27. A Different Way of Getting Things Done

September 24, 2010

In the last tip I talked a bit about psychological type in relation to how we get things done, using 'The List' as an example of a tool beloved by some 'judging' types. This week I'm going to look at the other end of the spectrum, the 'perceiving' type. These people have a very different relationship to tasks, and the differences between judgers and perceivers, if they don't understand each other, can cause all manner of problems, both at work and at home.


"Judgers, once they know what's scheduled, know how much free time they have. For Perceivers, it's all 'free' " 
From Type Talk by Otto Kreuger and Janet Thuesen

I once over-heard a conversation between my younger daughter and my step son. It was on the topic of homework and school projects. My step son was saying that he'd often done his homework on the bus on the way to school and my daughter was smiling and nodding vigorously. 'Yes, and in break-time,' she said. 'And,' she continued, 'I find I can get my maths homework done in my French lesson, which is just before my maths lesson.' Tom, now in his late twenties, related with great hilarity how he'd once left an entire geography project until the Sunday preceding the day it was meant to be handed in. As he clearly was not going to get it done alone the whole family had to be recruited to march down to Ealing Broadway, clipboards in hand, ready to survey every shop.


This kind of scenario was not exactly foreign to our household either. Many Sunday afternoons and evenings were spent frantically arranging green peppers and cracked jugs into still life models, driving round south east London looking for art shops that were open, and managing no end of panic and tears. Only slightly consoling was the inevitable phone call from her best friend at around half six, asking 'What's the art homework?'


Welcome to the world of the 'perceiving' type.


Despite knowing much about psychological type, as a paid up member of the 'judging' community I was somewhat alarmed by this gleeful collusion. How was I to support such a child through her education? And why on earth would anyone allow themselves to get to these situations when they could have done it all with pleasure and ease a little in advance?


If you're a perceiving type, you will know the answer to this question. Flexible, open-ended, option-loving perceiving types leave things to the last minute because it is then that they operate at their best. When a deadline is almost upon them a surge of energy and enthusiasm arises and they can apply themselves to the task in hand with formidable focus.


Perceivers tend to be easy-going, flexible and fun. While judging types like being ordered and productive, relentlessly filling time with useful activities, perceiving types have a great capacity for going with the flow and playing whenever they like. They're flexible too - if you need someone to come into work in an emergency, a perceiver is a great person to have on hand. While Judgers will tend to have plans that they are reluctant to abandon, perceivers love emergencies and are often more than happy to stop whatever is they're doing and rush in.


Sadly for perceiving types, they can have a bad press. The world loves a judging type - they are reliable and organised and predictably meet deadlines. Perceiving types may meet deadlines, but they may not, and those who are close to them don't always appreciate being an involuntary passenger on their roller-coaster. Perceivers love being the way they are, and can feel quite bemused and hurt when they come up against a world that has other ideas as to how things should run. Because of this, most perceivers will eventually learn ways of making their preference work in a judging environment. One of the secrets of doing this is to refine their definition of 'the last minute'.

To take school as an example, because we've all been to school, 'the last minute' is a highly variable concept. A half hour piece of French homework can be done on the school bus. A two year Duke of Edinburgh project cannot. You might be able to get by in your piano lesson by doing a single long practice the night before. Bringing three dozen scales and arpeggios up to scratch for an exam takes a little longer however.


If you recognise a preference for perceiving in yourself,


Try this:
1. First celebrate your natural gift for flexibility, openness and fun.


2. If you tend to leave things too late, when you have a deadline looming take a little time to estimate how long it will take you to do the work and plan to leave a bit longer than that to do it.


3. Remember that the last minute spurt will only work if that is all you have to do. If you have more than one deadline to meet you're heading for a disaster!


4. If you work with judging types, consider explaining to them how you like working and reassure them that you WILL meet deadlines. Otherwise they may pester you for progress reports. Aghhh!


5. If you supervise others, remember that some of them will want more notice to do a piece of work than you tend to give.


If you'd like to assess your own psychological type, try the self-assessment programme, above right. Also, it has just become available in Kindle format.

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