We live in an age where most people are pretty clued up about their individuality. You undoubtedly know if you are a morning person or not. You will also know if you are someone who files every single receipt chronologically, or whether you have a crumple of papers in your car’s glove compartment instead. You will probably be able to identify a few idiosyncrasies of the significant people in your life too, yep they can probably get quite irritating at times.
Whatever your personality quirks or traits, you will know that we all tend to do things in such a way that comes naturally, feels right, and generally works for us, right?
Okay, so my question is, why do we waste time and effort trying to fit ourselves into rigid time-management and productivity schedules? One size does not fit all in any area of life and that most definitely includes the work arena.
For those employed in rigid organizations with a pre-determined path of individual progression, it may be difficult to step off the track and skip onto your preferred yellow brick road of wonder – so this is yet another call to choose the freelance lifestyle (of course there are a ton of reasons, which we begin to cover in our Upwork Strategies Course). As a freelancer, you can adapt your work style to suit your own cognitive needs, who knows, you just might have a shot at finding that pesky wizard. 😉
One well known advocate of tailor-making work strategies is Carson Tate, author of Work Simply. She noticed the frustrations of her colleagues and clients as they tried to adopt a one-size-fits-all solution to their business needs, and realised that there had to be a better way.
“What I’ve found,” says Carson, “is that many folks put themselves into a box. They read a book or hear an expert say that they should structure their day this way or manage their inbox that way.
We need to personalize productivity–to employ work strategies that align with our own cognitive styles and to plan and allocate effort in a way that suits our strengths and preferences.”
That sounds about right to me! Carson actually identified 4 different productivity styles, The Prioritizer, The Planner, The Arranger and The Visualizer. Each of us may be a combination of these, but one style will tend to hold more weight than the others.
“The Prioritizer’s thinking is very linear and analytical. Fact-based,” said Carson. “The Planner is very sequential, organized, and planned. The Arranger is very intuitive, communicative, and relational. And the Visualizer is that big-picture risk-taker, the brainstormer.”
Any ideas which category you fall into?
Identify Your Own Productivity Style
Looking at the names of the different styles, you may feel that you are already certain of yours, and good for you if that is the case. Most people are a little insure, trying to choose between two or more that seem the likely candidates. The good news is that you don’t need to keep guessing, nor wait a minute longer, simply head over to this link here to take a free quiz on Carson’s site.
All you need to do is insert your email address, before completing 28 quick multiple choice questions, minimal thinking required. You will receive a response giving you a full breakdown of your productivity style, with tips and advice on how to maximise your strengths and handle your potential weaknesses.
Let’s take a look at each one.
- Linear thinking
- Data loving
- Goal driven
- Love completing tasks
- Get the work done
Tate says Prioritizers like “just the facts without the fluff.”
Tools to support Prioritizers
Prioritizers like to break their goals down into a series of tasks, each chunk assigned to a specific day. Each day is carefully managed, and there is typically a running to-do list in at least one form on hand to ensure that everything stays on track.
If you are a natural prioritizer you can support your style of thinking by closing the open loops in your brain – and getting everything out of your head and onto a tracker. This can be as simple as using a diary, jotter and pen if that works for you, but there are many online resources that you can utilize too.
- The Habit Sheet – Is a free spreadsheet template that encourages you to wake early and complete various goals throughout each day.
- Goodtodo – Is a free online To Do list, that allows you to email reminders to yourself at any point in the future. You can also download the app, so that you can keep on track with today’s tasks no matter where you are.
- Pomodoro Timer – This is a fantastic app that helps to keep you focused, by directing your time into manageable chunks of work, punctuated by breaks. Studies show that it is a great way to increase productivity, and it works perfectly for prioritizers.
- Highly organized
- List writer
- Detailed Oriented
- Tackles tasks sequentially
- Great at finding flaws
- A planner often finds flaws that have been overlooked by others, and though they might not want to admit it, is even known to add completed tasks to a list, just so they can be checked off. (Guilty!)
Tools to support Planners
Planners love to be organised, and like to have everything they need in a predetermined, color coded place. If you are a planner you may have loved receiving new stationary at the start of the school year – and still secretly adore label makers, file folders with colored dividers, filing cabinets, pen holders, post-it notes, highlighters and all that jazz. Once again, in this golden age of technology, let us open your eyes to a veritable planner heaven online.
- TeamWork – This is the Project management tool that we personally love and use daily.
- Objectiveli – This allows you to manage and track your goals in real time.
- Emotional thinking
- Visual Minds
- Prefer the right tools
Arrangers tend to be in tune with the mood of a team or client and able to identify unspoken needs.
Tools to support Arrangers
- Boomerang – Boomerang integrates with Gmail allowing you to schedule messages, set reminders, track emails that you have sent, and include read receipts.
- Streak – Streak, is a free tool that is awesome at managing your CRM (customer relationship management) flow efficiently
- Calendly – Calendly is the number one scheduling resource that we recommend.
- Teamwork – As mentioned above
- They prefer variety
- Can see the big picture
- Can juggle tasks
- Can integrate separate ideas into a complete solution
Visualizer’s desks can often appear chaotic, but they will know where everything is.
Tools to support Visualizers
- Brain storm boards – Try StormBoard which is supported by a ton of great recommendations.
We used Stormboard to help run engaging collaborative workshops with participants in Brasil, China, Chicago, California, Australia and New Zealand. We had more engagement than we often get in physical workshops and the performance of the system was flawless. A great product that has taken virtual collaboration to another level.
– Danny, Senior User Experience Designer, TheEconomist.com
- Mind mapping tool
- Colorful post-its, pens, clipboards
Now You Know….What Comes Next?
So it is all well and good knowing your style, but how does that help you. Carson puts it beautifully for us here”
“Once you know your style, you’re able to thoughtfully and intentionally select strategies, tools, and methodologies that align with the way you think. So it’s a two-part process involving the way you think and the way you structure your work.”
But it isn’t all about you….this stuff can be very useful when working with clients and colleagues too.
How About Clients?
It may take a few interactions, but you should be able to identify the productivity style of your clients by the way that they handle their workloads, interact with their team and communicate with you. Once you have figured this out, you can use your knowledge to your advantage. Carson has the following suggestions.
If your client is a Prioritizer:
Be sure to answer their “what” questions first.”What’s the goal? What is the plan? What is the outcome?”
If your client is a Planner:
Be most aware of their questions regarding the process of a project, those starting with “how?” “How has this been done in the past? How are we overcome that?”
If your client is a Arranger:
These may be most concerned with “who?” questions. “Who will be impacted by the project? Who is responsible?”
If your client is a Visualizer:
Carson says that visualizers tend to be most concerned with the “why?” questions, so be sure to deal with these to keep your visualizer clients at ease. They need to see the bigger picture. “Why are we doing it this way instead of that way? Why does it matter?”
These simple insights will arm you with tools that will compliment your working relationships with clients and colleagues alike. In fact, there is no reason that this wouldn’t work for relationships across the board, but that is another article 😉
Understanding the needs of others and being able to communicate effectively, on a level that many won’t even have on their radar, will position you as an expert in your freelancing field – and with barely any additional effort on your part. To go into more depth into the subject of communicating with your clients and colleagues, go ahead and access our Upwork.com Starter Kit now
Studies continue to analyse the grey matter between our ears, and it is becoming more and more clear that we individuals have diverse methods of cognitive processing, and develop our own mental strategies to cope with the demands of life.
Recognising our own productivity style can boost our efficiency and reduce stress. But we can take it a step further, and use this knowledge to gain insight into how our clients and colleagues tick – which can build bridges and form long, profitable partnerships. Reducing unnecessary tension can pay dividends and allow you to focus on revenue generating work instead.
Let’s finish up with an awesome reminder from Carson:
“The power of embracing your personal productivity style is what happens when you align strategies and solutions with how you think and process information.
It’s your life! You’ve got to step in and own it. Make sure that your systems support you and how you want to work.”
If you are interested in finding out more about how you can improve your productivity and take your business to the next level.