Saturday, October 02, 2010

Personality Type and Time

I asked the students in my current Slow Time class to take a version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a test which categorizes people based on certain personality traits, because I was curious about how these traits might affect a person’s relationship with time. (As far as I know the MBTI must be administered by someone who is certified in the method; the test I suggested to my students is a free variation which I found at this web site).

I’ve always enjoyed personality tests and have used my understanding of the MBTI for many years, primarily as a way to understand differences between my approach (I’m an INFJ) and that of those around me. Wikipedia has a lengthy article on the MBTI which describes its development and provides charts showing the percentages of types in the general population and the labels associated with the various types.

There are two traits that I’m pretty sure affect tempo, if not approach to time. One is the measure of introversion/extraversion. I’ve been reading a lot about Introverts recently (including Networking for People who Hate Networking by Devora Zack) and the article “Revenge of the Introverts” by Laurie Helgoe in Psychology Today (Sept/Oct 2010)). Introverts need more alone time than extroverts. Zack also encourages introverts to pace themselves, allowing for plenty of quiet time after intensely social activities. (I’ve found that my introversion has increased as I grow older. I used to be able to sustain the extended extroversion of a writers’ conference for a whole weekend. Now I’m a TV-watching-vegetable after one full day.) So introverts would want to plan for solitary time in their schedules.

But those two words—plan and schedule—are problematic for the P’s among us. This is another trait that is expressed in the Myers-Briggs test as P (perceptive) or J (judgmental). The labels are unfortunate as they are often misunderstood. P’s are impulsive and spontaneous, they like things open-ended. I always use the example of cupboard doors. P’s leave them open; J’s close them. J’s love making schedules; they probably love routine as well (I do). But P’s don’t like having things locked down; a full schedule makes them feel hemmed in. They want to be able to choose an activity based on how they feel at the moment.

J’s love calendars and deadlines, schedules and plans. That’s how they get things done. But P’s want to accomplish things as well. I always recommend they use a more intuitive approach to goal-setting, like mind-mapping. You would put the desired goal in the center of a page, then branch out from it, writing in tasks, outcomes and qualities. A P could then feel free (I imagine) to tackle any of the steps in any order.

The other two traits identified in the Myers-Briggs type come from Jung’s four personality types. He believed people had a preference for either Thinking or Feeling (that is acting from logic or acting from the heart) and a preference for either Sensing (practical, hands-on experience) or Intuiting (a more mental, future-oriented approach to the world). I’m not as sure how these traits might affect your relationship with time.

I found one discussion at a website which discusses how the various types deal with time at work. It suggests that Sensing types will be more rigid about sticking to a time schedule. I’m not so sure about that. That assumes that time is actually measurable and quantifiable. I would think a Sensing type would be just as likely to eat when hungry (they would sense that it’s meal time) as to eat when the clock says noon. This web site also believes that Thinking types will plan their day rationally while Feeling types would plan their day according to the personal encounters they want to have. Again, I think that’s probably simplistic. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say a Thinking type might be more motivated to achieve certain outcomes while a Feeling type would be trying to cultivate a certain quality of experience while moving through time.

What do you think? Can you make any correlations between your MBTI type and your relationship to time?


Sílvia said...

Wow, you gave me a task for today! At first sight, I believe I'm pretty introvert, but I'm not sure about P or G!. Besides, I feel I'm Feeling, but I can't tell whether I'm Sensing or Intuiting. What I know is that I like to plan and having a schedule, but I change them often according to "how I feel"...I wake up one Saturday and I say to myself: "I'm going to swim, then have lunch at the park and spend the afternoon with auntie, but suddenly I may feel I need to be alone and slow and I don't do anything!!! Is this something or just lazyness?

Alay'nya said...

Silvia - good comment and response to Waverly's posting.

You probably are an Introvert (I); and Waverly gave a good insight into how Introverts need more "alone time" to recoup and regroup after intensive people-time. This doesn't mean that we can't go out and be social. One of my dear friends, ArtieBear, described the Introversion / Extroversion well many years ago. He said that we can each know which "side" we fall on by looking at what we do when we're tired and needing to recharge. Extroverts will go find people; they'll go to a party. Failing that, they'll go to a jazz club, anything where there are people swirling around them. They "recharge" through social interaction. Introverts, on the other hand, "recharge" by going into their private, inner space. They need alone time.

You are probably Feeling more than Thinking. (And I'll bet that most of Waverly's Followers are more Feeling than Thinking - her entire blog is about developing that "Feeling" connection with the Seasons.)

I suspect that there is a wide range of both Sensing (S) and iNtuiting (N) types that read Waverly's postings. Sensing types find fulfillment in the actual, physical and pragmatic details of their lives. For example, people who excel in accounting, logistics planning, event organizing -- all sorts of activities that require keeping track of physical things and details - are often Sensing. Also, Sensing types can enjoy physical, practical, hands-on things such as gardening, building a shed, cleaning the garage, etc.

The iNtuitives (Ns) like to use their "inner awareness" to form their worldview. These are the visionary and strategic thinkers of the world. The iNtuitives
often pick up on connections that others miss.

You are very likely an S/N mix -- that is, you are able to access both "states." This is a little novel, but my forthcoming book, Unveiling: An Inner Journey (available this December from discusses this in some detail. You'll be able to follow my Unveiling blogposts at The Unveiling Journey.

Finally, based on what you've written about how you liked to plan your Saturday, you are probably a Judging(J)/Perceiving(P) mix as well. You probably can make a plan or schedule and stick with it; you probably do this at work all the time - or when you have a complex task to do, especially one that involves coordination with other people. But like many of us who have strong Perceiving (P) tendencies, you "recharge" by having open-ended, unstructured time -- time when you can "listen to your intuition" (there's that N thing again) about what feels right, or what you really feel drawn to doing next (and there's the F connection as well!).

Like many of us, you can probably "shift modes" at will. This is not something well known, even in the Myers-Briggs circles. However, I believe that learning to first access our different modes, and then shift them at will, is a very high-level, functional adult task. It is something that we learn to do as we get older.

Enjoy the beautiful Autumnal season, and if you like, feel free to Follow me at The Unveiling Journey, where I'll be writing more on this topic!

(And be certain to look for Unveiling as it is released this Christmas - the perfect read when we're all snuggled up by the fire, being very Introverted/iNtuitive/Feeling-Thinking/Perceptive!