Does this ever happen to you when you’re busy? You look up at a clock to see that you’ve time-traveled to the future – or at least it feels that way when you realize that you’ve lost track of time while working at your job, on your schoolwork, or on a hobby. Maybe this happens to you frequently.
This can often be a good thing, when we’re “in the zone,” focused, and productive. The deeper we get into one thing, the less attention we may have for others, including clocks. But sometimes, it can mean that we’re distracted, spending too much time on tasks, falling behind on deadlines, or making ourselves late for other commitments.
Personality type may have some bearing on time-management skills, so we decided to investigate further. We asked our community if they agreed with the statement, “You easily lose track of time when working.” A significant majority (77%) agreed overall, suggesting that most of us could benefit from using the alarm or reminder settings on our devices. The data also indicates that only two personality aspects – Energy and Tactics – really influence how closely we keep track of time while we’re working.
Let’s take a few moments to review which personality types have timetable trouble when they work.
Diplomats and Analysts (83% and 82% agreeing)
Diplomats and Analysts agreed at similarly high rates, which, given their shared Intuitive trait, is not very surprising. Intuitive types, for better or worse, have a reputation for being dreamy – we often think of them as having their heads in the clouds or being somewhat removed from reality. They easily become absorbed in their work because they connect with it in deep, imaginative ways.
It’s not enough for Diplomats and Analysts to handle the realities of a project – they will happily wander off into many theories of how things might be. This is especially the case for Diplomats when they’re exploring how to help someone or support a cause they believe in, and for Analysts when they’re working through a logical problem. As creative and forward-thinking as these personalities are, these tendencies can take up a lot of energy and attention, making it easy to lose track of time.
Campaigners (ENFP) and Logicians (INTP) tied as the most likely of all types to agree with our statement (84% each). Both of these personalities are prone to overshooting timelines when they become absorbed in their work, even though they may remain busy the entire time.
Tireless, enthusiastic Campaigners may get caught up in trying out creative methods or rallying others to a cause. Logicians, the “dreamy professors” of the personality types, are constantly thinking, questioning, and innovating and generally spend more time wrapped up in their inner world than they do being fully present in what’s going on around them.
Explorers, on the other hand, have an ability to connect with their surroundings that surpasses that of other personality types. Their Observant trait keeps them rooted in the moment and aware of the passage of time. While often wildly creative, Explorers are not as likely as Intuitive types to get lost in theory or to let the gravity of their intent draw them down one all-consuming path. Instead, they take a practical approach to their work and stay alert to new opportunities that may arise.
Virtuosos (ISTP), for instance, were one of the least likely personalities to agree (69%). While a majority still indicated that they can lose track of time while they’re working, in general, Virtuosos’ ability to quickly shift gears may help them keep an eye on many things at once, including the clock.
That said, compared to Sentinels, their fellow Observant personalities, Explorers are slightly more likely to lose track of time when they work. Explorers’ Prospecting trait gives them a go-with-the-flow attitude that makes them resistant to schedules and to-do lists. Preferring the flexibility to explore new options or change direction, Explorers open themselves up to a higher likelihood of losing track of time.
Sentinel personalities are generally regarded as the best at time-management, preferring structure and predictability in their work. Reliable and sensible, they’re always aware of all their obligations and responsibilities, work-related and otherwise. To many Sentinels, an ideal solution delivered too late is useless, and achieving goals might sometimes require sacrificing time spent on inspired exploration.
Thanks to their Judging trait, Sentinels are likely to develop to-do lists, identify targets, and set schedules before they even start working, and then to check their progress regularly and ensure that they’re meeting deadlines. Interestingly, though, Sentinels’ 70% agreement rate is proof that even strategies like these can’t always prevent them from losing track of time.
Of all the personality types, Executives (ESTJ) were the least likely to say they easily lose track of time when working (68%). Executives are known as efficient, effective managers and administrators who get things done. They keep a close eye on their surroundings to make sure they’re meeting expectations, and that includes keeping track of time.
With the Confident Individualism Strategy agreeing at a rate of 79%, Constant Improvement and Social Engagement each agreeing at 78%, and People Mastery agreeing at 77%, there was very little difference among the Strategies. The Mind and Identity personality aspects – how we interact with other people and how confident we are in ourselves – do not correlate significantly to how carefully we manage our time while we’re working.
While there was a notable difference in agreement between Intuitive and Observant personality types, majority agreement was the rule here. It would seem that most of us can easily get wrapped up in work and lose track of time, especially when working on something we really care about. Certain personalities, especially those with the Intuitive and Prospecting traits, may tend to lose track of time more easily, especially during creative endeavors.
It’s important to reiterate that while meeting deadlines may sometimes factor into success, losing track of time doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re not being productive. Whether or not we lose track of time, devoting focused energy and intense effort to our work is quite likely to give us the best results we are capable of.
What about you? Do you easily lose track of time when you’re working? If so, how does it affect your life?