What’s Your Time Style Preference?

Whether you know it or not, you have a preference in regards to managing your time. It’s no different than liking pineapple on your pizza or preferring period dramas to sitcoms. It’s just part of who you are.

Those who struggle with time management often either don’t understand their time style preferences or actively try to work against it because they think the way they’re doing it is wrong.

The Time & Space Style Inventory (TSSI™) was developed by Cena Block, founder of Sane Spaces. This simple assessment asks you a series of questions in order to identify your preferences for managing time and space. If you haven’t already taken it, I encourage you to do so – because once you learn to work with your preferences instead of against them, your job gets a lot easier.

The TSSI identifies six different time style preferences: Hopper™, Hyperfocus™, Big Picture™, Perfectionist Plus™, Impulsive™, and Cliff Hanger™.

These six preferences can be broken down into three subgroups:

  • Hopper and Hyperfocus explain how you manage priorities.
  • Big Picture and Perfectionist Plus focus on how you attend to details.
  • Impulsive and Cliff Hanger determine how you take action.

Let’s learn a bit more about each time style preference.

Hoppers love a challenge. As their name suggests, they like to “hop” from task to task. It energises them and prevents them from getting bored. However, this time style runs the risk of becoming overwhelmed when they take on too much at once, and their “non-hopping” co-workers may become frustrated if they feel like the hopper is always starting but never finishing.

Hoppers can become more productive and efficient by eliminating interruptions and distractions, focusing on their top three priorities for the day, breaking large projects into smaller chunks, setting self-imposed due dates, and ensuring that there’s plenty of flexibility in their schedule for when they need a change of pace.

Hyperfocus people prefer to zero in on one task at a time and stick with it through completion. They love a long research project or a deep dive into a subject, and they’d rather not be interrupted while they’re working. But they often lose track of time, forget to come up for air, and can struggle when they need to change gears.

Hyperfocus personalities can enhance their time management by focusing on small completions, creating a schedule with clear start and end dates, learning to prioritise, and striving to be more flexible and adaptive.

Big Picture personalities aren’t ones to deal with the details. They see the whole forest but aren’t too interested in the trees. They love brainstorming and juggling multiple projects at once, and grow impatient and frustrated with what they consider small stuff, but these things are often essential.

Big Picture types can enhance their natural workflow by using task management tools to communicate effectively, making their expectations clear to others, talking about details and timelines with co-workers before starting a project, and teaming up with detail-oriented people to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

Perfectionist Plus personality types don’t trust anyone else to do the task they’ve been assigned and rarely reach out for help, even when they need it. They’re highly detail-oriented and set very lofty standards for themselves. Perfectionists believe, of course, that everything must be perfect – but in their quest for perfection, they often struggle with time management and miss deadlines because it’s still not “just right.”

A Perfectionist Plus can learn to work more effectively with their time style by understanding what’s required of them for each task, involving their executive or project manager in their planning, realising that perfect is often an unattainable goal, and prioritizing what matters most over insignificant details.

Cliff Hangers ordinarily wait until the last minute to make a decision. They love the thrill of racing against the clock, often procrastinating so they get the adrenaline rush that comes with a looming deadline. They don’t want to get started until they feel inspired, and they honestly believe that they work better under pressure, much to the chagrin of their Perfectionist Plus teammates.

Cliff Hangers can work more efficiently by learning to embrace backward scheduling (starting with the end in mind), scheduling a “start by” deadline, prioritising projects that will take longer to complete, and mapping out the first few steps of each project so it’s easier to get started.

Impulsive time style personalities live in the moment. Sure, the budget report may be due in 20 minutes, but planning the menu for next month’s awards banquet sounds a lot more fun right now. Impulsive people don’t want to spend time planning; they want to get straight to the doing. But flying by the seat of their pants has a tendency to lead them straight to disaster.

Impulsive personalities can take control of their time by breaking their day into small chunks, maintaining a good system for planning (and revising it often), rewarding themselves for completing tasks, and thinking through any potential consequences before they make a decision.

The Bottom Line

Understanding your natural time style preference, the pros and cons that come with it, and how your style can work with different styles makes all the difference when it comes to the way you work. Hopper or Hyperfocus, Big Picture or Perfectionist Plus, Cliff Hanger or Impulsive – every time style has the same shot at success when you know what you’re working with!

Author: Julie Perrine, CAP-OM

The founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures, and Prove Your Skills! With a Powerful Professional Portfolio.