Periodic Daydreaming

The Occasional Thoughtful Ramblings of a Creative and Caffeinated Science Teacher

What’s Your Time Bias? (Periodic Daydream #5)

My mom doesn’t read books that often because she’s a finisher. She finishes everything she starts. Her logic is as follows: if she were to start reading a book, she would have to read until the end and she would get nothing else done during that time. Other people are serial starters (I might fit into this category at times.) Serial starters love to act on a new idea or whim but struggle to follow through to the finish line, whether it’s finishing a book, completing a craft, or organizing a closet. They become bored or distracted because some shiny new idea has crossed their mental path. In addition to finishers and serial starters, there are also intimidated initiators. Intimidated initiators may have strong desires to begin a goal, but fail to ever step up to the starting line, preferring to observe from the sidelines. They see limitations first and this often blocks any sort of progress down an identified path.

These three categories are definitely extremes and while we can categorize some people like my mother as more of one than another, most people are a mixture of the three depending on the context. For example, I  am a serial starter when it comes to reading books and other hobbies, but I’m definitely a finisher when it involves my professional life. The ideas in my head about education are still characteristic of a serial starter, because I’m mentally all over the place, but when I choose to do something my actions are that of a finisher. And finally, when it comes to expanding my environment or partaking in new social situations (like splurging on a grand vacation, traveling long distances alone, or willingly joining a large crowd), I’m an intimidated initiator.

All three of these are the results of what I refer to as a “time bias”.  The finisher sees time as best spent in action and finds fulfillment in getting stuff done, checking items off the list. The serial starter sees time as best spent tasting it all, forever in search of the next best spoonful. The intimidated initiator believes time is best spent in thought analyzing every detail of the situation to determine whether the risk of action is low enough and ultimate benefit great enough to proceed.

Now as stated earlier, most people do not fit completely into one of these extremes, but these characterizations of time bias are useful when trying to understand how we operate individually and also in the context of a collaborative team. In isolation a finisher can get a lot accomplished, but in collaboration a finisher might be distancing herself to the point where she has lost the necessary connection and support needed for true growth. The serial starter, as an individual can see the vast array of options and isn’t afraid to test the waters. However, in the collaborative team, this might lead to a loss of focus and purpose, leaving others confused and exhausted. Finally, the intimidated initiator takes the time to make informed well-reasoned decisions in her personal life, but in the collaborative context she may be inhibiting forward movement.

Now yes, this seems like a pretty pessimistic situation, why would anyone want to even consider these time biases? Well, in a healthy collaborative setting these biases can actually help with growth if the group culture and dynamic allows for it.  First a finisher can provide the necessary forward momentum that limits the intimidated initiator, while the intimidated initiator can provide the moments of pause needed reflect before the finisher and serial starter jump off the cliff. The serial starter can be an asset to the team, because while the finisher sees value in completing everything, the serial starter has no problem changing course and leaving behind a task or idea that just isn’t working. Additionally, when the serial starter finds something that does work, the finisher can provide the push in the last leg of the race, when the serial starter loses steam.

Ultimately though this dynamic between the finisher, serial starter, and intimidated initiator can only work if there is a healthy environment of communication, trust, and understanding. All three must take a step back in order to see their own limitations and recognize the strengths of the others so that growth and change can happen in a productive way that doesn’t thwart or isolate some while rolling over others. We are all different, with skills to offer, and we need to continually remind ourselves that we all have good intentions and desire the very best outcome.

So there’s the positive ending of a potentially pessimistic assessment of time bias. (Oh and mom, I hope you don’t feel like you need to drop everything and read a book now. You’re  perfect just the way you are!) Let’s raise our glasses to all the finishers, serial starters, and intimidated initiators. You are all valued! Cheers!


2 thoughts

  1. Thanks Leah. Interesting too. I’ll have you know I have been reading a book recently… no problem putting it down: Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised!

  2. Great ideas. Many people don’t realize that “time is a resource” is actually a metaphor. As a resource, time can be “spent,” “wasted,” “saved,” “budgeted,” etc. etc. But in his book Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff points out that time doesn’t really exist…it’s “created” by the way we perceive the actions in our lives–in a linear way. He also mentions that there are people in the world who don’t think of time as a resource. They wouldn’t say, “I didn’t have time to do that.” They might say, “That wasn’t on my path.” So perhaps doing or not doing something may also be a matter of what path we choose to take at any moment in time.

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