When I was in college, I got in the habit of planning out my coursework. I’d take each class syllabus and copy every reading assignment, paper, and project onto a monthly calendar. I did this at the start of each new semester so that I could see everything that was coming down the pike.
I also planned out my weeks and days. I’d pencil in class meetings, workouts, and study time in a day planner. The routine helped me break big projects into manageable chunks and prioritize my time.
Some of my friends worked differently than I did. They planned far less. In the weeks approaching a big project, they’d put a little time in here and there but nothing substantial. A couple days before the due date, however, they’d shift into high gear, working for extended periods of time and in bursts of energy. They enjoyed – even needed – the rush that a looming deadline brought with it.
But their flexible schedules had other benefits. They almost always had time for an episode of The Office or a new movie at the campus cinema. 1:00 a.m. Sheetz runs were never out of the question. And if they wanted to stay up late and sleep in until 11:00 a.m., they did.
Is either approach better than the other? Not necessarily. It’s really just a matter of preference.
The Myers-Briggs personality system calls people with a preference for planning judgers and the people who prefer a free schedule perceivers.
Do you know which you are?
A big difference between judgers and perceivers is their comfort with spontaneity.
People who prefer judging dislike open loops and “playing it by ear”. They feel good when they know what’s coming and their decisions are already made. They depend on routines and schedules because they provide a predictable structure to their lives that they can count on.
My dad is a judger. I can tell you with considerable accuracy where he’s going to be and what he’s going to be doing at any given point in the day. At 6 a.m., for example, he’ll be sipping coffee at the breakfast table. On Saturday morning, he’ll be visiting his mother.
Dad’s coworkers could order his lunch. They know what he likes because he usually gets the same thing. Yes, something new could be better. But Dad would rather stick with what he knows is a good choice already.
In contrast, perceivers love spur-of-the-moment living. They’re more scared of missing out on fun, excitement, and exceptional new ideas than they are of uncertainty.
Perceivers are the kinds of people who like to “wing it”. If they’ve got to prepare a lesson or talk, they’ll come up with a lot of their best ideas at the last minute. They think well in the moment when they can piece together all that’s happening around them.
They also enjoy new experiences. They love to go new places and try new things. And they’re usually open to new ideas and ways of thinking.
My mom is a perceiver. Her hair, glasses, and clothing change from year to year. She loves to experiment with a new look.
And unlike my dad, she enjoys trying new foods. At a restaurant, she’ll always be the last one to order because she has such a hard time saying “No” to all the good options: She just doesn’t want to miss out.
Another way to tell the difference between judgers and perceivers is to find out how they feel about order.
Everyone has some clutter. But a mess bothers some people more than it does others.
One member of my family is an obsessive cleaner. She’ll vacuum and tidy up before guests come over. And she’ll do it again right after they leave, even if they didn’t make a big mess. Some days she vacuums the same room three times. If we want to show this family member we love her, we scrub her sink and counters until they shine.
Other people I know don’t mind disorganization so much. They’re okay with a pile of books on the floor and a little trash in their car. Sure, they’d like it if their houses were spotless. But they’re not going to get all out of sorts over a few piles.
Again everybody’s going to have some messes in his life. But think about how you feel about that mess.
I, for example, have a hard time relaxing when my environment’s in disarray. I used to organize my room as a kid just because it made me feel good. And that’s the case with most judgers: They’re natural organizers.
But perceivers are wired to collect information – not organize it. Perceivers are constantly noticing what’s happening in their physical environment or gathering ideas. My mom can’t help but send us an innovative kitchen solution or a newfangled shoelace substitute. She loves ideas.
So take a look at your calendar (if you even have one), and think about whether you’re information gatherer or an organizer. Are you a judger or perceiver?
Other blog posts in this series include: