In the Moment vs. Forward Looking

Time is the stuff life is made of, as Benjamin Franklin once said.

How we view time, however, depends on how we’re wired. Just as people naturally fall somewhere on the continuum from introvert to extrovert, and generalist to specialist, we also find ourselves somewhere on the continuum from short-term to long-term timeframe orientation.

Short-Term Sam

One of my clients, Sam*, is short-term in his timeframe orientation. Sam has been working for 20 years, and he’s been successfully meeting short-term goals. He’s very good at accomplishing whatever task is placed before him. However, now that he’s in his 40s, Sam realizes that meeting his short-term goals hasn’t added up to a fulfilling career. He is now waking up to the importance of strategic long-term planning. Although Sam excels at getting the job done, he needs to map out exactly where he wants his career to go.

Long-Term Larry

Another one of my clients, Larry*, is long-term in his timeframe orientation. Larry’s first financial decision as a teenager was to start saving for retirement! While in high school, he thought about what kind of job he wanted and what kind of degree would be required. But he spent no time thinking about how to get into college, so much so that he almost missed the application deadline. Larry learned that to be successful, he needed to break the long-term plans into smaller, more immediate goals.

Short-Term Oriented People:

  • Want to work on projects that can be finished in a few months
  • Are eager for instant results
  • Are good at immediate, present tasks and tactics
  • Need self-discipline to achieve long-term goals
  • Would benefit from making themselves evaluate the long-term strategy

Long-Term Orientated People:

  • Want to work on projects that require strategic planning for 5+ years
  • Are able to sustain efforts that don’t have immediate gratification
  • Are good at trend analysis and extended negotiations
  • Need to be careful that their course of action is still relevant over time
  • Would benefit from breaking larger tasks into smaller, immediate goals

Staying Motivated

Entrepreneurs, for example, have a tendency toward long-term orientation. They see where an industry is going before others do, they stay focused on the distant target, and they are motivated to wait until the market is ready for their ideas.

The key to staying motivated at work is understanding what timeframe orientation you have. Think about the timeframe of the projects that motivate you. Is it less than a year (short-term)? One to five years (mid-term)? Or more than five years (long-term)? When you consider the future, what span of time do you naturally take into account?

Assessment and Coaching

Everyone has a different timeframe for planning and staying motivated. Some people are best at being in the moment, others are constantly forward looking, and some are in between. Which are you? The good news is that you don’t have to guess. I use a science-based assessment that measures your timeframe orientation. Then I coach you on how to incorporate the results into your career.

Get in touch, and let’s start you on a path that really fits how you are wired. It’s never too late for that—no matter how you view time!


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