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Time Through The Lens of Colour

I raced down the highway, desperately trying to make the 2 p.m. commitment I’d made to meet a friend at a restaurant 35 kilometres away.

Too unrealistic of a to-do list, with too unrealistic estimates of time for each task, meant I was leaving 10 minutes late. It was 1:50 p.m., and my GPS said it should take me 30 minutes.

My optimistic, assertive nature was certain I could make up the time driving. After all, speed limits are guidelines.

The less optimistic police officer standing outside my window does not think the same.

As I breathe in, trying to regain some semblance of patience, I take the speeding ticket and accept that I am going to be late.

I pull into the restaurant. A message dings. It is from the friend.

“I am going to be a few minutes late, but I will be there.” Sent at 2:15, or 15 minutes after our agreed meeting time. She was at the farmers’ market and couldn’t help but start conversations with everyone she ran into on her way out.

I shake my head.

I know this stuff. I know my style. I know her style. I facilitate courses on this.

My style, the high red, underestimates the time things will take and then tries to plow through at the last minute like the rules don’t apply to them.

Her style, the high yellow, has a different perception of time. Time stops existing when it comes to socializing with people.

I was rushing, getting a speeding ticket, to be on time for someone I can safely predict will be late.


Image: Contributed by author

How does each style or colour treat time? Here are two scenarios that illustrate the differences.

Scenario 1: There is an office meeting starting at 2 p.m. Based on your style or colour, here’s what this what time looks like.

Red: 1:59:30 p.m., files under your arm, you stride into the meeting. It starts at 2 o’clock, and no point being early and wasting any time. You sit in your marked seat, pen poised to check off agenda items the moment they are complete, readying yourself for the throbbing at your temples when, after 30 minutes, there still are no decisions.

“Time is money.” — Benjamin Franklin

Yellow: At 2:04 p.m. you are chatting and laughing with someone in the hall (another yellow). You blow into the meeting, a hot, full cup of coffee in your hand, and before you even sit down you start your individual greetings, oblivious the meeting has already started …

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” — Marthe Troly-Curtin

Green: At 1:50 p.m. you are already in your customary seat, with files organized according to the agenda items, patiently waiting for the others to arrive so the meeting can begin. You think about how you can present an opposing viewpoint to the red. “Maybe not this time.”

“I recommend you take care of the minutes, and the hours will take care of themselves.” — Earl of Chesterfield

Blue: At 1:58 p.m. you walk into the room alone, again checking your watch just in case the walk to the conference room took more than the 28 seconds it has taken every other time. Colour-coded sticky notes are evenly attached to the neatly piled file folders. Always ready to start on time, you are also prepared for the long haul. There are important issues on the agenda, and you need to make sure everyone has the facts right. Being accurate is more important than ending on time.

“I’d rather be right than right on time.” — Bryan Bonuomo

Scenario 2: It’s Friday afternoon. You are heading out of town, catching a plane. You have to go to the bank, and you must see a real person. No ATM, no online. A real person with a pulse. You get to the bank. There is a lineup.

Red: As a red, you have no time for this. You look around. Where is the manager? Peering into the offices, you see someone who looks like they have authority.

“Here, do this for me. I am going to be late, and I don’t have time to wait in the lineup.”

Yellow: As the outgoing yellow, you have some concern about making it through the line in time to get to the airport. But that’s not a problem — you’ve been here before.

With a hopeful smile, you are polite. “Excuse me, I have a plane to catch. Would it be OK if I went ahead of you in line?”

The person ahead of you looks surprised, but beyond being Canadian and accommodating, this is not a common request, so “Sure.” You work your way to the front of the line. No waiting.

Green: As a green, you don’t even understand this scenario. You knew you needed to get the banking done before you left town. You would have been at the bank on Wednesday.

Blue: You are an information-seeking blue. Why, on a Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., would a bank not have more people on staff to work the busier time of the week?

One scenario. Four different perspectives.

But what are the styles thinking about each other?

The green looks at the red and wonders, “How could they burst into someone’s office and demand someone take care of their problem immediately?”

The red looks at the green and thinks, “If you had time to do this Wednesday, you obviously don’t have enough to do.”

The blue looks at the yellow, working the crowd and moving to the front of the line, and silently fumes, “They have those queue ropes for a reason, you know.”

The yellow shakes their head at the blue and can’t understand why the blue even bothers to think of someone else’s scheduling practices.

One scenario, and no one sees the other’s reactions in the same light.

These differences in perception of time cause conflict between people. Having an awareness of what style your co-workers, friends or family members are, you can have a better understanding about how they see the world and how they function.

Then it’s easier to manage your expectations. And vice-versa.

There is more understanding and less conflict when you know how time is perceived through the lens of colour.


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