Article: "Hey, What's Your Time Sign?"

We all seek to be productive and manage our time well,
but how we do it will vary from person to person,
according to individual personalities. You may observe
the way someone approaches a project, for example, and
think, “That’s not the way I would have done it.” One
person might go around and talk to others, bouncing ideas
off them, while you like to work independently at first and
collect all the data you will need. You are both productive
and get the project accomplished; you just went about it

Here are some examples of different time style challenges
from my readers:

· “Clients, consultants and suppliers look to me for
answers and I tend to linger on the process longer than
necessary. They are paying (in one way or another) for
results and I sometimes get lost in the “how to” longer
than I should, because it’s fascinating. When I lack (or fall
down with my) personal discipline I get behind the
proverbial “8” ball.”

· “It seems that I get bored unless I am running around
in 3 directions at once but at the same time it is the running
around in 3 different directions that causes me to miss so
much sleep at night.”

· “Other people come to me for help with ideas or
projects that my work has generated (P.R., magazine
articles, etc), and while this networking often benefits me
in the long run, it kills my routine in the office. I am a
social person, and spend time visiting with other people. I
verbally process new ideas, and this networking gives me
more ideas for innovation, and it energizes me.”

It’s only be understanding your time style that you can
self-correct your weaknesses and capitalize on your
strengths. In addition, by observing and understanding
other people on your time, you can best determine how to
work with them.

Though there are variations on all of these, I’ve observed
four major time management styles over the years, each
with different characteristics and motivations. We all need
to understand our time effective assets and our time
ineffective liabilities.

Here’s how to use this information:

1. Read through the “Four Time Styles” and determine
which best describes you
2. Check those time ineffective liabilities that apply to
3. Come up with an action plan on how you can improve
your time management by highlighting your strengths and
controlling your trouble spots
4. Go back to the “Four Time Styles” and identify others
on your team or department
5. Go to the section called “How to Work with Others”
and read the suggestions there to work more effectively
with others.

The Four Time Styles

1. Bulldozer

Description: Suzanne is a hard-working, go-go type of
person, who likes to push hard and accomplish a lot of
things during the day. She gets great satisfaction in
checking things off her list. Time gives her an opportunity
to accomplish her many projects, goals, and objectives.
Her team views her as a great achiever, but she sometimes
rolls over them on her quest to complete her tasks.
Suzanne is frequently impatient when someone interrupts
her from her current activity.

Behavioral Cues:
· Makes quick decisions
· Likes to be in charge
· Is task-oriented and doesn’t have patience for process
· Focused on goals

Time motivation: Bulldozers are highly motivated by
feelings of success.

Time effective assets:
· Active and energetic when given a project
· Gets to the finish line first: likes to win!
· Sees things through to completion, as quickly as
· Assertive when deadlines are involved
· Highly productive; gets many things accomplished
· Carry tasks to completion without being reminded

Time ineffective liabilities:
· Pushes through problems in the way of achieving
· Can be insensitive and overlook interpersonal factors
· Can actually slow down a project if pushes too hard;
causes resistance
· Often perplexed or frustrated by people who need
time to think; impatient
· Resentful when others take time for themselves
· Can neglect important details or close off valuable
input from others, being forced to backtrack
· Quality sometimes suffers for quantity; result is more
important than the means
· Takes on too much work and experiences burnout;
may juggle too much

2. Energizer Bunnies

Description: Chris loves to have a good time at work. He
looks forward to his day and is excited about all the things
he will accomplish. Time is like a bottom-less fount, just
waiting for him to fill it. When giving a new project, he
looks at it like an adventure and enthusiastically jumps in.
He loves to think of creative solutions and loves the
experience of putting new ideas in motion. Life is fun and
work is a social event. He loves people and thrives on
where the action is, so he likes to create conversation and
bounce ideas off others. He’s very open to other’s ideas,
and the exchange is very fun. When a conclusion is
reached, it’s almost a downer, because now he’ll actually
have to do some work to implement it. When he finishes a
task, he loves people telling him how wonderful he is.

Behavioral Cues:
· Chatty and expressive
· Persuasive and motivational
· Fun-loving and adventurous
· Fast-paced and energetic

Motivation: They are highly motivated by the presence of
many options.

Time effective assets:
· Inspires others to get excited about a new task
· Generates options and alternatives
· Spontaneity is engaging and motivating when a team
gets bogged down on a project
· Enjoys guilt-free play
· Creative; good at brainstorming ideas and options
· Thinks of better ways to do things
· Handles multiple projects easily; always has
something going on

Time ineffective liabilities:
· Long on ideas, but short on the follow-through
· Finds it tedious to complete the work required to
finish a project
· Frequently interrupts others “just to chat” about ideas
· Has difficulty focusing and switches spontaneously
from task to task
· Doesn’t know when to stop talking about work and
get down to business; can make others feel impatient to
get started
· Too much socializing; doesn’t know when to leave
· Gets distracted from high priority tasks when a new
idea hits
· Not attentive to details: doesn’t want to write the
procedure, just be the idea person
· Can be messy and have a disorganized office

3. Harmonicas

Description: Sarah has lots of friends at work, and
everyone likes her. She operates at a slow but steady pace.
She gathers input from the entire team before proceeding
and takes the time necessary to make correct decisions that
allow everyone to win. Sarah is very process-oriented
when making decisions: everyone’s questions must be
answered and everyone’s goals must be met. She doesn’t
make decisions until she considers everyone’s needs, so it
can take her an hour to make a ten-minute decision (she
would feel just AWFUL if she hurt anyone’s feelings).
Sarah is a hard worker and will work diligently to
implement solutions the team came up with, even if she
doesn’t necessary agree with the course of action. If it’s for
the good of the team, she’s on board. They are much better
at detail than the Energizer Bunnies and much more
tolerable than the Bulldozers.

Behavioral Cues:
· Good listener
· Team player
· Focuses on process
· Takes time to make decisions
· Doesn’t like change

Motivation: They are highly motivated by the presence of

Time effective assets:
· Ensures buy-in from the entire team and includes
everyone’s opinions
· Less rework, since everyone’s input is considered the
first time
· A hard worker
· Low conflict: will handle the task your way
· Helps others and pitches in where needed

Time ineffective liabilities:
· Takes longer to make a decision
· Completes a task the way someone else wants it done,
even if it doesn’t make sense or they might do it differently
· Might harbor resentment or grudges for picking up
slack where others are goofing off; may “tolerate” too long
· Complains inwardly but won’t take action; passive
· May resist change and be an obstacle in trying
something different; doesn’t want to “rock the boat”
· Helps others too much and doesn’t have enough time
for own work
· Keeps opinions and ideas inside, for fear of upsetting
· Doesn’t get to work quickly

4. Cerebrals

Description: Tom feels dominated by time: there is never
enough of it! He is quite the perfectionist and never feels
like there’s enough time to get things right. Tom always
pushes for extended deadlines, because he knows it will
take more time than he’s been given. When Tom
completes a project, he always has a vague sense of
dissatisfaction, knowing it could have been better if he had
more time. He gets frustrated in meetings by people who
make decisions too quickly, because obviously they
haven’t considered all the data and facts. He logically
approaches problems, coming up with all the pros and
cons of every alternative. When he finally makes a
recommendation, he’s 100% sure he’s correct. He is very
organized and thorough and has exacting expectations of
himself. Tom is rather quiet and doesn’t display much
emotion; he’s rather private and would prefer to work
alone. During team discussions, he holds back his
opinions, and you get the distinct impression he’s
considering everyone’s ideas. When he finally speaks,
everyone listens, because he’s generally right on target.

Behavioral Cues:
· Analytical
· Logical
· Thorough
· Step-by-step
· Rational
· Organized

Motivation: They are motivated by principles, values and
doing things well.

Time effective assets:
· Thorough, with great attention to detail
· Organized; good sense of order; every item is in its
· Good at making a team look at all the facts
· Perfect person to delegate a complex problem
requiring extensive investigation of the facts
· More concerned with doing a job right than doing it
· Quality control
· Follows procedures step by step, to the letter of the
· When delegating work, provides precise instructions
on how to proceed
· Speeds up team meetings by sticking to the agenda

Time ineffective liabilities:
· Procrastinate because of fear of failure
· Too much attention to detail: gets bogged down and
loses sight of the goal
· Often overwhelmed with “half done” projects
· Takes too long to make simple decisions
· Doesn’t know when “to leave good enough alone”
· Perfectionist, may drag when it’s time to hand in a
· Not open to new ways of accomplishing a task
· Can seem aloof and non-caring by people who thrive
on relationships
· May require too much data and information: doesn’t
get off ground zero
· May be too hard on self
· Looks on expression of feeling as irrational;
insensitive to others

Which one describes you? You might have recognized
yourself in several different categories; indeed, we are all
four-styled people to a certain extent. But one fit you
better than the others. Just one time style slipped on as
smoothly and naturally as a good-fitting glove.

How to Work with Others

How to work with Bulldozers: If you give this person a
project, you will need to sit them down and establish
priorities. They will get it done, but tell them your
expectations of the QUALITY of the result, if the outcome
isn’t speed. Be direct, brief, and to the point when
providing information. Touch on the high points, rather
than giving a detailed, data-rich history. Bulldozers don’t
like a lot of chitchat, so focus on the task and get down to

How to work with Energizer Bunnies: Recognize that this
person will be very excited about new projects you give
them, and that you must stress the importance of seeing it
through to the end. Set milestones and check in with them
frequently to ensure they don’t procrastinate until the very
end. Don’t give them too many options; they tend to bite
off more than they can chew. Set deadlines and specify
exactly what you want the result to look like. An
Energizer Bunny will want to chitchat, so allow time in
your schedule to socialize when you delegate. They will
enjoy kicking ideas around with you in the beginning, so
be forthcoming with all your ideas and possible
approaches. Upon successful completion of a task,
provide opportunities for recognition and reward.

How to work with Harmonicas: Do your homework
upfront and check with a few people on the team before
approaching this person. How do others feel? Who has
done this before and experienced success? Give them
projects that aren’t time-crunched that require more input
and consensus. Have them chair cross-functional task
forces or committees that stretch across departments. They
are good team builders and can rally support of large
groups of people and get them going in the same
direction. If you have the time, these people will ensure it
gets done right the first time. Be patient with them when
talking and allow time for discussion. Relax, because
you’re going to be there a while. Harmonicas will ask you
lots of questions, but will rarely offer opinions of their
own. So be sure to draw out their opinions and directly
ask what they think. When a change is coming down the
pipeline, involving them right upfront in the planning
process will make it less scary down the road.

How to work with Cerebrals: If you give these people
projects, they will take it on and do it perfectly and
thoroughly. However, it can take longer than you
anticipated. So you need to set a deadline for
accomplishment. Spell out the procedure exactly and put
limits on the project. Without specific direction, Cerebrals
will give 110% to a project only requiring 75% effort.
Allow time for them to think; don’t demand an answer “off
the cuff.” Use data and facts and examine an argument
from all sides. When delegating work or interrupting
them for a question, keep on task and don’t socialize.
Don’t take it personally if a Cerebral disagrees with you;
it’s the facts that are wrong, not the person.

Which is the Best Style?

The bottom line is that no one style is the “correct” style;
no one way is the “right” way to do things (although YOU
probably think so). Optimally, you’d like to have a mix of
time styles in a team. If you had all Bulldozers on a team,
everyone would want to be in charge, but there would be
no one to do the work. If you had all Energizer Bunnies on
a team, wow, you’d sure have a great time and come up
with fabulous ideas, but nothing would get done. If you
had all Harmonicas on a team, you would never leave the
meeting because everyone would be so busy being polite
to other people and making sure they’ve been heard. If
you had all Cerebrals on a team, it would take forever to
consider all the pros and cons of every alternative and the
result would never be “good enough” to be finished with
the task.

ACTION: In your next staff meeting, talk with you team
members about the four time styles, have them each self-
identify a style, put it up on easel paper, and discuss how
you will try harder to understand one another and work
more productively as a team.

© Copyright 2003 Laura Stack, MBA, CSP. All rights
reserved. Portions of this newsletter may be reprinted in
your organization or association newsletter, provided the
following credit line is present:

"Laura M. Stack, MBA, CSP, is “The Productivity PRO,"®
helping people leave the office earlier, with less stress, and
more to show for it. She presents keynotes and seminars
on time management, information overload, and personal
productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or
[email protected]"