Are you a Planner (with a capital ‘P’)?

“He’s a real planner, so you’ve got to get on his calendar ASAP.”

“She’s a planner, so make sure you have all of the details with you when you meet with her.”

“They’re real planners; they’ve got every vacation booked for the rest of the year.” 

Our culture has a funny, ironically sloppy, relationship with the word “planner.”

When we use the word “planner”, we’re sometimes referring to our actual paper calendar some of us rely on. Or we’re sometimes talking about the future thinking, strategy arm of our business – the strategic planners, the merchandise planners.

Oftentimes though, we use the word “planner” it to describe someone or something that is organized, on top of things, responsible.  All of which are true.

But, there’s more to a “planner”. And we need to be more precise with how we use the word “planner” to describe something or someone.

Because “Planner” is also one of four personal productivity styles  – one which, for all intents and purposes, aligns with our culture’s vague definition of the word. More importantly though, we need to start referring to a Planner (with a capital ‘P’) as someone or something that has the natural inclination and personal power to get things done.

So, are you a Planner? 

A Planner prefers organized, sequential, planned, and detailed thinking. A Planner budgets the time required to complete tasks, sequentially organizes tasks, and prepares accurate, detailed project plans. He or she doesn’t waste time on tasks and projects that are unproductive or unimportant, and creates project plans that are sequential, detailed and concise.  A Planner is usually careful about consulting and complying with laws, policies, regulations, and/or quality and safety criteria when planning projects.  A Planner maintains detailed lists and frequently completes work in advance of deadlines.

A Planner’s strengths include:

  • Action orientation, consistency, and practicality
  • Finding overlooked flaws in plans or processes
  • Organizing and maintaining data
  • Developing detailed processes and plans

A Planner absolutely hates: 

  • Lack of a clear agenda; disorganization and topic-hopping
  • Late or last-minute work
  • Lack of closure or follow-through and indecisiveness
  • Unclear instructions, ambiguous language, typos and other errors

A Planner absolutely loves: 

  • A schedule and action plan
  • Thorough, timely follow up
  • Scheduled appointments and timely arrivals
  • Getting to the point

Famous Planners: Philosopher Plato, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, British politician Margaret Thatcher

A classic quotation from celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain:

“When I am in a situation where there are lots of things to do, I am very organized. I relentlessly check and double check that all of the little pieces are moving the way they’re supposed to be moving. Holding it together is clearly part of my pathology. I like to be in control. Even on summer vacation I write a menu of what I’m going to be cooking for dinner.”

How does a Planner prefer to communicate? A Planner’s pattern of speech is characterized by the use of precise, detailed words. A Planner speaks in complete sentences or paragraphs and frequently expresses skepticism and concern for quality, asking precise questions that require concrete answers.  You can expect to hear Planners say things like “I believe in using proven products that have passed the test of time,” or “I’m a creature of habit, and I don’t easily change how I do things.” A Planner prefers to have information presented in a concise, consistent, detailed, and step-by-step format—and he or she expects it to be delivered on time, in writing, and with ample references. A Planner also prefers detailed action plans (including contingency plans) and expects to follow those plans precisely, with few deviations. Planners typically ask “How” questions: “How frequently do problems occur?” “How do you want to approach this project?”

A Planner will react cautiously when receiving feedback and requires neatness and punctuality.

How does a Planner use space? A Planner’s office environment and personal work space typically have a traditional look and feel, with no impractical or unnecessary items. The layout and the decorations are very practical. The work area is very neat, orderly, and organized, with few personal items to clutter the space. Professional credentials, plaques, and company-issued items are often on display.

How’s a Planner like to make a decision? A Planner approaches decision making in a spirit of practicality. He or she often finds overlooked flaws by reading the fine print in documents and contracts. Once a Planner has made a decision, he or she will stand firm, providing stable leadership and articulating plans and ideas in an orderly, consistent fashion.  You can count on a Planner to organize and keep track of data, maintain accurate financial records, and develop detailed plans and procedures.

What productivity tools support a Planner well? Productivity tools that appeal to Planners include digital lists and project planning apps like Tom’s Planner and Omnifocus (which lets them create and track projects by project, place, person, or date), Agendas (which lets them create interactive agendas and broadcast them to iPad users), and Ziplist (which creates both personal and shared family shopping lists, organizing items both by category and by the store that carries them). Planners also like low-tech tools like label makers, file folders, filing cabinets, drawer organizers, pen holders, and other office organizational supplies.  It is fun to turn Planners loose in The Container Store or an Office Depot store and watch them stock up on all of their favorite productivity toys!

So, are you Planner with a capital P?

Carson Tate
About the author: 

Carson Tate is the Managing Partner at Working Simply.  She has been featured and published in/on Bloomberg Businessweek, CBS Money Watch, Fast Company, Forbes, The New York Times, Shape, USA Today, Working Mother, Levo League, and more.  Her first book was released in January 2015 by Penguin Portfolio.  Carson holds a BA in psychology from Washington and Lee University, a Masters in Organization Development, from the McColl School of Business at Queens University. Follow Carson on Twitter and www.carsontate.com.