Just as one-size-fits-all clothing fits nobody well, one-size-fits-fall time management doesn’t work so great, either. More structured methods may leave some feeling bored and stifled, while others may be stressed by a more lax approach.
Here’s a system that you can use to build your own method of managing time.
A Little Theory
But first, we will have to explore personality theory. To keep this post from becoming unwieldy, we are going to assume that you already have a basic understanding of the Myers-Briggs personality classification system and that you know your own type.
Our time management system will build on the cognitive stack theory:
- The dominant function is your primary strength. This is what you do best and what you should spend the most time on.
- The auxiliary function is your “right-hand man,” as it were. For introverts, it provides a way to connect with the outside world; for extroverts, it gives access to the inner world. While many people subconsciously try to avoid developing the auxiliary, it is necessary for being a balanced person.
- The tertiary function operates best in the subconscious. It can display under stress, but it can also provide perspective and balance. Occasional use of the tertiary (particularly in a lighthearted way) provides an additional, enjoyable dimension to our lives.
- The inferior function has a rather unique role. On the one hand, it is something we tend to display under stress. On the other hand, it is also something we tend to seek for completeness and meaning. The inferior probably should come into play in our daily lives for balance, but for short periods of time and mostly for recreation. The inferior is the least-developed function in the stack, and therefore can lead to immature decision-making.
Type-Based Time Management
Good time management plays to your strengths. It capitalizes on what you bring to the table—unique gifts that no one else can contribute.
Therefore, we will want to spend most of our time on activities that make use of our dominant cognitive function. In fact, some experts estimate that we should spend as much as 80% of our time there.
The next function to factor in is the auxiliary. This function should occupy most of our remaining time. We are going to say about 20%, although this is not entirely accurate because the inferior must also be accounted for.
The tertiary should also have occasional exercise. While few writers have tackled this topic in great depth, a good starting point for many might be to take on a tertiary-style project (again, subservient to the dominant function) for about half an hour a day.
We need to spend about 30 minutes each day feeding our inferior function so that we achieve greater balance and satisfaction. However, it is also important to allow the dominant function to retain its lead role in our lives, so ideally this brief exercise of the inferior will actually serve the interests of the dominant. For example, a dominant Si user could take on an Ne-type creative project (e.g., making a craft, tackling a home improvement project, etc.) for the benefit of a close family member.
Finding Time to Feed Your Functions
So far so good. Actually implementing this approach in our daily lives, however, can present some practical challenges.
Probably the best way to implement tailored time management is to divide the types into two major approaches:
- J types: Try time blocking. You might already use time blocks anyway, so now make sure your blocks serve your type’s functions.
- P types: Consider a more natural approach. Shift gears when you feel your productivity and focus waning. Over time, you will likely find that there is a natural rhythm to your day.
Also, some researchers have observed that the natural tendency is to work progressively through the stack as the day goes on. In other words, we generally start out operating in our dominant, then shift to the auxiliary, and so on. When implementing our tailored time management approach, we will find it most natural and effective to mimic this pattern.
Suggested Activities for Each Function
The following lists are examples of activities that feed and tap into each cognitive function. To build your time-management framework, you will want to pull from the four lists that are relevant to your cognitive stack.
So supposing you are an ESTJ, for instance, your stack is Te-Si-Ne-Fi. You will want to spend 80% of your time on Te activities, about 20% of your time on Si activities, about 30 minutes a day on Ne activities, and another 30 minutes or so on Fi activities.
Keep in mind that these lists are intended to spark ideas. They are in no way intended to be comprehensive. Furthermore, which activities on any given list you prefer will be influenced by your complete cognitive stack. For instance, the Fe function revolves around helping others; however, a sensing Fe user will prefer to help persons while an intuitive Fe user will likely be more comfortable helping humanity. Likewise, many types can write, but an INFP might prefer writing fantasy fiction while an ISTJ will do better with technical writing. Some of your favorite activities will be those that incorporate two or more of your cognitive functions.
The Se function observes present sensory data and experiences external bodily sensations. This function is the most in tune with the five senses. While “thrill-seeking” many sound like a negative adjective to many, it is a genuine need of this function. Novelty is a must.
Categories of activities that support the Se function include:
- Detailed observation of the tangible world.
- Working with the hands.
- Seeking physical excitement.
- Public performance.
- Keeping up with current trends in culture and refinement.
Specific examples of Se activities include:
- Making money.
- Treasure hunting.
- Home decorating.
- Detailing vehicles.
- Working outdoors.
- Working with tools.
- Dealing with crises.
- Trying new cuisines.
The Si function observes past experiences and is aware of internal bodily sensations. This function is highly traditional and conservative. It uses the past as a framework for interpreting life.
Activities that support the Si function will tend to fall into these main categories:
- Recalling past experience.
- Observing and preserving tradition.
- Fulfilling responsibilities attached to specific roles (e.g., parent, spouse, employee, etc.).
- Collecting details pertaining to a specialized interest.
- Listening to the body.
Examples of Si activities include:
- Tai chi.
- Clerical tasks.
- Saving money.
- Studying history.
- Creating routines.
- Quality assurance.
- Gathering collectibles.
- Studying religious texts.
- Conversing with friends.
- Observing family traditions.
- Looking at old photos.
The Ne function observes future possibilities and articulates ideas externally. Although it can be quite relentless in the pursuit of a project, it prefers to entertain multiple options rather than to select one. The Ne function can be quite simple to satisfy in a sense, because its primary needs are for novelty, mental stimulation, and the satisfaction of curiosity. “Rules were made to be broken” could easily be the Ne user’s motto.
Categories of activities that support the Ne function include:
- Creative work.
- Seeking multiple possibilities.
- Identifying patterns, trends, and connections.
Examples of Ne activities include:
- Graphic design.
- Asking questions.
- Voracious reading.
- Speculative conversation.
- Spending time with children.
- Experimenting with unconventional lifestyles.
- Taking up new and diverse hobbies.
The Ni function observes timeless principles and synthesizes connections internally. It seeks to identify the one true option out of the many. This work occurs unbeknownst to the Ni, often while the person is sleeping or performing a simple physical task such as taking a shower. This may at first glance make it seem difficult to prioritize the Ni function during waking hours. The key is to spend time feeding the intuition with information upon which it can work, which means that the focus will primarily be upon learning.
With this in mind, the major categories of activities a person with the Ni function should prioritize include:
- Seeking truth.
- Appreciating beauty.
- Playing with symbols, metaphors, and imagery.
- Developing big-picture visions for the future.
- Enlightening others.
Examples of specific Ni activities include:
- Giving advice.
- Strategy games.
- Observing trends.
- In-depth reading.
- Analyzing systems.
- Predicting the future.
- Browsing the Internet.
- Analyzing human interactions.
- Engaging in abstract theoretical conversations.
- Sitting quietly in a peaceful environment.
- Reflecting on literary and artistic symbolism.
- Identifying people to build relationships with.
The Ti function seeks consistency and applies structure internally. This function has a strong need for purpose and closure, but it prefers to seek answers by the use of reason and the development of a guiding philosophy rather than through external experimentation. People with a strong Ti function tend to be specialists, delving deeply into one or two pursuits.
Categories of activities that should be prioritized to support the Ti function include:
- Problem solving.
- Identifying a life purpose.
- Perfecting the self and its skills.
Examples of Ti activities include:
- Strategy games.
- Categorizing objects.
- Intellectual discussions.
- Puzzles and riddles.
- Taking things apart.
- Playing devil’s advocate.
- Reading scholarly material.
- Improving athletic performance.
- Formulating small business strategies.
- Formal study of math and sciences.
The Te function seeks efficiency and applies structure externally. Never satisfied with the mere contemplation of logic, the Te function must implement efficiency on the outside world. This is achieved by spelling out clear goals and metrics.
The major categories of work and recreation that will satisfy the Te function include:
- Achieving goals.
Examples of Te activities include:
- Making maps.
- Giving directions.
- Scientific research.
- Logistical planning.
- Thinking out loud.
- Organizing a household.
- Running controlled experiments.
- Implementing workplace procedures.
- Working from a to-do list.
The Fi function seeks authenticity and acts on internal values. People with an Fi function, although deeply concerned with the good of others (especially the downtrodden), are fiercely independent and need to be engaged in activities that they feel have worth. They are highly committed to the process of self-discovery.
The main categories of activities that support the Fi function include:
- Exploring the inner world.
- Expressing itself authentically.
- Exercising loyalty to people and causes that appeal to personal values.
Examples of Fi activities include:
- Studying ethics.
- Reading stories.
- Raising children.
- Analyzing feelings.
- Intimate conversation.
- Spending time alone.
- Advocating for animals.
- Listening to emotional music.
- Caring for the elderly or disabled.
- Standing up against oppressive rules.
- Teaching at an elementary school level.
The Fe function seeks interpersonal harmony and acts on external values. Working with people in positive ways to help and nurture others and maintain healthy relationships is essential for satisfying this function. It can also benefit from outward expressions of emotion.
The major categories of activities that support the Fe function include:
- Boosting morale.
- Giving and receiving validation.
- Maintaining positive relationships.
Examples of Fe activities include:
- Team sports.
- Expressing feelings.
- Casual social engagement.
- Speaking up for others.
- Listening to emotional music.
- Campaigning for good causes.
- Reading about the values of others.
- Listening to the problems of others.
Very in-depth information on cognitive functions and how they relate to career choices.