An insightful journey into personality
The relationship between an individual’s personality type and his or her organizing and time management style.
I recently conducted a survey to look at the relationship between an individual’s personality type and his or her organizing and time management style, and noticed that the majority of participants said they have a calendar system that works for them. As there are so many time management systems available, both paper-based and electronic, I thought it would be interesting to find out which calendar systems are most popular with each personality type, and asked my ezine subscribers and visitors to my website to describe their time management system, what they like and dislike about it, and their personality type according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®). The MBTI measures your preferences in four areas:
Because the Judging / Perceiving preference pertains to the way you deal with the outer world, it has the greatest influence on the way you manage time and space, however, the other preferences also come into play. Your preferences in the four areas listed above combine to form one of 16 different personality types.
This article is a summary of the responses I received, according to the participants' stated personality type. Where specific time management products were named, this information has been included.
Due to their preference for planning and their attention to detail, the Sensing Judging types are generally considered natural organizers with a strong attachment to schedules and deadlines. Most formal time management systems on the market were designed by and for SJ types.
Although one ISTJ participant stated that he doesn’t use a time management system at all, the others showed a preference for a paper-based system. Most like the week-at-a-glance format, either the Day Runner® or the Taylor Planner®, because it allows them to visualize what they have to do. One student supplements her daily planner with a wall-mounted dry-erase calendar as well as a dry-erase board containing her weekly time map.
ISFJ participants also showed a preference for a paper-based system. Although one stated that she loves technology and was given a Palm Pilot®, she has no desire to give up her Day-Timer®, which has a monthly calendar that allows her to see her commitments at a glance. It also includes two pages for each day, with space for a to-do list and daily schedule, as well as blank space for jotting down phone messages and important thoughts. Others are less concerned with scheduling, but use daily to-do lists.
The only ESFJ who responded to the survey indicated a preference for the Palm Pilot®, which allows her to easily search for and retrieve information and to sync with her Outlook® calendar. She prefers to use paper for ideas that she needs to "sketch" visually and for face-to-face situations with clients where the Palm Pilot® might seem a distraction or even rude.
Unfortunately, no ESTJ's took part in the survey, but according to Sandra Krebs Hirsch & Jean Kummerow, authors of LifeTypes, and Larry Demarest, author of Out of Time: How the Sixteen Types Manage Their Time and Work, ESTJ's like to-do lists and use a calendar or planner to keep track of what has been done and what still needs to be addressed. ESTJ's typically plan thoroughly, scheduling preparation time for meetings as well as for the meeting itself.
Although a wide variety of systems were reported, due to their preference for Intuition, INtuitive Feeling types generally prefer time management systems that allow them to see the big picture.
ENFP's reported using multiple calendars for different functions. One uses a Palm Pilot® for scheduling, but creates a daily to-do list using Microsoft Word®, so that she can cross out tasks as she completes them. Another uses an electronic calendar and task list along with a manual tickler file consisting of a folder for each day of the month and a folder for each month, where she keeps all the paperwork to back up her electronic system. A third uses a Day-Timer® system, one page per day, folio size, with monthly calendar inserts to keep on track, along with a calendar on the kitchen fridge to keep track of family activities.
INFP's had the widest participation rate in the survey, and reported a variety of time management system preferences, encompassing both paper-based and electronic systems. One successfully manages her busy schedule with a PDA to schedule personal and private practice appointments. She schedules job appointments on her computer at work using Outlook® and syncs her PDA and work computer upon arrival and again before leaving work. Another uses the Palm Pilot® for scheduling and alarms, along with Microsoft Streets and Trips® to find locations and download to the PDA. She likes the ability to print her calendar and have the entire month in front of her.
Another uses a Franklin Planner® “when she thinks of it,” sometimes recording tasks that have been completed, in case she need to remember when she started something, and uses the Microsoft Works® calendar occasionally as well. One INFP designed her own multi-ring planning system.
All INFJ participants identified very strong preferences in terms of their time management tools, although their preferences varied widely, and included both paper-based and electronic systems. One likes the compactness, durability, and portability of her black leather Day-Timer®, in the week-at-a-glance format. She doesn’t feel her computer is reliable enough to use as a time management tool. Another tried using the Outlook® calendar, but found it wasn’t functional for her, since she isn’t always at her computer. She believes a PDA would be useful as it would allow her to easily transfer information between the two, but until she can afford one, she uses paper Day-Timers®, one page per day format. She likes the monthly planner for seeing the whole picture and the one page per day gives her enough space to "explode the detail" when necessary. She also keeps a family calendar in the kitchen. Yet another makes maximum use of technology, combining a Palm Pilot® with desktop contact management software, and synchronizing the two regularly.
The only ENFJ participant uses Outlook® combined with a Palm V®. She likes the ability to set recurring meetings and dates like birthdays, organize a list of tasks and memos by category, flag email for follow up, and set reminders. Other benefits she enjoys include only having to handle paper when she chooses to print something, and the Palm®'s compactness. On the downside, she mentions the Palm's fragility and the risk of losing data.
Individuals with preferences for iNtuition and Thinking also reported using a wide variety of time management tools.
All of the ENTJ's who participated in this survey reported using a combination of paper and electronic systems. One prints her own calendar from MS Outlook® on Day-Timer® computer paper (Desk size, 7-hole punched) and uses several of the Day-Timer® accessories that are available. Another uses a combination of "brain power, paper calendar and electronic organizer".
ENTP's reported a distinct preference for portable electronic systems. One found a Palm Pilot® to be effective because she could sync it with her computer, but no longer has the technology available to her. She has had little success with paper calendars. Another uses a Palm Zire71® with the Palm Desktop® system. The features she considers most important are the color screen, the ability to take hand-written notes, and alarms and snooze buttons. She found that a paper planner was too much trouble to carry around.
INTJ's, on the other hand, showed a preference for paper-based planners. One stated a reluctance “to go the Blackberry® route” because she likes to flip ahead to whole weeks of appointments and to staple information to pages in preparation for various events.
As no INTP's responded to the survey, I will share the following quotation from Larry Demarest’s Out of Time:
INTP's tend to be conceptual planners – their plans being neither specific nor fully developed. They work in blocks of time, and what gets written down may be sketchy and seem incomplete. INTPs are not likely to use the planning categories, structure, or systems provided by the manufacturer of an organizer (unless it somehow happened to make good sense to a particular individual). Like many other aspects of life, most INTP's will find their own way of planning and organizing. (Though, this may not be typical, one INTP reported using three calendars – two electronic and one hard copy).
As I found with my previous surveys on organizing and time management, not many people with preferences for Sensing and Perceiving responded. It may be that as action-oriented, spontaneous individuals, they are not likely to be interested in doing Internet surveys or in the topic of time management itself.
In fact, the only SP respondent, an ISTP, said about time management, “I think those words do not go together for my type.” She uses a thin 2-year monthly at-a glance calendar, and writes appointments with a time and an initial e.g. 5-T, which is enough to remind her. She puts labels of frequently called names, addresses, and numbers in the back and keeps a paper clip at the front to attach temporary notes.
In Out of Time, Larry Demarest states that ISFP's keep track of what needs to be done in a variety of different ways. Some use the popular calendars and organizers while others attend to due dates and plan for the priorities, leaving considerable leeway to be flexible and spontaneous about remaining work.
Demarest also states that many ESTP's don’t use a calendar or planner and that those who do tend to use them selectively. For example, one reported using a planner for work but not for his social or personal life. Another records only the important activities for each day. Some think and work in terms of chunks of time rather than hour-by-hour. ESTP's also report using electronic calendars and organizers.
ESFP's keep track of their work, according to Demarest, in a variety of ways, ranging from the prevalent, more formal systems and computer calendars to relying on reminders from team members and keeping a simple to-do list or a mental list.
Before the new year arrives, take some time to evaluate your current time management system, and if it’s not working for you, consider what other people of your personality type find effective. If you’ve never taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, maybe it’s time that you discovered the many ways that a deeper understanding of yourself can benefit you, both personally and professionally.
Although there are many online assessments claiming to be the same as the MBTI®, the best way to understand your personality type is to take an official MBTI® instrument from a professional who has met the standards necessary to be "qualified" to administer the test.
Further Reading: Out of Time: How the Sixteen Types Manage Their Time and Work by Larry Demarest. LifeTypes by Sandra Krebs Hirsch & Jean Kummerow