As individuals, we all function differently. Our ways of working are determined by our productivity styles, which refer to the way our brain is wired to process information, solve problems and complete tasks. That said, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting things done, but we can tap into knowledge and tools that make the most of our innate tendencies.
Consultant Carson Tate developed these productivity styles, saying, “When you begin organizing your life and work according to the natural preferences of your style, you are likely to find yourself relaxing and enjoying the sensation of truly being in the driver’s seat of your life rather than struggling with the tension that arises from fighting against your preferred thinking style.”
There are four main productivity styles, according to Tate: the PRIORITIZER, the PLANNER, the ARRANGER and the VISUALIZER. Want to know yours?
Take the QUIZ here: hbr.org/2015/01/assessment-whats-your-personal-productivity-style
Here are the hallmarks of each particular style.
Characteristics: Logical, analytical, fact-oriented, realistic, efficient
The Prioritizer is a highly efficient worker who moves with decisiveness. Built with a keen sense of what matters most, the Prioritizer can zero in on the primary task and complete large amounts of work in a short span of time. They’re laser-focused on outcomes and love to dive deep into the data. Walk into their office, and you’re likely to find a professional setup that is functional, clean, and free of excessive decorations.
• Determining the level of importance of each task and project
• Analyzing and solving problems
• Goal-oriented, consistent, decisive
• Tendency to be controlling and rigid
• Excessive competitiveness
• Valuing speed over excellence
• Focusing on project over process
Communication style: Always focused on doing work quickly and effectively, the Prioritizer would rather skip the chit-chat—just give them the facts. Never one to overshare personal information, they may keep conversations short, and even their emails typically contain only a few sentences. The Prioritizer can give and receive feedback without any emotion attached to it.
Because they focus on data, Prioritizers tend to ask “what” questions: What are the facts? What’s the bottom line? What is the margin of error?
Characteristics: Organized, detail-oriented, conscientious, punctual
The Planner has a penchant for schedules, list-making, and deadlines (which they never miss!). As such, they’re excellent project managers. When planning any project, they’re particularly conscientious about sticking to the rules, regulations and protocol. Their workspace is pragmatic and free of clutter, and it’s not unusual to find framed degrees or certifications proudly displayed on their walls.
• A bias toward action, consistency and practicality
• Spotting the flaws in plans or processes
• Keeping data organized
• Creating thorough processes and plans
• Might miss opportunities because they don’t want to deviate from the plan
• Lack of spontaneity
• Excessive attachment to the outcome
• Valuing process over project
Communication style: There’s nothing a Planner loves more than schedules and action plans. If you want to get the point across to a Planner, do it in writing and make it detailed and step by step.
Because they focus on process, Planners tend to ask “how” questions: How will we complete these tasks? How will we resolve this issue? How can we improve this process?
Characteristics: Expressive, supportive, collaborative, team-oriented
Expression, emotion, and teamwork fuel the Arranger. They love to collaborate with others on projects, and with every decision, they strive to understand how a choice will affect everyone involved. Much like their productivity style, an Arranger’s office is welcoming and filled with personal touches—from family photos to music to artwork.
• Effective communication
• Awareness of others’ emotions
• A strong intuition
• Missing key details because of incomplete planning
• Lack of awareness of how their style affects others
• Excessive involvement with people; taking too much responsibility for other people’s problems
• Nearsighted, losing focus on the end results
• Valuing people over project
Communication style: Talkative and warm, the Arranger prefers in-person conversations where they can make full use of their body language and tone of voice to connect with their teammates. They tell stories to get their point across and like to know how a project or task will affect others.
Because they focus on people, Arrangers tend to ask “who” questions: Who’s involved with this project? Who’s in favor of this decision? Who can help with this task?
Characteristics: Holistic, intuitive, integrating, synthesizing, big-picture thinking
Often serving as a catalyst for change, the Visualizer keeps their eyes on the big picture and dislikes being bogged down by details, structure, and tradition. They have a knack for connecting seemingly disparate pieces of information and can run wild with creativity. Peer into their office, and you’re likely to find a desk piled high with papers, personal items, and collectibles.
• Seeing the big picture
• Creative problem-solving
• Tendency to overlook the details
• May fail to plan ahead and end up turning in work late
• Excessive spontaneity and impulsiveness
• Valuing possibilities over process
Communication style: Not surprisingly, the Visualizer likes to use visual words when communicating, such as “see,” “envision” and “the big picture.” Using metaphors and visual aids will help get your message across to the Visualizer. Further, the Visualizer appreciates knowing how a task or project will fit into the overarching goals of your company.
While you may have a preference for a particular productivity style, remember that it does not define you! You can always cherry-pick strategies from other productivity styles that work well for you and make you even more productive.