Why To-Do Lists & Plans Just Don’t Work for All Personality Types

in Business, You


How many of you have ever picked up a copy of ‘Getting Things Done’? How many of you have tried implementing the system and given up in despair at your seeming inability to maintain the complexities?

Maybe it wasn’t ‘Getting Things Done’ but one of the myriad other productivity books on the market. The world is full of productivity gurus trying to help their fellow man by sharing their systems and overflowing with people just like you who try to follow those systems and wonder at their inner flaws when they can’t keep it up. Hardly conducive to inner peace.

At risk of sounding like a stereotypical sales page, there is a better way. We look to our personality type when it comes to guiding and team building, so why not for our organization and productivity strategies? Building a system that’s in harmony with your personality results in lower stress, saved time and dramatically increased productivity. Keep reading; I’m going to give you what you need to get started.

When it comes to productivity, there are four personality types that matter. Are you a Fantastical, an Analytical, an Environmental or a Structural?


If you’re a Fantastical, you’re a visual thinker. You excel at taking interesting problems and producing fascinating solutions and unique ideas. And you actually need to have all the pieces of your work spread out in front of you. Contrary to popular belief, you know exactly what’s in each of those piles. Taking the pile and forcing it into a filing system actually handicaps your ability to work effectively. Therefore, organization for Fantasticals eschews the traditional alphabetical labels, lists and routines in favor of a more organic space that allows room for piles and brainstorming.


The Analytical, on the other hand, is keenly ambitious and logical. You’re able to quickly assess situations and link them to the long term picture, and you like the information you need at your fingertips exactly when you need it. Alphabetical filing doesn’t work for you either – it separates related pieces and forces you to gather everything together before you can make an assessment. And long reports are just a waste of your time. Ask the people around you to condense those pages into figures or graphs that you can assess in a minute or less.


If you’re an Environmental, your attention is focused outward, on the people around you. You concern yourself with their health, well-being, emotional stability, and whether or not they feel welcomed and comfortable. When it comes to productivity, organization and time management, your biggest Achilles heel is your schedule. Many time management books advocate tight scheduling – down to the 15 minute block – but you need to leave time for the chat with a friend who’s feeling blue, the unexpected phone call from a panicky client, or the call from your spouse that he or she left his keys at home and could you please go grab them? Even contemplating a 15 minute schedule is ridiculous. Go for a minimum of two hour blocks and plan time for chaos.


And last, but not least, is the Structural. If you’re a Structural, it’s likely that you’re doing just well with your productivity system, thank you very much. But the best thing you can do to eliminate wasted time is to take a good hard look at your system. Does it have any unneeded ritual and elaborate steps? How well does it scale to meet the demands of a high volume work day? Quite often, your system can be tweaked to help you increase your productivity, so take a look to identify some areas that might be targets for improvement. If you’re looking for new ideas, I’ve got some good news for you: there’s a LOT of excellent ideas out there to choose from!

Interested in learning more about your personality type? Come by Personalized Productivity and take our free quiz to determine your type and get more detailed tips on how to build your ideal system.

Editor’s Note: What personality type are you? How does this impact how you get things done?

Image: Ambro