Susan Ward, writing in the newsletter Small Business: Canada, identified five personality types that can sabotage time management. They are:

  • The Fireman — Always handling the latest emergency; has no time to plan.
  • The Over-Committer — The one who can’t say no. Seems like a great person to have around until you realize he or she never completes any of the accepted responsibilities.
  • The Aquarian — The laid-back persona. Ward warns that there is such as thing as being too “laid-back,” “especially when it starts interfering with your ability to finish tasks or bother to return phone calls.”
  • The Chatty Kathy — Usually involved in drawn out conversations with someone (that way they don’t have to face some task that awaits them)
  • The Perfectionist — Is so exacting that projects never seem to get completed

It’s one thing to recognize yourself in one of these types and try to take steps to remedy it. But it’s quite another to try to manage these personality types if they belong to your staff members. In IT, you’re going to run into a lot of “firemen.” But that’s the nature of the game with a line of work that forces one to be reactive much of the time.

The over-committer can be difficult even if he manages to complete all the tasks he takes on. Once word gets out that he’s willing to do anything, people will start lining up to take advantage, believe me. This can throw a wrench into your own task management. You should insist that everyone clear these “favors” through you first. You can say no for the Over-Committer.

The Aquarian is a manager’s nightmare because you will have to bear the brunt of the complaints about this person when phone calls go unreturned. Although you can’t speed up his metabolism, you can insist on some parameters (give him specific timelines for completion of tasks, etc.) It’s best to make the timelines shorter because you don’t want to get too far along in a project and realize that little has been done. Also, remember that you don’t want to discount the benefits of having such a person on staff — he’s probably the one who remains calm when things go haywire.

I’ve written about the Chatty Kathy type before. I don’t believe, as Ward says, that this is a trait that’s developed as a way of putting off tasks. I think long-windedness is almost a compulsion with some people. But if it’s the former, then you would do well to assign shorter-term (even daily) work deadlines with her. And then make it a point to see that they’re met.

The Perfectionist is a hard one to manage. On one side, having someone produce work that’s perfect is a great thing. But if the work never really gets completed, then you have a problem. You’ll have to check in frequently with this person on his progress. If he’s hung up on some detail, he can explain it to you. If the detail is not worth agonizing over, you can insist he move on in the progress.