Nine Ways of Living With Time

Take a close look at yourself. You could be your own worst
enemy when it
comes to using time.

Pamela J. Vaccaro, MA


The first step in time management is to realize that no one can manage time. Time
management is a myth. The truth is we can neither speed up nor slow down the passage of
time. There will always be 24 hours in a day. No one has more time than anyone else. What
makes the difference for each one of us is how we view time and manage our behavior
around the finite resource called time.

Tips and gimmicks don't work
When I began conducting time management seminars in the late 1970s, I took a "Hints from
Heloise" approach, encouraging people to make to-do lists and clear off their desks at the
end of the day. I soon realized, as people began to repeat my seminars, that such generic
how-to advice offered quick fixes but produced no lasting results. I turned my attention to why
people procrastinate. While workshops on this subject proved to be very popular, many
participants still struggled with time issues. About ten years ago, I realized that we can try
every time management tool and technique that comes out, but if we lack a sense of purpose
about what we are doing, we will still be disorganized and unproductive.

It is impossible to accomplish everything. Without goals and priorities -- knowing what's most
valuable and important to us -- we are just treading water. Goal setting gives meaning to life.
If we learn to develop goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time
related, we have a much better sense of direction and we're less likely to flounder amid
increasing demands and challenges. But goal setting is only one of the missing pieces to the
puzzle. Not only do we need to know where we're going, we need to understand how we
each go about getting there.

Your personality type holds the key
Each of us has a different view of time. What we see as time well spent depends on the filter
of our own personality and motivation. For instance, someone who appreciates knowledge
considers research time well spent; someone who values relationships will take time to
volunteer. Understanding your personality type will help you zero in on the problems that
develop around your use of time. You can then begin to manage your behavior in ways that
alleviate the blocks to personal and professional productivity.

How would you describe yourself? Do you have high standards? Do you view time as a friend
or an enemy? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment when you can check things off a list? Is
it important to you to meet everyone's demands? Are you most or least comfortable dealing
with routine tasks? It may take some work on your part to accurately identify your personality
type. A good starting point is to look at the chart on personality-based time management
types. It is based on the Enneagram personality model,1 which describes nine primary
personality types that are motivated by different needs, such as knowledge, success and
relationships. While you may want to consult other resources for more comprehensive
information, the chart does highlight the key indicators of different personalities and offers
basic solutions to various time-related concerns.

What's your number?
The nine personality types (identified by numbers) each perceive reality differently and have
their own time consciousness. Fives, for example, see time as a series of events from which
they can derive wisdom. Sevens act as if time is endless and are wildly optimistic about how
much they can do. Nines experience time in a metronomic way -- each period of time has the
same value to them. Each type also has its own time-effective assets and liabilities. Eights,
for example, have clear goals and a solid game plan, but they often don't solicit input from the
people who might enhance the game plan and they lose time mending fences. Because each
personality type views time differently and has unique assets and liabilities, each demands a
different set of interventions. (This is why a one-size-fits-all approach to time management
rarely works.) Since motivation plays such a key role, it is also important to determine what
internal messages are most likely to stimulate greater productivity. For example, ones have
very high standards and don't enjoy their accomplishments because they tend to focus on
what still could be done. They have the mind-set: "There is never enough time to get a task
done right." This type of thinking needs to give way to: "There is enough time to do a job well
if I plan my time well."

There is a sense of empowerment in knowing that life balance is not about managing time but
using time and managing ourselves. No longer can we blame outside forces for how much
time we waste; instead we must assume responsibility for how we choose to spend our time,
knowing that when we do assume responsibility we also gain the power to change.

1. Palmer H. The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life. San
Francisco: Harper & Row; 1988.

Ones feel dominated by time. They often resent deadlines because there is always more that
can be done on a project to "get it just right." Even after the project is completed, they feel the
quality of the work could have been improved if there was "just more time." They rarely
experience the satisfaction of a job well done. Ones are highly motivated by principles, values
and doing things well.

Standard internal scripts:
"If you're not going to do the job right, don't do it at all."
"If only I had more time, I would have done a better job."  

Are thorough in all they do.
Have a good sense of order.

Pay too much attention to detail.
Are often overwhelmed.

Desired Internal messages:
"It is better to strive for excellence than for perfection."
"There is enough time to do a job well if I plan my time well."
"I can see my unsuccessful efforts as tries rather than failures."  

Key Interventions:
Establish deadlines; never accept "ASAP."
Find a relationship in which you can get trustworthy feedback about the quality of the job
being done and then move on.
Learn guilt-free play.
Make better use of scheduling by reducing the number of items to be accomplished
in one day.  

Twos see time as a chance to interact with others. They are quick to respond to the needs of
others and are often bored if a task demands too much alone time. They are sensitive to the
feelings of the persons involved in their immediate world at home or work. Twos are highly
motivated by opportunities for personal encounters.

Standard internal scripts:
"My time is your time."
"There is no such thing as no for an answer."

Are aware of people's feelings on issues.
Are nurturing.  

Have difficulty saying no.
Tend to overextend themselves.
Seek approval.  

Desired Internal Messages:
"I can say no more often and still be accepted, loved and valued."
"I will remember that the task is often as important as the personal relationships during a
"It is okay to work alone."  

Key Interventions:
Learn to do effective goal setting and stay committed to the process.
Set priority activities during the week and make them nonnegotiable.
Learn to say no.
Control interruptions (from significant others).

Threes see time as a continual opportunity to accomplish goals and projects. Time is well
spent when they can cross something off their to-do list. They are active and energetic when
given a project and assertive when deadlines are involved. They are often frustrated by
people who need to have time to think about something or take time for themselves. Threes
are highly motivated by feelings of success.

Standard internal scripts:
"Hi, ho, it's off to work I go — work, work, work."
"More is better."  

Are highly productive.
Carry tasks to completion without reminders.  

Seek quantity first, quality second.
Can be impatient with others' work styles.

Desired Internal Messages:
"More is not necessarily better."
"Reflection can be productive."
"Other people will not act as quickly as I do, so I need to be patient when working with others."

Key Interventions:
Schedule for follow-through on projects.
Learn alternate ways to say no.
Develop better listening skills.
Be vigilant about project standards.
Control interruptions (especially from people you might want to impress).  

Fours experience time very subjectively. They need to feel meaning in what they are doing for
time not to drag on unbearably. They tolerate the mundane. They will be early for an
appointment if it promises to be meaningful, but will get sidetracked and be late if it holds
routine or unexciting tasks. Fours are highly motivated by uniqueness, creativity and beauty.

Standard internal scripts:
"Time management is boring."
"I'm waiting for the time I am inspired."  

See the big picture.
Look at problems from different angles.  

Put off the ordinary.
Have difficulty staying on task.  

Desired Internal Messages:
"Not all activity will provide an emotional high or significant outcome."
"I must stop concentrating on the past and focus on the moment to have the most energy for
the task at hand."
"Mundane activities are a part of life. I can deal with them productively."  

Key Interventions:
Stop procrastinating the mundane. Do, delegate, buy or barter the unpleasant activity away.
Implement the "worst first" philosophy.
Work in blocks of time.
Develop techniques to stay focused on the task at hand.
Control interruptions (usually self-induced when something more interesting comes along).  

Fives see time as an opportunity to get as much information as possible. They have a strong
need to be wise and knowing. They will sit back quietly at times and build a huge mental
database on issues or tasks before them. They are sure of their decisions when they finally
make them. Fives are highly motivated by knowledge.

Standard internal scripts:
"There is never enough time to know everything."
"I can't make a decision until I know the complete picture."  

Make good judgments.
See the whole picture.  Are slow to act.
Can be miserly with their time.

Desired Internal Messages:
"I do not have to do everything alone."
"I can never know all there is to know about something. Therefore, I must choose to act."
"I can be more generous with my time and still accomplish high priority activities."

Key Interventions:
Develop good team-building skills, such as brainstorming and shared decision making.
Schedule more effectively. (Prepare less and start the execution of the plan sooner.)
Share ideas with others, even if the ideas are not completely thought-out in your mind.
Implement good project management.  

Sixes experience time as authority and a measure of their responsibility to others. There is
always much too much to do, but they make sure everything is done on time. They fear being
in trouble and want to accommodate the people involved in their personal and work lives.
They volunteer for many committees and maintain a loyalty to each group they serve. Sixes
are highly motivated by feeling dependable.

Standard internal scripts:
"Should I? Shouldn't I? Should I? Shouldn't I?"
"Time is boss."

Carry projects through to completion.
Meet deadlines and establish priorities.  Try to do too much.
Have difficulty saying no.  

Desired Internal Messages:
"My decisions do not have to be determined by outside sources. I can decide what is a good
"I am losing out on opportunities in my life because of my fear of making a wrong decision."  

Key Interventions:
Learn good decision-making skills.
Question the routine and find alternate ways of doing things.
Learn alternate ways to say no.
Develop a "just do it" philosophy in more situations.
Check what is expected during a delegated project — what your responsibility is and what
authority you have in the project.

Sevens experience time as a bottomless pit. On almost any day, they are enthusiastic about
all the things they will accomplish. They are most energetic at the beginning of a project or
new adventure. They love to have a good time, and that usually means they are off
experiencing one new idea or activity after another. They love anticipating the event and can
visualize the future with great ease. Sevens are highly motivated by the presence of many
options, alternatives and opportunities for fun.

Standard internal scripts:
"There is never enough time to do all the things I want to do."
"The glass is always half-full."
"Don't fence me in."  

Generate options and alternatives.
Enjoy guilt-free play.  Procrastinate on the follow- through of a project.
Often approach things superficially.  

Desired Internal Messages:
"Life should be fun, but I need to confront some things that are painful, laborious or conflictive
to use my time more productively."
"I will be aware of other people's deadlines and schedules."  

Key Interventions:
Schedule for follow-through. Set up a reward system for successful follow-through.
Ask for deadlines and checkpoints when receiving delegation.
Set priorities.
Avoid procrastination: barter, buy, delegate, do.

Eights never let time control them; they control it. They are very clear about the goal of a
project and how to achieve it. As a result, they do not seek much advice and know
instinctively how to get from point A to point B. They need to see some connection between
what is going on at the moment and their goals or they become impatient or intolerant. Eights
are highly motivated by strength, power and justice.

Standard internal scripts:
"No time to waste time."  

Possess a clarity of purpose.
Have a good sense of mission.  Lack interdependence.
Often need to mend fences.
Can be self-righteous.  

Desired Internal Messages:
"I do not have to say no so quickly."
"If I'm spending too much time mending fences, I am probably acting without input from my

Key Interventions:
Use team building skills that encourage you to reflect and be open to other ways of doing
Ask others for help.
Set priorities with balance in mind.
Listen to others for ideas and input.
Delegate more responsibility to others.  

Nines have a flatline view of time. No event is really any more significant than another. They
are steadfast about whatever they choose to act on. They need schedules and are
disconcerted if there is a change in their routine. They respond to crunch times with great
perseverance and a cool demeanor. Nines are highly motivated by keeping things even,
stable and predictable.

Standard internal scripts:
"I can do it later. It won't matter that much."  

Are patient.
Display good negotiation skills.  Avoid conflict.
Lack involvement.
Procrastinate stressful decisions.  

Desired Internal Messages:
"I realize that some of my biggest time wasters involve avoiding conflicts."
"Routine is comfortable for me, but some routines may be time wasters."  

Key Interventions:
Deal with fear of conflict — what is the worst thing that can happen?
Develop scheduling techniques that require a commitment to be on time.
Develop a "do it now" attitude about tasks.
Take more advantage of "snippets of time."  

Pam Vaccaro is president of Designs on Time, a consulting firm in St.
Louis specializing in time management and organization. She is also a nationally
recognized speaker and a contributing editor to Family Practice Management.



Pam Vaccaro, CSP
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