everyone’s favorite Campaigner boss from the TV show The Office, is a great example of this. Well-intentioned as he may be, Michael’s unwillingness to stick to a routine and his boredom with the workaday drudgery of his job drive him on an almost daily basis to resort to zany antics for entertainment, to invent unnecessary meetings and projects, and to engage in other disruptive behaviors that prevent him and his employees from being productive at work.
Although Observant Explorers, like Sentinels, are pragmatic and form strong habits, they also have the Prospecting personality trait, which means that they vastly prefer spontaneity and improvisation to planning. A certain amount of routine may be just fine with many Explorers – it’s the idea of not deviating from routine that will really trouble them. To feel comfortable, Explorers simply have to have the sort of flexibility that allows them to seize opportunities and live life to the fullest. While this approach often works for Explorers, it sometimes means that they have difficulty following through with their responsibilities.
Constant Improvement (60% agreeing)
Introverts were more likely than Extraverts to agree that they like maintaining a routine and not deviating from it (57% vs. 44% agreeing, respectively), as were Turbulent personalities compared to Assertive personalities (55% vs. 44%).
Routine may be especially appealing to Constant Improvers for a couple of reasons. First, as Introverts, they need quiet time alone to decompress from their day, something that is easier said than done. Consciously scheduling that time into a regular routine can be important for helping these personalities feel refreshed and ready to go. Second, because of their Turbulent Identity, life can sometimes feel unsteady for Constant Improvers, especially when emotions are running high. Routine can be an important strategy for introducing stability, reducing stress, and ultimately improving their own performance, whether at school, at work, or at home.
Confident Individualism and Social Engagement (51% and 48%)
For Confident Individualists and Social Engagers, the Mind and Identity personality aspects offset themselves, resulting in more neutral overall responses. Independent Confident Individualists, who like to do things their own way, show a slight preference for routine, while Social Engagers, who like to be stimulated by the outside world, show a slight dislike of routine. But for both of these Strategies, the Tactics aspect is still going to be the greatest factor in how they feel about routine. An Assertive Defender (ISFJ-A) (69%), for instance, is still going to be much more attached to routine than an Assertive Logician (INTP-A) (25%).
People Mastery (40%)
People Masters were the least likely personalities to say they stick to a rigid routine. As Extraverts, People Masters recognize that spontaneity can open doors to new experiences and social opportunities, and they may find the inward focus involved in following a routine somewhat boring. People Masters also feel confident that they can handle any unexpected situations that may arise when they deviate from routine, thanks to their Assertive Identity. People Masters are more willing to go with the flow and may feel that routine can be counterproductive to things they’re most interested in, like meeting new people, developing personal relationships, and rallying others around a goal.
Sticking with a routine isn’t as effortless or enjoyable for some personalities as it is for others. Persistence and flexibility are major factors in how comfortable we are with routine. It’s one thing to create a schedule or a process, and another to actually follow it and appreciate the intentions behind such organizational strategies. As creatures of habit, some personalities, like Sentinels, feel right at home in the structure of a routine, while others, like Explorers, may make a routine of avoiding routine.
Whether you prefer the predictability of a well-laid plan or the opportunities that arise from taking each day as it comes, efficiency and productivity are important. It’s up to each individual to decide if a routine adds to the day’s possibilities or takes them away.
How do you feel about routine? Do you consider it an indispensable tool, a necessary evil, a frustrating limitation, or something else? Let us know in the comments below.