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Understanding your personality: balancing tasks and people

While personality tests and reading about personality types have been regarded by some as self-indulgent navel gazing, there is real value that comes from identifying your natural tendencies. Every personality has strengths and weaknesses, and understanding what yours are allows you take advantage of the strengths and create a plan to overcome the weaknesses.

The most popular personality test is the Myers-Briggs typology, but I’ve always been fascinated by the task-oriented versus people-oriented personality spectrum. Perhaps it’s because I am so strongly task-oriented, and I appreciate having a name for the focus I tend to place on my to-do list and getting things done.

As with all personality types, there is no right or wrong here. We need a balance of both personalities within society. People-oriented personalities build relationships and community, while task-oriented personalities get things done, and both are important.

Just like we need a balance of both to make the world go round, we also need to find a balance of both within our homes.

If you’re like me, your natural bent toward one end of the spectrum or the other may be so strong that you know without a doubt which personality type you are. If you’re somewhere toward the middle, you may have to spend more time thinking it through. But either way, it’s important to capitalize on the strengths of your personality while being aware of the weaknesses so that you can look for ways to improve.

Defining your personality type

First, let’s look at the characteristics of both personality types to help you identify which describes you.

Task-oriented personalities tend to:

  • Focus on their to-do list and the things they hope to accomplish.
  • Be concerned with productivity and efficiency.
  • Have concrete goals and detailed lists.

People-oriented personalities tend to:

  • Focus on the needs of the people around them.
  • Be concerned with building relationships and keeping people happy.
  • Place more importance on the feelings and happiness of people than on their to-do list.

Photo by omniNate

Finding balance

Although I am strongly task-oriented, I obviously care about my husband and my children as well. Understanding my personality means that I have to consciously take a step back from a project, idea or task to consider their needs and the time I’m spending with them so that I’m not neglecting those relationships in favor of my to-do list.

On the other hand, if you are strongly people-oriented, you may find that the opposite is true. You may need to figure out ways to balance your people focus with your responsibilities, whatever they may be. While it’s true that in 20 years you won’t regret taking extra time to play with your children, valuing our role as home managers means prioritizing the tasks that keep our home running smoothly as well.

So how do you find a balance between both focuses? Here are some tips for both personality types:

Task-oriented personalities

1. Schedule time to focus on the people around you and commit to setting aside your to-do list during that time.

2. Consciously make eye contact when your husband or children speak to you so that they have your full attention, even though you may be tempted to multitask.

3. Add relationship-building tasks to your to-do list, such as sending birthday cards, calling your mom or having a date night with your husband.

4. Go outside, to the library, or to a museum where you can just enjoy being with your family without the distraction of things that need to be done.

People-oriented personalities

1. Get your husband and children involved in your chores. Turn on music and work together to get things done while having fun and spending time together.

2. Look for opportunities to get things done in smaller chunks rather than saving them all up to do at once. For example, you can wipe down the bathroom as part of your morning routine or load the dishwasher immediately following a meal.

3. Use the time you spend on the phone with your husband or a friend to do routine chores, such as folding laundry or dusting.

4. Rather than feeling like you have to choose between cuddling your little ones or getting chores done, use a sling, wrap or carrier to combine both.

How would you characterize your personality? How do you balance your natural tendencies with the needs of your family and your home?

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  1. Dana

    Understanding yourself also helps you understand those around you better, too. I think it is very valuable for family members to discuss their personalities, strengths and weaknesses and see how they work together to make a stronger family.
    .-= Dana´s last blog ..Signs of Spring =-.

  2. Debi

    Great post! This is so important for us to understand how and why we do the things we do and why we can’t just ‘do it’ like someone else. It also helps us be more effective in relating to our kids as well.

  3. Maya

    This is a great post Mandi!

    I get into certain modes and intensely task oriented or people oriented – even within my work. The best way for me to work this is to break my day into more task-oriented or people oriented parts. I divide even my work day – parts of the day I talk to people and other parts I work head down. Seems to mess with my efficiency if I try to interlace them. Understanding how I work has really made me so much more efficient though πŸ™‚

  4. Melitsa

    I think I am a bit of each of those. Although perhaps err to the people orientated more. Although when I get into it I can lose all track of time…………hmmm confused now lol. Either way these tips work well .
    .-= Melitsa´s last blog ..Raising Playful Tots #16 Making literacy connections =-.

  5. Aimee

    “Even though you may be tempted to multi-task..”
    Love it, Mandi! That is me to the core. Thanks for the helpful tips.

  6. renee @ FIMBY

    Without a doubt I am a task oriented person. I am an excellent home manager, not so good at sitting down a playing with my kiddos. But, in my defence (gasp, a mother who doesn’t like to sit down and play legos and barbies!) I am really good at scheduling time during my day to do things with my children (we homeschool so we’re home all day together). Reading with them, helping them with their crafts, supporting their learning and occasionally jumping on the trampoline with them, even though that is so not good for my bladder.

    I guess I balance my task/goal orientated tendencies by making relationship building with my husband and children one of my tasks/goals in my daily life and week.

    • Rana

      I would have to agree with Renee. I love my lists and keeping everything organized and managed, but I have to make the time too in the schedule for little people time. It helps that they like to help me do some of the chores around the house. We spend a lot of time together that way.
      .-= Rana´s last blog ..Post It Note Tuesday! =-.

    • Jackie Lee

      Renee, thank you for saying that you have a hard time getting down and playing with your kids. I do too. It seems so “anti motherhood” to say such a thing, but heaven help me. I love to read to her, and do other task oriented things together (like baking, etc) but … yeah. so thanks. Mandi this was a great post, and really got me thinking about both sides of me without so much judgment. Thanks to you too!
      .-= Jackie Lee´s last blog ..Annoying People May Be a Message… Are You Listening? =-.

      • Mandi @ Organizing Your Way

        I think that “playing” with our kids is overrated. Time spent together is definitely important, but that can be reading, cuddling, singing, cooking, cleaning, going for a walk, whatever! I tend to do silly really well, but just sitting and playing with the farm set? Not so much. Often I’ll set a toy up and help them get started, or tell them a story to kick start their imaginary play, but that’s it.
        .-= Mandi @ Organizing Your Way´s last blog ..Understanding Your Personality: Balancing Tasks and People =-.

        • Nicole

          Yeah, I’m not a huge “player” either! My husband is great at that though. I feel guilty about it sometimes, but then I realize I give my kids so much. Like Mandi said: we read, cuddle, etc–that’s my version of connecting! Great topic and discussion!

          • Jenny

            I am so thankful for my playful husband- anytime I grow frustrated that he wasn’t able to multitask while caring for the children, I remind myself of how much they need that silly play time with him and I’m thankful he can provide it!

  7. Simple Homeschool~Jamie

    I think I’m quite task-oriented by nature, but definitely having three children and a husband has brought out the people-oriented side.

    I usually do what you’re suggesting–put the relationship building activities on my to-do list.

    Great ideas, Mandi!
    .-= Simple Homeschool~Jamie´s last blog ..How to Homeschool with a Baby or Toddler (& Enjoy It!) =-.

  8. Nicole at Burning Bushes

    This is a great post. I wrote a while back about my own struggles with being too task oriented at times. I’ve tried to rework my system of ‘to do’s’ by remembering the main roles I play in life and focusing my ‘tasks’ around those relationships. It’s been a real help to me.

    You can read the post if you’re interested here:

    Thanks again for the great thoughts.

  9. Shannon

    I am definitely a people-oriented person, while my husband is task-oriented. I am finding it more and more common for spouses to be opposites. Have you heard of the flagpage test? It has really helped my husband and I to better understand each other’s needs and our own. It is done by the creators of the Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage series, which is hilarious btw.

  10. Donna

    I am new to your blog and loving it. I have three little kids (4,3,1). I am just now getting my head above water and figuring out routine and how I am going to manage this household. So many of your articles are about ideas that have been floating around in my head. It is so helpful to see them reduced to writing. Keep up the great work!

  11. lisa (in texas)

    Your article should help many! I am definitely a people-oriented person and my husband is the task-oriented one. It was very enlightening when we both came to the place a few years ago of really understanding and appreciating our different ways with things/people. It helped tremendously! And so much less frustration now.

    And I really liked your idea to wear you baby or carry them while you do things. I am one that is all for holding and carrying those kiddos as long as possible! I’ve been blessed to be a SAHM for 17 yrs, and was with my kids 24/7 for many, many years – homeschooling too. They are all very independent now (and in public school) at 7, 10, 12, 14, and 16. Yes, I “spoiled” them, and I loved it, they loved it, and they’re not all warped or insecure now that they’re too big to be carried – it actually worked to help them!

    I loved the days when mine were all babies, but I’m truly enjoying letting go more and watching them grow up. I think one of the reasons I never wish them small again is because I do not have the regret that “I wish I would’ve spent more time with them…held them more…” It couldn’t have been possible!
    (my mistakes and blunders just happen to have been in other areas!)

    lisa in texas

  12. Prairie Chick

    I needed this today. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH how I needed this. THANK YOU. I am very, very task oriented and while I am good at making relationship opportunities within my home with my husband and kids (I homeschool and dh has a job with great hours and three day weekends) I am NOT good at doing so with relationships outside the home. I have great friends and a church full of people I love but I so often end up wallowing in self pity as I watch my friends chat on social networks about all the stuff they are “doing” together (running, coffeeing, shopping, whatever) while I allow myself to get stuck at home because I have this list of tasks that I must accomplish in order to be balanced and efficient and happy.

    The truth is that I am jealous and feel sorry for myself so often as I watch the people oriented social butterflies in my circle. It’s a case of “be the change” you want to see, and I for one, am going to call up a friend and see if she will join me on my evening walk. And if she can’t, I’ll find someone who will.
    .-= Prairie Chick´s last blog ..Pretty and Practical =-.

  13. Kara

    Great post, Mandi! And I agree: the world needs both types of people.

    Terrific tips for making the most of the potential for each trait, too.
    .-= Kara´s last blog ..Weekend Showcase: Link Love =-.

  14. Dustin | Engaged Marriage

    Where did you get a picture of *my* hand? I love me some post-it notes!

    One of my favorite personality tests is from “Finding Your Strengths” and it really nailed my strong points.

    I am very task-oriented. This works great in my day job as an engineer. However, in my part-time gig as a marriage blogger, I find myself venturing into less comfortable territory in the people-oriented arena. Of course, this dichotomy is one of the reasons I enjoy both roles so much!
    .-= Dustin | Engaged Marriage´s last blog ..Natural Family Planning: Our Journey from Cultural to Natural =-.

  15. Sandy/AboutOne

    Thank you for a great post! I am the social mom and find it hard to keep on task and finish my projects!
    Your tip to do your chores while on the phone, that is me!!
    If I have a lot to do I get on the phone and work while I am visiting! πŸ™‚
    .-= Sandy/AboutOne´s last blog ..How can I sign up for AboutOne? =-.

  16. Meghan

    Oh man, I think I’m right down the middle. Which you’d think would be great because you get the best of both worlds. I find it more frustrating, though, because I have to work hard at being either one.
    .-= Meghan´s last blog ..Lake in the Highlands =-.

  17. Melodie

    This is a very helpful post for where my hubby and I are right now in our state of conflicts. Thank you!
    .-= Melodie´s last blog ..Nachos and Guacamole =-.

  18. Sharee

    I’m very task oriented. I love the idea of adding spend time with each child on my list. I’ll be much more likely to just focus on them and not try to multi task. I’ve also found that my kids like to clean around the house if we do it together this has really helped our relationships. I feel good because something is getting done and they feel good because they are with me and they are starting to recognize that feeling of accomplishment. They were so excited to see how clean the garage was the other day after a couple hours of working together as a family.

  19. Laura

    Very interesting. Never thought about personality in these terms, but now I recognize myself as totally task-oriented. I am the one that needs to write “ring mom” on the list to give it priority… I’m not very proud of this but it works.
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Textile Jewelry – Singleton button earrings – Anna Maria =-.

  20. Maria

    I’ve been fascinated with typology too – I just checked out a book from the library about the four temperaments and can’t wait to read it.

    However, I find that these two types you’ve mentioned don’t fit me – I am both. My to-do lists include doing things with my family and friends or doing things FOR my family or friends. I’ve found that it is because I’m people oriented I need to also be task oriented: by getting things done and out of the way, I have more time to spend with my family and friends, but because I have a busy life, I also need to be task oriented (and I relish checking things off!). Does that even make sense?

    Even the more complex typologies are limiting in their scope: I’m an INFP, but I prefer a schedule to stay on track (a J quality), and I swing wildly between introversion and extroversion. Even with what I know about the four temperaments, I sometimes see certain behaviors or attitudes in myself that speak to different temperaments.

    Great post, I don’t always read these every day, but I’m glad I did today.

  21. Jen

    Great article today! I’ve never really thought about personality types too much, but this is really interesting. I think I am quite solidly a people oriented personality, but reading this made me realize that I tend to find a really good balance when I am single parenting. Although I dislike my husband being gone so much (he’s military) I think it must force me to focus on tasks a bit more.

    I will definitely keep some of your tips in mind and try to find that balance a bit better even when we are both at home! Thanks!

  22. Kayla

    “4. Rather than feeling like you have to choose between cuddling your little ones or getting chores done, use a sling, wrap or carrier to combine both.”

    I love this idea! I know in the past I have felt a sense of guilt for doing this but the way you write it just makes sense and doesn’t sound selfish or neglectful at all. I tend to be more people oriented and am a task oriented wanna be.

    Thank you so much for this post. It came at the absolute perfect time!

  23. Julie

    Hi Mandi,

    Do you think it is possible to alternate between the two extremes? I find this in my husband. I would say he is generally more people-oriented, but when the tasks/ pressure builds up, he becomes very task oriented and it is hard for him to stop and make time for people.

    I find the same in myself, though I am more task-oriented. I find making time for people easy when I don’t have much on my to-do list. When the to-do list fills up, I really struggle to put the effort into my relationships.
    .-= Julie´s last blog ..Defiant Birth =-.

  24. Julie

    Hi Mandi,

    I’m wondering whether you think it is possible to alternate between the two? My husband is generally very people-oriented, but when the tasks and the pressure builds up, he finds it hard to “switch off” and have relational time.

    I’m similar, but I am generally always more task-focussed. When there isn’t much on my to-do list, I find it easy to prioritise relationships though.
    .-= Julie´s last blog ..Defiant Birth =-.

  25. Shannon

    Love love love this post! I am definately a type-A personality and my husband is very laid back. I am always checking things off of my to-do list, but I am finding with an increasing work load, it often doesnt allow for quality time with the family at night. So, I have started to have my two year old help with chores, which he absolutely loves, and we get to spend some time together. Our house is also on the market, so our house always has to be “staged”, which can be stressful. However, I always try to remember everything doesnt have to get done now. Thank you for a great post.
    .-= Shannon´s last blog ..Restaurants + two year old = not relaxing =-.

  26. Shawna Cevraini

    I have heard about the MyersBriggs, but not the task-oriented vs people-oriented. I’m the people-oriented person for sure. My husband is the opposite!

    Thanks for the tips, that will really help both of us!
    .-= Shawna Cevraini´s last blog ..My Canada =-.

  27. lily

    I am task oriented for sure! My husband is the opposite. This totally helps. πŸ™‚ Thanks!

  28. Gen

    Love this post!
    Reminded me of some wise words from my pastor when my husband and I were in pre-marital counseling: “the person is more important than the project”
    This simple phrase has kept my task-oriented self out of much trouble over the years πŸ™‚

  29. Kelli

    Excellent post! I too am task-oriented and I loved seeing ideas on how to make sure others aren’t being neglected or forgotten as I battle the to-do list.

  30. Gini

    Great post! I am defenetely a people-oriented person. Every since becoming a stay at home mom, its been a struggle for me to manage our home. But after three years, I have seen much improvement! And your site had some good ideas. Thanks! The only thing about the suggestions for my personality is … how do I get my husband to help!?!? haha Really. I wish I knew how to ask for help. He thinks the home is my job since I’m a stay at home mom.

  31. Shannon Rubsamen

    I was JUST having this conversation with a friend at lunch yesterday. Thank you for spelling it out so well!

  32. Marcy K.

    I really love a book called Personality Plus by Florence Littauer because it is all about this topic, but is broken down into really easy to understand terms. It is a lot of fun too. See if your library has it. I’ve had 2 copies and they constantly get borrowed, it is great.
    .-= Marcy K.´s last blog ..What the Girl Scouts Are Up to Now =-.

  33. khadija

    I cant thank you enough ….. this article really helped me ..

  34. Marcia Francois

    For those who feel conflicted between the two types, here are two questions that will help:

    how do you feel the majority of the time?
    which do you prefer to do first (honestly)? tasks or being with people? (e.g. I like to get my to-dos out the way first before getting on the phone and chatting with people – that’s a clear task preference)

    p.s. I spent 7 years doing assessments at my church to help people discover their God-given passion, gifts and personal style. this (task vs people) is part of the personal style. The other is structured vs unstructured.

    • Anne Graham

      Hi Mandy,
      Thanks for the great article. As a psychologist I like your step by step approach. Keep up the good work.

  35. jensgifts.etsy

    Thanks for the reminder! I always know I need to put down my to-do list when I catch my 3 year old telling my 1 year old that she’ll play with her in “just a minute.” Maybe with this reminder fresh in my mind today, I’ll be able to stop and focus on them before that little echo comes back to me. πŸ™‚

  36. Nicole

    In practice I seem to be more task-oriented (because I feel like all I do is housework, cooking, etc) but in my mind I feel like I am more people-oriented. I don’t feel that I’m naturally a task-oriented person, but am now out of necessity. I love your suggestions for creating more balance–because I do find I get into an “all or nothing” mode. Thanks for the thoughtful article. πŸ™‚

  37. Audrey

    I am really task-oriented as well, and it is a challenge for me to not focus so intently on my to-do list at home. I try to balance it by scheduling time to get some things checked off my list (which makes me feel good), but then also setting aside time just for my family, where I have no expectation of getting things done.

  38. Sharon W

    I am definitely task oriented. I once worked in a small office with all women and I would get so frustrated as they’d stand at my desk visiting. I didn’t want to flat out ignore them, but I only worked part-time and had plenty of work to do in the hours I was in the office. Over the long weekend, my husband and I took our toddler to the park each day. We had such a great time. We are terrible about spending time together as a family. My husband and I are both introverts and try to get time to ourselves to recharge whenever we can. But I thoroughly enjoyed spending time together as a family, even if it meant sacrificing some of my to-do list. I’m not sure my husband falls into either category, is there a third option??? Like video game oriented πŸ˜‰

  39. Lisa

    I absolutely cannot figure myself out. One day I want the people out of my way so I can get stuff done. The next, I can’t seem to get anything done without someone to chat with. Either way, I appreciate this article!

  40. tahlia - the parenting files

    a great insightful post. Finding balance in life is something so important and can take a little practice.

  41. ErinOK @ it's OK

    I thought at first, I’m task-oriented, by looking at what each type focuses on. But then I realized, I focus so much on task-oriented stuff because I so easily throw it aside, it’s hard for me to stick to it and get things done. People and relationships always come in an easy first for me. I know I’m a great mom and wife, but weak home-manager, though I’m trying soooo hard!

  42. StephanieB

    I have to say that this post has great timing for ke personally. My husband and I just did the myers- Briggs test this week. I was surprised how dead on it was. I am definetely task oriented and my husband is more people. I really have to purposefully stop what I am doing and focus on him when we talk. I can talk and do something at the same time but it is more important to give him my full attention. Thanks for the reminder!

  43. Liza Purdy

    Aha! I’ve never heard of this and now I know why my husband and I sometimes clash- I’m totally people oriented and he’s completely task-oriented. I will share this with him! It’s nice to see that neither of us is “wrong.”

  44. Heather Novak

    Oh this is rough, I am tasky to a fault AND a fixer. Anyone ever try to fix a two and a half year old? UGH.

  45. Successful Woman's Resource Center

    I am definitely a task oriented person. I have to make sure to take time and MAKE time for the people in my life.
    Great post Mandi!

  46. Kiasa

    I’m all about my to-do list. My husband is all about just hanging out together (and getting nothing done). We are figuring out how to find the balance at home. I know I really need to work on looking my family members in the eye when they are talking to me. It’s so hard when I finally can put the baby down and do some dishes; that’s always when someone wants to talk to me.

  47. Sharon W

    I am task oriented and have a hard time looking away from my to-do list. Going to the park with my toddler each day (weather permitting) has been a fantastic way for us to have good, quality time together. I talk with her the entire time we are walking to/from the park and am by her side the whole time we are there whether she is running in the grass, finding sticks and rocks, or climbing up the stairs to get to the slide.

    We also love to go to the grocery store together. We point out things to one another in the store (the Disney Princess balloon, the Cookie Monster balloon, the butterfly balloon, apples, pears, other kids in the store etc).

    Getting out of the house with my daughter is certainly the best way for me to give her my undivided attention.

  48. Transcription Company

    Understanding yourself is most important.To be a responsible family man before knowing others first thing is to know yourself. We should discuss and have conversations so that we can understand others as well a their views about us.Better understanding about your personality leads to better performance and better behavior with people.

  49. Hazel Lamarre

    It’s interesting that we are quite different at work than at home when it comes to whether we are task or people driven. I’ve found it does however remain the same from Private Life to Home Life to Married Life. Having this knowledge after my first marriage would have been so valuable in my second marriage and my family. Instead I repeated patterns of misunderstanding. I am so pleased to have this and other detailed information to help me have a better and easier existence in my relationships. A simple quick quiz and it’s all so very clear what is great and what causes conflicts. Enjoy!

  50. Jav

    After reading your article it seems i have more concentrated on Task oriented and very much less on people Or.Personality.

    Looks like i have to balance life accordingly.

  51. Richard

    You have definitely stimulated a few questions in me. I’ve taken the MBTI (Myers-Briggs assessment), but still don’t really understand how it is related to being “people oriented” or “object/task oriented.” Can you offer a little more explanation, using MBTI terminology ?

    Thanks in advance,

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