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MBTI Type and Getting Organized

Posted 11 Oct 2016 by Marta, MBTI Certified Expert & Organizational Development Consultant
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When it comes to accomplishing something worthwhile, people almost agree that getting organized is an indispensable step. Yet, the way we define “organized” can differ greatly from person to person. While neatly written “to-do” lists and tidy desks might seem like the perfect picture of organization, there are actually different ways to be organized. Knowing what style of organization works best for you will not only help you get organized, but also make it easier for you to stay that way.

The MBTI® instrument can shed light on the topic of organization in ways you may not have thought of. Just as different four-letter types indicate various preferences for learning, communicating, working with teams, etc., they also indicate how you prefer to get organized. In particular, understanding your preference for either Judging or Perceiving--which  indicates how we like to situation ourselves relative to the outside world--is a great place to start:

The “Judging” way: Make your list and check it twice!

When Judging is our preference, we look around and see things that need to be organized and decisions that need to be made. We enjoy making lists and then checking things off those lists. For those with this preference, being organized looks more like the traditional, orderly vision of tidiness. Chaos is experienced as stressful, so making a list and checking it twice helps those with a preference for Judging to be organized and in control.

Tip for getting organized: Develop an organizing structure. It's important to remember that having a preference doesn’t equate to having a skill. You may have a preference for Judging but not have developed it, and so your desire for organization isn’t necessarily matched your ability to be organized. But, structure and schedule will help you to be at your best, so strategies that assist you in that area are key to harnessing your full potential. You can do this by creating a plan for getting organized--making a to-do list, and ensuring that you don’t just put things away but put them in their right place. If things are neat and tidy on the outside, you’ll probably feel more calm and quiet on the inside.

There are a variety of organizational tools that might be appealing, some more traditional and some utilizing current technology. To determine what’s most effective, you may have to look beyond type and into your individual likes and dislikes.  For some, a paper calendar and written “to do” list may be just the ticket, for others, smartphone apps for calendars, notes, and reminders may be the best fit. Larger visuals, such as white boards, can also provide a visible reminder of the tasks at hand. In the next blog we’ll talk about a few tools for organization you might want to try.

...Not the only way of being organized

As you may have observed, in the U.S. we have a distinct bias toward the Judging preference. When it comes to getting organized, so much of what comes to mind often simply equates “being organized” with the basic tenets of a Judging preference for a very tight ship. However, it’s definitely not the only valid approach, and for a large segment of the population isn’t ideal for a number of reasons. Those with the opposite preference for Perceiving take an approach that is quite different, yet equally valid and effective for them.

The “Perceiving” Way: Be organized, but stay flexible

Individuals with a preference for Perceiving tend to be most happy when flexibility is center stage. They look around and see a candy store of possibilities and options, and a checklist that is too rigid might actually be stressful, because for them it shuts down the potential that makes life interesting. A style of organization that is more elastic in nature is often a better fit, as it retains access to a range of possibilities.

Tip for getting organized: Find ways to bring options to your organization. You may actually use the same tools as those preferring Judging, but in different ways. Flexibility and spontaneity will help you be at your best, but even these qualities need to be harnessed. Remember, Perceiving is about preferring a meandering route to the deadline, not missing the deadline, so organization is still important!

You may also create lists, but then use them in very different ways. Instead of following it item by item—a practice you may find stressful—you may find it more beneficial to check in with it after each item, reassessing and adjusting a necessary. Use a whiteboard so that to-do lists can be easily adjusted as new information is received, and create a plan that you can alter, allowing yourself the freedom to change course. Giving yourself permission to be more flexible in your organization will be less stressful, and more productive. This honoring of flexibility will help you use various tools more effectively, rather than experience them as a source of friction. We’ll talk about a few tools for organization you might find useful in the next blog.

The organizational style of those who prefer Perceiving might look less structured, perhaps even a bit chaotic to those with a preference for Judging.  Your whiteboard may include erasings, circles, or underlines that indicate new information that has been factored in. But in this case, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, but in the ability of the individual to get organized according to their authentic style.