How to identify your personal productivity style

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort.” – Paul. J. Mayer

Do you often finish your workday feeling like you weren’t able to accomplish everything on your list? You start each day with a plan, to get so much done, a goal, but the end of the day, you often find your work day spiralling out of control and you find your to-do list has become even longer. Being productive at work and to regain control of your time can sometimes be very hard. How can you possibly get everything done with not enough hours in the day? It’s not only technology that makes personal productivity most difficult, but also our non-productive working patterns, working environment and unproductive moments. If you are struggling to get more done in-a-day, it might be because you are thinking of productivity as one-size-fits-all endeavour. In fact, we all function differently and what works for you probably may not work for your coworker or an other member on your team.

A common productivity-myth is that people who are good multitaskers get more done. While it feels smart to juggle a couple of things at once, but research shows that multitasking takes a heavy toll on our productivity. Alternating between two different types of tasks or switching between tasks frequently tends to slow you down. There is also ample evidence that multitasking increases anxiety, zaps your ability to complete your tasks in a timely manner and adds to delayed time spans. Also, one of the biggest difficulty people face when they are trying to be more organised is figuring out what works best for them. For instance, people often think you will be more productive if you are a morning person. But this may not be true for everyone. Similarly, not everyone can focus or pay attention in noisy and cluttered workspaces.

So, What’s the best way to maximize your productivity during your nine-to-five so you manage your time and to-do lists ?

How efficiently you can complete your tasks and how productive you can get mostly depends on the way in which you can work best. Just like there are different personality types, there are different productivity styles according to our productivity habits and knowing yours makes you more efficient, both at personal and professional workplaces. This can further get you a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses. Instead of donning multiple hats, you can figure out your personal work flow to improve your output while reducing your stress.

Why is it important to know your personal productivity style?

In today’s professional world of heavy workloads, multiple tasks underway simultaneously, and with overlapping deadlines, personal productivity has become one of the most expected trait from professionals. Identifying your productivity style is key to improve your productivity and also provides you with certain strategies to reduce stress and your chances of giving up on a task or a project. A self assessment into finding out what is your personality or productivity style, priorities and preferences can make a lot of difference when working with a diverse group of people every day. Also, knowing the productivity styles of those you work with or of your coworkers allows you to tailor your approach towards them to better manage your time, projects and tasks.

Being aware of the way in which you are more productive can help you get more things done in less time thereby freeing up more of your downtime and you can tailor your environments, schedules, tools and priorities to fit your strengths. You will not only be more efficient and productive, you will also enjoy your work more when you customise how you work to fit who you are.

So, what is personal productivity? Personal productivity is our ability to achieve tasks in a set amount of time, for instance, how much we get done in a single day or a week. It is about how much effort we put in, how efficiently we complete tasks and the results we produce. Your personal productive work style often mirrors your personality and organisation style, priorities and social preferences. In other words, your personal productivity style is your approach to planning and allocating effort across goals, activities and time periods.

The way we think, learn, communicate, process information, execute action and make decisions very much influences our personal productivity. So, to effectively increase productivity, we must follow our natural instincts. The first step is to identify your Productivity Style or where you fall in the productivity spectrum. For instance, are you a morning or night person? Do you prefer organising your tasks? Do you work best alone or when collaborating with a team? Do you prefer to work in the big picture goals or would like to get down to details?

The 4 types of productivity styles.

We each have a productivity style, influenced by our cognitive style, says Business Coach and Productivity Consultant Carson Tate, author of work simply. Our cognitive style, i.e., the way we prefer to perceive and process information — can have a dramatic impact on how we manage our time and therefore naturally determines our productivity style. She says that productivity must be personal and requires an approach customized to our individual cognitive style, strengths, and preferences.

She has identified four specific areas of productivity styles— simply correlate to the cognitive styles that each of us fall into. According to her, we have all four styles within us like, but similar to left or right-handed, we have a strong preference. By choosing your productivity tools based on your cognitive thinking style, you can improve your productivity and also can enhance your working with people whose productivity styles differs from your own. Here are the four Productivity Styles and their associated strengths and characteristics.

The Prioritisers are very focused on the outcome and are mostly goal-oriented. They are more analytical, realistic, fact-based and logical thinkers. This means that they refuse to waste time on anything they deem unnecessary to the task they are focused on. They focus on high-value tasks and use time optimally. When they work on a project, they first analyze goals and plan activities so they achieve the results they want. They tend to keep their conversations and emails brief, to the point and avoid indulging in small talks. Consistency is the key for prioritisers and they strive for efficiency. To increase productivity and accurately plan their workday, Prioritizers time how long it will take to complete a task and stay hyper-focused using time-management strategies.

Key Strengths: Goal -oriented, organised, effective, decisive, and logical. They show consistency. They are competitive & driven, gather facts and argue rationally and good at problem-solving.

Weaknesses: Prioritizers are often labeled controlling, hate distractions, and rarely engage in small talk or share personal details.

Likes: They like critical and logical analysis, fact-based debates and in being efficient. And dislike Mismanagement of time, inaccurate or incomplete data.

Environment: They prefer clean and orderly environment.

Productivity Tools: They prefer using time-tracking tools and tools that help them customize and streamline their workflow. Non-tech tools that help them keep track of priorities and systems like label makers, and post-it notes.

Communication: They prefer “What” questions- “What are the problems?’ “What are the results?’’ “What is the goal?’’ “What is the deadline?” “What data or facts are necessary?”

• If you consider yourself a Prioritiser, you might find that assigning yourself specific deadlines can be helpful in productively completing your work. Timer tools like DeskTime can be particularly helpful for Prioritizers who get anxious while watching the clock. Work to your naturally competitive streak by timing yourself as you run through your routine tasks. Trying to bear your own time will keep you stay focused. It’s best to interact with other prioritisers around by leaving clear notes and mentioning them underneath specific check list to make it very clear what you are referring to. Have all the relevant details centrally located so that you don’t waste time searching for information.

The Planners thrive when working from a detailed, sequential list of tasks, ticking off accomplishments and they are highly organised. Planners do well when they have a clear end goal in sight, and tend to struggle with open-ended projects. Where Prioritizers focus on formulating a strategy that will enable them to quickly and efficiently complete a project, Planners immerse themselves in the details of the project itself. Their emails are detailed, often include bullet points and clearly stated next-action steps. They aren’t fans of meeting with no set agenda or concrete action plan as they are very deadline focused, stick to a schedule, prepare agendas for meetings in advance. A Planner is never without his or her to-do list, can easily spot a flaw in a plan or process, and is known for timely follow-up.

Strengths: Action-oriented, organised, structured and detail-oriented. They are good at planning and scheduling tasks. They anticipate problems, find overlooked flaws by reading the details others skip over in plans and processes.

Weaknesses: They are not spontaneous and don’t work well without a plan. They get agitated when plans change mid-process and often miss opportunities because of their resistance to deviate from the plan.

Likes: schedules, action plans. Timely follow ups. On-time appointments. And dislike last-minute work, late work, lack of agenda and disorganisation.

Environment: practical and organised workspaces.

Productivity Tools: They rely heavily on calendar and project-planning tools such as Toodledo and Objectiveli. Productivity tools that let you manage projects and keep track of things like projects, people, and deadlines. For example: OmniFocus, and Trello. Non-tech tools that help them keep organized. like folders, label makers, and journals.

Communication: They prefer ‘How’ questions-“How will the project be delivered?” “How will information about a particular task be communicated?”

• If this is you, consider gathering all your relevant research in one place first before diving into the actual work, ideally with one centralised tool to avoid distractions. And physically, clean private spaces seem to best serve you, along with digital productivity tools for keeping on task. ensure that planners on your team are well prepped on how to assign the tasks, deadlines to the tasks and effectively distribute work. This means less time spent figuring out who’s doing what so that you can focus on the tasks at hand. Batching or grouping similar tasks together lets you get into a flow state and not waste any time switching between tasks. Don’t get too stuck on the different parts of the process. Take some time to review your goals by asking Why does a task need to get done? What are the top priorities and why?

The Arrangers can manage and organize all of the people and variables in a project. Unlike Prioritisers who focus on data and facts, Arrangers are highly intuitive and emotional individuals. Arrangers can look at a complex situation, a complex problem, or a complex team and find the perfect configuration to solve which makes them great leaders. They are natural communicators who often express concern for others or ask how they can help complete a task or meet a deadline. They bring a personal touch to their work which enables them to easily persuade their colleagues when pitching a new idea. They make decisions by intuitively sensing interpersonal difficulties and pick up on non-verbal stress signals. Arranger will not become overwhelmed by details and are not typically big fans of routine.

Strengths: They are good team players, persuasive and manage all variables. They are resourceful, communicative, empathic and collaborative. They facilitate team interactions and are good at selling ideas.

Weaknesses: Arrangers like the excitement of complex projects, so they often overlook activities that are simple or routine.

Likes: Asking questions and addressing concerns, acknowledgement and appreciation. And dislike relying too heavily on data and facts, lack of personal interaction and tone of urgency or demand.

Environment: They thrive in environments shared with other people, prefer open workspaces, often filled with personal objects and pictures.

Productivity Tools: Collaborative project management tools like Trello and Asana. Tools that help you share ideas and information with your co-workers like DropBox, and Google Docs. Beautiful notebooks, colored pens, and markers.

Communication: Prefer ‘Who’ questions- “Who will benefit from this?” “Who else need to be involved?” “Who else can support in achieving the goals?”

• If you identify with this type, you might be most productive when working in an open office environment, ideally with a whiteboard close by so you can chart out your ideas.  As an arranger, you have an unique ability to use all kinds of resources, but need support. You may struggle with a difficulty in communicating why you have chosen a particular configuration. You can work well when you partner with someone who can help you communicate ideas and explain decisions. Interspace solo work with group work to maintain your energy and focus. If you are looking for someone to organize and develop a team, an Arranger is just the person to do it.  They can easily and efficiently organize meetings or conferences.

The Visualisers are ‘big-picture’ thinkers. They are idea-oriented, innovative and creative people. They are not detail oriented and prefer to be presented with information that’s displayed visually as they like to look at things at broader perspective. Their spontaneity and impulsiveness can lead to break through ideas. They have a capacity for breaking down and combining different elements of a project and thrive under pressure. Instead of tidying their messy, cluttered desks, Visualizers are too busy having a big breakthrough or pursuing an innovative idea. They are creative problem solvers who focus on the big picture. They are very perceptive and generate their own solutions to problem and often challenge outdated policies or systems.

Strengths: Ability to envision the future, recognise new opportunities and integrate ideas and concepts. They are innovative and are good at strategic thinking, creative problem-solving.

Weaknesses: They have lot of ideas which can sometimes derail projects. so can their spontaneity and impulsiveness. Their work style tends to make them write lengthy emails often filled with tons of concepts and ideas.

Likes: Broad frameworks, join dots among different approaches. And dislike details.

Environment: laid back and with an emphasis on space and light. Prefer colourful, varied and decorative schemes that are visually appealing.

Productivity Tools: Mind mapping tools like Coggle. productivity tools such as Lifetick. Whiteboard apps. Non-tech tools like notebooks, journals, post-it notes, colored pens, and whiteboards.

Communication: Prefer asking ‘Why’ questions- “Why is this process better?” “Why do we things this way?” “Why does this project matter to the team?”

• If you are a visualiser, you need to have an in-depth understanding of what your work entails. Strive for holistic, intuitive and integrated thinking. You thrive under pressure and are easily bored if you are not juggling diverse projects. If you are working with on a number of tasks at a time, break your tasks into sub-tasks and different sections to have a better understanding of what needs to be completed. If you are working with other visualisers on your team, clearly present them with the big picture so that they can get started on their work.

How to work with different productivity styles?

Once you know what your preferences are, you can tailor your responses, decisions and tasks based on your productivity style. It is important to learn how to best communicate with colleagues whose productivity styles differs to yours. Almost every workspace is going to have people who fall into every category of productivity styles. And thus can cause friction. For instance, how does a visualiser communicate with a prioritiser? The visualiser is more focused on Why-Why not? Why does this matter? The prioritiser in the other hand, focuses on what’s the outcome? What’s the data or information? So, in order to communicate with the prioritiser in the situation, the visualiser had to focus on the what and keep the communication short and focused, by telling them what the facts are. This won’t feel natural to the visualiser, but it’s the best way to communicate to a prioritiser.

Similarly, if you are working with a planner, the questions become– How has this been done in the past? How can this plan be executed? Colour coding tasks will help a visualiser or an arranger to organise their work because they are highly visual, but it may not work for a prioritiser as they just like you to get the work done now. This way, you can better manage your coworkers based on their productivity style and can reduce some of the friction you or your teams face while working together. You will save time and energy in unnecessary misunderstandings and giving repetitive instructions. You redirect your valuable resources like time and attention to something much more productive.

Determine your personal productivity style

How do these different productivity styles fit into your current working patterns, Work environment and the structure of your workday?

What can you do to improve your productivity?

What’s your productivity style?

What is your personality type? If you are an introvert, working in an interactive, noisy, high-energy environment, you may find yourself unproductive. On the other hand, if you are an extrovert, working from home can be counterproductive.

What are your preferences? Do you lose motivation when your daily tasks don’t relate to your bigger purpose goals? Do you prefer to set goals for yourself or to achieve goals set by an organisation or for a bigger purpose? Does the idea of reaching a long-term, difficult goal challenges you? Do you enjoy chasing a new idea?

How do you work best? Do you get more done when you work alone or when working with others? Do you prefer to plan everything out to specific times or simply like to deal with the first task you find? Do you use a planner, calendar apps or scheduling tools regularly? How do you keep track of your schedules and time-based activities?

Does the tools and methods you use match your needs and preferences? Chances are that you might definitely find few that don’t lineup with your productivity style. Look for resources that give you the inputs, methods, and cues that fit your productivity style. If you are great with getting the big parts of a project, but struggle to work your way through finer details, create checklists for each type of project you have to guide you through the finishing details.

When do you work best? How are your energy levels at particular times of day? Are you a morning or evening person? Do you feel overwhelmed by a long to-do list first thing in the day or do you feel motivated? For instance, you may find that you do your best, focused work in the morning while this type of task takes twice as long in the afternoon. Matching your tasks to the right time of day will help you get more done by working with your productivity style.

Do you need to set dead lines to make yourself more productive? Do you forget about tasks or projects if you don’t have a visual reminders in front of you?To figure out how long something takes will help you dictate where to put it in your work schedule.

What is your most productive environment? Do you find yourself distracted by conversations, interactions and movement around you? Does a cluttered desk or work surface bother you? Do you like quite or noisy workplaces? Pay attention to your environment to figure out whether it is facilitating faster work. While you may not be able to control your environment, you might be able to take steps to enhance it to your productivity style.

To Conclude,

Do you relate yourself clearly in any one of the profiles above? Or do you see a little you in all these productivity styles. These productivity styles can act as guidelines to help you understand your skills, your preferences and productive environments and tools. It is important to recognise as to what your personal productivity style is and where your strengths are best to put work. There is no one-size-fits all approach to productivity. Instead, you need to personalise your approach. This means adapting work strategies that align with the cognitive styles of yours and each member on your team or to that of your coworkers.

The point of knowing your productivity style is to help you consciously think about yourself. Use the above questions to determine your personal productivity style. The more you evaluate yourself, your work flow and tools and systems , you can better work to your preferences and strengths rather than trying to fit into a system that fights your natural productivity style.


Do you want to find out your personality work style? Take this assessment! Learning about your work style to become more productive.

PsychCentral Personality Test (50 questions, no sign-up required) is based on the IPIP (International Personality Item Pool) 10-Item scale.

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