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Know Your Personality Type to Get Control of Your Time

If you accept, as experts increasingly do, that a culture of interruptions is the biggest culprit in wasting people’s time and spoiling their job satisfaction, your next question is logical: How do I eliminate wasteful interruptions in my day?

The short answer is: Identify your biggest Time Bandits, then learn how to do three things. Make them realize that it is in their best interest that you work uninterrupted as needed. Maintain your concentration when you need it. Allocate to your true priorities the time you have recovered from interruptions you no longer suffer. (Well, I did say short, not simple. You could write a book on that short answer, and in fact I did.)

But the full answer takes into consideration a crucial fact whenever individuals try to change their behavior: Different strokes for different folks. To solve your interruption problems, you need to understand what kind of person you are and, if possible, your Time Bandits’ type(s).


You know how you feel when you see your time slipping away, but other types might experience that same problem in a very different way. If you know what makes your boss panic, or what makes your assistant feel like she can’t get her arms around your assignments, or why some colleagues find your work habits hard to deal with – then you can change the way you deal with them. You can negotiate ways of working that are satisfying for both of you – so that all of you can control your time better.

So let’s look at some well-known types and how they operate together. The Meyer Friedman Types are one way of categorizing people – certainly generalizing but in a useful way.

I’m a Type B, my CFO is a Type A, and my wife is a Type C. What type are you?

– Type As are productive, aggressive, driven, and intense. When it comes to time, they tend to believe that there is simply never enough time in a day, week, month, or lifetime to do all that needs to get done within given deadlines. They rarely come across as relaxed and satisfied, but they accomplish a lot and they get a great deal out of life.

– Type Bs look at the same obligations and deadlines as Type As and draw the opposite conclusion. They are steadfastly confident that there is ample time to get everything done – and more. They often take on more than can get done, and have trouble with deadlines. Regardless, they seem to accomplish as much as As, appear happier about it, and even lead longer lives.

– Type Cs are perfectionists – orderly and organized, cautious and deliberate. They are satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, hence are never satisfied and often feel like failures about accomplishments that other Types would be proud of. They try to achieve total control over all they do by being extremely organized, but that takes time, so they are always pressed for time.

So what happens in our office when we face a critical deadline? I drive my CFO to distraction by cheerfully taking on all manner of other obligations, convinced there’s time for everything. He drives me to distraction by resisting schedule changes to our original work plan and by his palpable worry that we will compromise deadlines. When I review my wife’s writing, and am honestly blown away by her insights, she finds my sincere praise suspicious because she knows her work is not perfect. And needless to say, she bites her tongue when I start extemporizing about an idea that’s just occurring to me.

Know Your Type’s Time Management Challenges

– If you are a Type A, one of your time management challenges is learning to tolerate changes to your schedule that threaten the orderly approach you take to work. You have to discern when your Type B co-workers’ changes are useful and creative, versus pie-in-the sky.

– If you are a Type B, you have to be realistic about how much work you can actually accomplish in the time you have. Don’t be that Type B who upends the whole team at the last minute because you have cheerfully procrastinated, confident there was plenty of time, and now you realize you have one day to do something that needs a week. As for the Type As among your co-workers, realize that your “creative” approach to time will often strike them as insensitive and disturbing.

– If you are a Type C, you have to get on with your work even when you don’t have everything you feel you need to do a perfect job. Your Type B co-workers will expect delivery of work even when you can see it’s not perfect. Don’t let “perfect” be the enemy of “good,” as the saying goes. Your Type A co-workers will expect you to stick to agreed-upon schedules no matter how much polishing you’d prefer to do.

Know Your Type’s Concentration Challenges

Depending on your personality type, you’re going to face different challenges when you try to Time Lock and Focal Lock – that is, when you try to carve out a specific period of time to work without interruption and, during that Time Lock, concentrate on a specific topic without letting your mind wander.

– If you are a Type B like me, you are so confident that you can get everything done that you blithely interrupt your own Time Locks for new pursuits that float in over the transom: “Of course, bring it in – no problem – I can finish this other task easily before my deadline.

– If you are a Type A like my CFO, you unhappily interrupt your Time Lock over and over because of your anxiety about all the other tasks you’re neglecting when you Time Lock on just one. “Let me just quickly return that one client call because I know she gets impatient. Why don’t I quickly sign those documents so I don’t hold up my assistant. Oh, I wonder if the kids got home okay – I’ll just check on that…

– If you’re a Type C like my wife, you technically stay in your Time Lock, but it’s ruined by the nagging knowledge that what you’re doing has flaws or gaps. You find yourself consuming your Time Lock by perfecting its environment – better lighting, a cleaner screen, some white noise – or by endlessly clarifying the objective so you don’t make a mistake.

Consider Your Type’s Impact on Others’ Time

Imagine how different personality types can torment one another if they don’t understand these differences!

I may be a laid back Type B but when I work with my CFO and my behaviors create anxiety for him, it bounces back to me in what I call panic transference – like a non-smoker feeling the effects of secondhand smoke. While his entire history is one of meticulously meeting deadlines, there is never a moment when he is confident that there is enough time to do so. My blitheness only exacerbates his worry. His discomfort infects me. Thrown together under a looming deadline, we each find ourselves dedicating as much energy to calming the desperate child within us as we do to the work itself.

– If you are a Type A, your anxiety about deadlines and time will be contagious. Seek to convey calmness to your Type B and C colleagues. If they have a record of meeting deadlines, no matter how they have to scramble at the last minute, learn to count on them and not worry about the scrambling.

– If you are a Type B, your casual attitude just aggravates the anxiety of Type As and makes the Type Cs wonder if you’re paying attention. When you make commitments to Type As, bend over backwards to meet or even beat the deadline. For Type C colleagues, go the extra mile to meet their high expectations. It makes for a much more peaceful environment.

– If you’re a Type C, your focus on perfection can be frustrating for your co-workers. Some might even feel patronized by it. Accept that Type Bs produce solid work at the last minute. Accept that Type As work in planned stages and multiple drafts, so apportion your critiques accordingly.

The best teams probably have all the personality types, so, as the French so aptly put it: Vive la différence!

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About Edward G Brown

Edward G. Brown had no time to write this book, which is exactly why he wrote it. Bronx born and bred, he co-founded the #1 firm in culture change management consulting and training for the financial services industry, Cohen Brown Management Group, now in 50 countries and 12 languages. Its past and present clients include…