In the past couple of (years) weeks, different working styles among my colleagues and friends have become more apparent. Mostly in comparison with my own. And this crystallization of awareness has partially been driven because of a re-discovery of the drafts of my thesis. So before I get into today’s topic, I must apologize to my long-suffering thesis supervisors. I’m sure all three of us are supremely glad this is all over.

It is very easy to find an exploration of working styles around the interwebs that is more well-researched, and better written than this. And with definitely fewer commas. I really do like my commas. So, a purely anecdotally-arrived-at-categorization of working types based around identified Goals*.

Before we get into the categories, it is necessary to imagine a ‘Generic Work Landscape’. I’ll paint you a word picture.

Let us imagine a gently sloping hillside stretching off before us. This hillside is helpfully sloping downward and away from us, providing an appropriately awesome vista. The sun is at the horizon behind us, lighting things up so we know what’s coming. Now imagine this lovely hillside absolutely covered with all sorts of nonsense objects that have no business being there. These objects range from the mundane, say an ordinary sofa, to the rather bizarre, say a rubberized statue of Andy Sorkin covered in ice cream. This represents the ‘Generic Work Landscape’, occupied with items that represent various tasks, people, places, and thoughts that one might encounter. The goal is an absolutely smashing statuette/trophy/prize/steak/person/dream holiday, that is now just about visible at the very end of the debris/work field. This is your Goal. This Goal might represent the goal for the day, a workflow, a degree, or an entire career. The categories below represent the process by which a person reaches the Goal.

Category One: The Mostly Neaties

In this Generic Work Landscape, let us now imagine a Person standing where we were standing before – at the top of the hillside, observing the Mess^. The Mess triggers a wave of distress. But the Goal has been prioritised. The Mess can be approached later. But! This does not mean that one will now proceed in a hasty and unthinking manner. The Person brings out a phone/notebook/planner and proceeds to make a Plan. Timeblocks are allocated, strategy is drawn up, the Plan is finalized. It is a thing of beauty! Now we move on. The Person may use Deputy-Persons if available and delegate out certain tasks. Areas of collation are identified. Boundaries are drawn up. Resources are marked out and rationed.

And then the Person departs. Making a careful and neat path through the mess, the Person approaches the Goal. Specific items are moved and categorized. Occasionally they help in attaining the Goal. Occasionally they fall over and impede progress. Most inconvenient. However, this has been accounted for in the Plan. If it hasn’t been, flexibility has been built in to allow for such Annoyances. Within the allocated time, the Person has reached the Goal. It looks small from this point – which makes no sense given perspective and distance. But the Person is pleased. The Plan has worked – even with minor adjustments and revisions. The Deputy-Persons are congratulated. Hands are shaken all around and congratulatory tea is drunk. The Person moves on. A task well done.

Category Two: The Definitely Not Neaties

Let us now return to the Generic Work Landscape – with a slightly different Person. This Person differs from the one in Category One already – they are about three days too late. They are sweating slightly and slightly Peeved. The Mess does not bother them unduly. They imagine that the inside of their head looks quite the same. In a competition, their head would win over the Mess. And then worry for a bit about whether this was a worthwhile endeavor. They peer over the landscape for the Goal. It is obstructed behind a large bureau that appears to be overflowing with cats. Most mysterious. Well then, must get to it! Time is running out.

The Person hitches up their trousers/skirts/sarong/athleisure bottoms and climbs into their trusty Monster Truck-self. This is a helpful manifestation of their Work Persona. A Person in Category Two is usually blinkered to the presence of Deputy-Persons. And most associated Resources. The Person has also helpfully left their phone/planner/notebook behind at another Generic Work Landscape. But this is okay, they have done tasks like this before and are fairly confident that they’ve learnt all their lessons and know how to be efficient with their time. They rev the Monster Truck-self. And bounce and jounce with much uncertainty (but with increasing speed) over the Mess. Many objects are crushed and pushed aside. It is alright – the Person will (not) come back to deal with them. The Person performs a tricky roll-bounce and skid to a halt besides the Goal, knocking it over and scuffing the lovely exterior. They have arrived. It looks small from this point. But this could also be because of the new dent they’ve just discovered. Oh well, it has been arrived at! The Person cheers! The sound echoes out over the landscape – which somehow is Mess-ier than when they started. This is okay, they will definitely (not) come back and clear it all up in the next couple of days (never).

And there you have it. The general categories of work styles. It is possible to have those who are in the dangerous business of straddling the two categories and make the best of both worlds. I know a few of them and they are quite annoying in their adaptability and effectiveness with work.

I am firmly in Category Two however. I would like to think that I have adopted some useful habits from the first, but I believe my team would be the best judge of that. Please nobody ask them. I have thought about reconciling myself to the fact that inside my brain lives a Monster Truck-self that revs itself up into madness at the smallest hint of a task and will generally try to run itself into it with the hopes that brute force and terror will accomplish the task. And that the Truck-self will eventually learn the ways of the Bentley and cruise to an elegant glide to a Goal. But it won’t. And it will leave the long fragmented sentence two sentences ago without bothering to fix it.


The Footnotes

*I recognize that goal identification is a critical proportion of most work activities – a future post might address the angst and process associated with this. But for the moment, let us assume that these working styles magically start with the primary goal identified and demarcated in the general landscape of work.

^Here it is important to note that the person in this category might not leave this situation a mess for long. In work landscapes that stretch over a longer time gradient, a person in this category will bring order to the landscape in general. In this particular scenario, we are assuming that the timescale is fairly limited. Say 10 working days.

Comma Count: 34

Photo Credit: (L0nd0ner – at Pixabay)

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