No matter how ambitious you are—or the amount of caffeine you’ve ingested that morning —everyone has days when they’re slogging through their work. But if you keep running into mental or creative blocks, it might be that you’re simply not in tune with how you work best.
We chatted with business productivity consulting expert Carson Tate of Working Simply about the four main productivity styles – and how independent professionals can use that self-knowledge to best optimize their time.
What is a productivity style?
According to Tate’s book, Work Simply, a productivity style is simply how you naturally work best. The four productivity styles are:
Prioritizers lean toward logical, analytical, quantitative, realistic, and fact-based thinking. They’re able to use time efficiently, and can accurately gauge how long a task will take to complete. Prioritizers are goal-oriented, consistent, and follow through on their promises.
These are the ones who prefer organized, detailed, sequential thinking. You can find them creating detailed to-do lists, scheduling every appointment, and swearing by bullet journals and planners.
Arrangers veer toward emotional, interpersonal, and supportive thinking. They’re masterminds at seeing the strengths in others, pooling together killer teams, and can make decisions intuitively.
They prefer holistic, intuitive, synthesizing, and integrated thinking. They’re experts at taking disparate ideas and synthesizing them into a cohesive idea. In turn, they generate creative, innovative project ideas.
As you might imagine, if you’re an infographic designer or illustrator, you’re most likely a visualizer. And if you’re a virtual assistant, you probably would be a planner or a prioritizer. Note that while many people may have a blend of different styles, they tend to have a preferred main mode of working.
You can also figure out which productivity style you are by taking this productivity style assessment test. Once you’ve identified your main productivity style, here’s how to make the most of it to boost your work periods.
Figure out your peak alert periods.
Energy is a major part of figuring out when you work best. Tate recommends starting by asking yourself when you are most alert, what you tend to do to self-interrupt, and what types of tasks you interrupt yourself with. No matter which productivity style you are, home in on when your energy peaks during the day. Some people may be able to enjoy deep focus in the morning, while others are night owls. There are also people who have energy peaks in the morning and evening, and tend to be low-energy during the day.
You can then batch your tasks accordingly. If your energy and focus peak in the morning, use that time to hunker down and work on the most challenging tasks, whether that be crafting copy for a website or conceptualizing visuals for an infographic. Then, during your low-energy points, work on tasks that require less brain space, such as sending emails, hopping on client calls, doing research, or sending out invoices.
Organize your day accordingly.
Based on productivity expert Cal Newport’s notion of “deep work” – where you have periods of uninterrupted time so you can really find your deep focus and produce your best work – Tate recommends doing a brain dump.
It’s only after you clear your brain of all those nagging “to-dos” that you can write that sales copy or come up with a killer social media marketing campaign. If you’re a prioritizer, block off your time in small increments – every 20 minutes or half hour, for instance. If you’re a planner, block off your time in larger chunks, and approach each chunk of time as a mini project. And if you’re an arranger or visualizer, organize your days based on a theme, such as creation, ideation, administration, or prospecting.
Create an ideal physical space.
Space impacts the way we work, so being really cognizant of our expectations will shape our behavior, explains Tate.
“Shape your environment to make the behaviors you want more likely,” says Tate. So if you’re a visualizer, you’ll most likely thrive in environments that are novel and diverse. Mixing things up by heading over to a coworking space or coffee shop might spark your creative juices. Plus, you’ll want to make sure your space is visually stimulating. Add pops of color, adorn the walls with some of your favorite artists or quotes, and make sure your tools are within reach and you can see them.
If you’re a planner, create an environment that’s very structured, with wall-size planners and to-do lists on your desk. And have your Asana or Trello dashboard open when you first start working.
For prioritizers to do their best work, they need to start their day by focusing on the two or three most important things they need to get done. It helps to jot them down before they head to bed the night before.
Arrangers may find themselves hitting blocks if they spend too much time alone and might do best in a coworking space. It’s key to create a workspace that’s comfortable with the right type of pens or plants, placed just-so on the desk to help you get in the zone. Whatever you do, just make sure you clearly demarcate your spaces for work and for rest. That’s a common fail among many freelancers who work from home.
Truth: Knowing your productivity style will help you create your best work. So make use of the control you have over your time and environment as a freelancer to sync up your schedule, workspace, and habits to boost your productivity. Your coworkers and clients will thank you for it.
What’s your preferred productivity style? What’s one thing you can change to boost your productivity? Sound off in the comments section below!