When the worlds of the Planners and the Spontaneous collide, fireworks -- not the romantic kind -- can erupt. The Planners think the Spontaneous are being inconsiderate jerks. The Spontaneous think the Planners are being controlling freaks. Who's right? Who's wrong? And can they possibly get along?
"I thought you had this taken care of!"
"I didn't know that this was that important to you."
"I told you about this a month ago."
"Something came up."
"I can never count on you for anything."
"I'm making progress and doing the best I can-just chill out."
"Where are you?!"
"I'm on my way."
And so on . . .
And so forth . . .
As a time coach and the author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, I've listened with a sympathetic ear to the plight of both time personalities. Through my professional and personal experience, I've developed a way of explaining their distinct differences, and more importantly knowing what techniques can help them to respect and appreciate -- or at least work with -- each other in a somewhat civil manner.
If you've ever struggled with someone with a different time personality than you such as a friend, co-worker, significant other, or family member . . .read on. The insight in the coming paragraphs could lead to a 2013 filled with a lot more peace and joy than you experienced in 2012.
The Spontaneous & Planner Perspectives
Whether you fall into the Spontaneous or Planner camp has part to do with nature and part to do with nurture. From a young age, you may have had a tendency to respond to what entered your environment or to stay fixated on your mission of the moment. That inclination can carry on throughout life. However certain environmental factors can have a dramatic impact on your tendency toward one side of the spectrum or the other. For example, people who in general lean toward the Planner side may resist making commitments when they have an overwhelming job where they feel little sense of control over their schedule. Or individuals with a fondness for Spontaneity may cross over to the Planner side when they have their first child and all of a sudden precise nap times can make the difference between giggling and screaming babies.
As I discussed in my article on the differences between self-pleasers and people-pleasers , having a tendency toward one time personality or another doesn't make you a good or bad person. It just is. The problems erupt when the people around you interpret your behaviour in a negative way and end up infuriated at you for what to you seems like no apparent cause.
In short, future commitments are the pillars that support Planners and give them a sense of security in the present moment. While for the Spontaneous, commitments feel like an oppressive burden limiting their options in the future and filling them with dread in the present. Given the diametric opposition of the two sides, neither can simply think and operate out of gut instinct and make the other side happy.
How to Reduce Time-Caused Drama
Sure it would be great if you could just explain to the other people in your life how you have a different time personality so they just need to deal with it. But . . . that's rarely the most effective or lasting way to improve your relationships. To give you a few ideas on how you can stay true to yourself and keep other people from strangling you, here are a few ideas adapted from my book chapter on "Time Peace: How to Reduce Time-Caused Drama."
Empowerment For The Spontaneous
- When you're tempted to be annoyed at Planners: Look at the chart above and remember that making plans is something that comes as naturally to Planners as spontaneity comes to you. Planners don't mean to make you feel controlled or constrained instead they achieve a sense of security in plans so they need them to relax and be present in the moment.
- If you have a tendency to overestimate how much can fit in a day: Start to track actual versus estimated times on the activities you do on a regular basis. This could look like making a notation in Evernote beside your daily activities, filling in an Excel sheet, or using a time tracking app like HoursTracker. This time audit will start to give you a sense of what will actually fit in 24 hours. If you're still struggling with over commitment, plan for a four-hour day when you actually have eight hours to work so you can wrap up on time.
- If you won't make personal commitments because work feels overwhelming: Think very carefully about what you really want out of life. Of course, you will have times when your job or business is crazy and everything else needs to get put on hold. But if you hit "pause" on your personal life too long, you'll soon find that it no longer exists. Making personal plans can keep you connected with people even when you wouldn't naturally feel like disconnecting from your computer.
Empowerment For The Planners
- When you're tempted to be annoyed at Spontaneous people: Review the chart above and remember that the Spontaneous see planning completely differently than you do. The fact that they're not making plans with you most likely means that they don't want to disappoint you, not that they don't value you. Also, remember the times their spontaneity came in handy, like when they didn't get upset when you arrived late or they willingly came to your assistance at the last minute.
- Make plans to make plans: Instead of trying to get a Spontaneous person to commit to a certain time, date and location so you can fill out all of the fields in your calendar, make a plan to follow up with them closer to the date. Or simply decide on a day you will do something, and then work out the details the day of the event.
- If you get really upset when plans change: Ask yourself what thoughts and feelings the change triggered. Then challenge yourself to consider whether your reaction had to do with the other person or with yourself. If you feel insecure, frustrated, overwhelmed, and unappreciated, your response to others' lack of planning will most likely be disproportionate to the actual offence. Also, try to remember a time when you had to change or cancel plans so that you're more empathetic to the other side.
This strategy will help you in a number of ways:
- It keeps you from feeling like a victim of your circumstances.
- It puts you in control because the only person you can decide to change is yourself.
- It helps others to respect you more when you do ask for their assistance in accommodating your time personality because they can see that you are already making efforts on your part.
Elizabeth Grace Saunders is a time coach, the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training, and the author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success With Less Stress. Find out more at www.ScheduleMakeover.com.