[Today's email is by Rakshith, my partner at Gentle Bamboo]
I have made a profound observation about myself.
Set me a 4-month deadline to complete a project and I will use all 4 months with my efficiency peaking in the last 3 days. Set me a 5-day deadline and I will use all 5 days with my efficiency peaking in the last 3 days.
So, while I tend to think about projects for a long time, I tend to work best on them at the last minute. Now, I formally start work on projects late. I also work best when I am constantly switching between projects. The cross-pollination of ideas from different projects informs and fuels my thinking and decision-making.
Over the last year, I’ve been thinking this is not good and I’ve tried different apps and methods to bring more discipline to my work. While these apps and methods have conferred varying degrees of success and peace of mind, I’ve now come to the conclusion that I don’t need to change my “Time Personality.” I work well when I am involved in multiple tasks and I’ve grown confident in my ability to deliver when I start late.
In conversing with friends, colleagues, and family, I found people who prefer other time personalities. So, I’ve mapped them along 4 quadrants in a 2X2 matrix. On the X-axis is your task orientation and on the Y-axis is when you formally start working on the project.
Please note, a late starter under this definition is not someone who only works at the last minute. A late starter is someone who reaches peak efficiency at the last minute. For example, if I have to write a report and I have 4 days to do so, I spend 3 days reading, researching, working on other projects, finding all sorts of excuses to not put pen on paper while continuously fretting about having no clue what to do – but on day 4 miraculously, as I put pen on paper, clarity emerges from the fog of chaos.
By this 2×2 matrix, I believe there are 4-time personalities for any task:
- The Laser Beam: Prefers to intensely focus on one task at a time, start early and finish early. Do not want the pressure of deadlines. Seek perfection.
- The Clockwatcher: Prefer to focus on one task at a time. Irritated when I have to do more. Not particularly interested or able to do that task. Find it hard to motivate yourself towards that task.
- The Firefighter: Achieves peak efficiency at the last minute. Giving them more time for a task is not the best use of their time. Do not seek perfection in the first attempt. Flexible.
- The Enthusiast: Early starter with a multi-task orientation. Typically starts the task with great enthusiasm. Finds it hard to sustain motivation till the end.
I don’t believe one type is better than the other. I also don’t believe we approach all tasks the same way. But I do believe that we all have a preference for one style over the other – one style that is our "home". What time personality is your home?