In my last post, I discussed decision making styles, which are inherent parts of our personality and can impact our productivity. Now here’s another trait to consider: time perspective. I’ve summarized briefly, below, but for more information, check out this scholarly article, or the two-minute summary.
Five Time Perspectives
Researchers have identified five distinct perspectives:
- Past-negative: Focus on negative aspects of the past, often feeling bitter and regretful
- Past-positive: View the past through rose-colored glasses, and may be overly cautious about preserving precious memories
- Present-hedonistic: Pursue immediate rewards and have trouble with delayed gratification
- Present-fatalistic: Feel trapped in the moment and unable to change current circumstances
- Future-focused: Goal oriented, striving toward the future; often sacrificing the present
Time Perspective, Clutter and Procrastination
I think time perspective may be at play for clients who struggle with clutter and/or productivity. With clutter, it’s the past-positives and future-focused that are most impacted. Past-positives are nostalgic and hesitant to let go of items associated with happy memories; future-focused people are reluctant to give up anything that may be useful in the future. Ironically, I don’t see a lot of procrastinators in these two groups, although their productivity is often hindered for other reasons.
For “pure” procrastination (i.e., delays that are not a consequence of deliberately re-ordered priorities or uncontrollable circumstances), it’s the other three groups that are impacted. Past-negatives are sometimes more focused on perceived injustices than moving forward with their goals. Present-hedonistic types can be impatient and have difficulty connecting appreciating the benefits of delayed gratification. Present-fatalistic clients can feel powerless and ineffectual, feeling their circumstances are too much to overcome and it’s worthless to try.
Try Something Different
How is your time perspective affecting you? Is it serving you well? If not, perhaps it’s time to try moving outside your comfort zone. See if you can step back from your feelings and identify them as an inherent bias, but not necessarily accurate. Identify one small action that moves you outside your comfort zone. It won’t feel natural, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a good thing to do. It may be an old cliché, but to get different results, we need to act differently.
One flaw that I see with this theory, is that it doesn’t include people who have a nice balance of time perspective–those who appreciate the positive aspects of each profile and don’t get derailed by the negatives. I’d love to hear what you think.