Productivity Personas – Are You a Starter or a Finisher? (Day 12 of 30 Days of Getting Results)



“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Your Outcome: Become a “productive artist.” Find whether you are a “starter” or a “finisher” and improve your success in everything you do.

Some people are natural “starters.”  They live for the creative beginning of projects, but not the day-to-day execution or the detailed follow up and follow through.  Some people are natural “finishers.”  They like the day-to-day work and the routine execution. When “starters” and “finishers” pair up, everybody wins.

Welcome to day 12 of 30 Days of Getting Results.  In day 11, we learned how to reduce friction and create glide paths for your day.  Today, we learn how to figure out our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to productivity using Productivity personas.  The beauty is that you can Productivity personas to get a better lens on yourself, your situation, or people you work with.  With this lens, you can be more effective and get better results in any situation, whether it’s a one-man band or part of a team.

Starters and Finishers
One of my friends is great at starting things.  Just don’t expect him to finish.  He would light a lot of fires in a lot of places and then he’d be on to his next big idea.  Trust me, unless you want to just fade away, you want fire starters around.  They light things up and create value and possibilities out of thin air.  He’s a natural “starter.”

Another one of my friends is great at finishing things.  He is a master at knowing the details and being complete.  Words that come to mind are “thorough,” “attention to detail,” “responsible,” “sees things through,” … you get the idea.  What he lacks in getting things started, he makes up for in bringing things to close and going the last mile.   He is a “finisher” at heart.

When a starter and finisher pair up … look out.  Great things happen. The fastest way to suck your life force out of anyone is to always play the “finisher” role when you’re a starter, or always play a starter role when you’re a finisher.

Why Productivity Personas
Your personal success at getting results is clearly a place where a little knowledge goes a long way.  By adding the lens of Productivity Personas to your tool belt, you will be better equipped to deal with any productivity issue, whether it’s for yourself, helping a friend, or leading a team.

If you’re feeling drained or like you’re spinning your wheels or simply not making the impact you know you can make, this might just be your ticket to faster, simpler, and better results.

3 Ways to Use Productivity Personas
Here are three ways you can use the Productivity Personas to your advantage:

  1. Know Yourself. Use the Productivity Personas to know yourself. If you’re aware of the personas, you can use them to your advantage. For example, don’t let your inner Critic or Perfectionist get in the way of your Doer. Ask yourself, “When am I at my best? Am I more of a Starter or a Finisher? Am I more of a Maximizer or a Simplifier? Am I more of a Thinker or a Doer?”
  2. Team Up. Use the Productivity Personas to pair up with other people and improve your own effectiveness. You can also use the Productivity Personas to create more effective teams or to optimize teamwork. Ask yourself, “Who can I team up with to get results? How can I build more effective teams? Who should be paired up on the team for best results?”
  3. Improve the Situation. You can imagine how some behaviors work better with others and how some can create conflict. Swap out for more effective personas based on the scenario. For example, if you really need a Starter for the situation, but you can’t break out of Finisher mode, then see if you can find somebody who can play the role. Ask yourself, “What are the best behaviors for the situation?”

Remember to use the Productivity Personas as a lens. The labels are for behaviors, not for limiting or boxing in personalities. Anybody can demonstrate any of the behaviors at any time.

Productivity Personas at a Glance
“Starter” and “finisher” are just one lens.  Here are some additional Productivity Personas to give you some more lenses:

Persona Notes
Starter Starts things but doesn’t always finish. Their energy comes from thinking up new ideas and kicking things off. Love prototyping an idea, but once they’ve figured it out, they’re ready to move on to something else.
Finisher Brings things to closure. Effective finishers, complete things and move on. Is a fit and finish type of person. It’s finished when they say it’s finished.
Thinker Is an “ideas” person. Thinking is what they do best. Analysis is their game, but doing is somebody else’s game. They don’t have to act on their thoughts to enjoy them.
Doer Does their job. They tend to get their job done. They may not come up with new ideas, but they have a preference for taking action.
Simplifier Finds the simplest path. Strips things down to the minimum. Good enough for now is OK in their book.
Maximizer Finds the maximum impact.
Critic Finds the faults. They’ll find ways why you can’t or why it’s wrong. They’ll critique themselves, their work, or their ideas. Anything is fair game.
Can Do Finds a way. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and they’ll find it. It may not be the optimal solution, but they’ll find a workaround.
Opportunist Finds the opportunity in any situation.
Perfectionist Treats everything like a work of art. Quality is their name, finishing isn’t their game. They’ll be done when it’s done. It will be done just as soon as it’s perfect. Whenever that is.
Details Loves the details and will want to see things through. Dots the i’s and crosses the t’s. They’re passionate about spreadsheets.
Big Picture Sees the forest from the trees. Likes the big ideas and doesn’t want to get lost in the minutia.
Facts and Figures Is a numbers person. They want quantifiable measurements. Like Details, they too like spreadsheets.
Controller Likes to control things. This could be the Doers, the project, or their world.
Tinkerer Likes to tinker. The world is their sandbox. Dabbles here, dabbles there.
Marketer Communicates the value. Knows how to sell ideas.
Achiever Likes to accomplish things.
Randomizer Turns their latest priority into other people’s problems.
Daydreamer Likes to dream up better ways for better days. They’d rather dream than do. They don’t have to act on their dreams to enjoy them.
Procrastinator Finds way to put off to tomorrow, what they really should do today. They only send belated birthday cards since they know they’ll never send them out on time.

Simply familiarize yourself with some of the various Productivity Personas so they can help you when you need to make sense of a productivity challenge or scenario, as well as to learn more about yourself.  The key is to be aware of the preferences, for yourself and others, and to choose more effective behaviors as well as to optimize yourself and others in any situation.

Your Assignment

  1. Identify your natural preferences in terms of a “starter” or “finisher.”
  2. Identify the most common Productivity Personas or roles that you play in your day to day.
  3. Find one simple thing you can do to complement your natural productivity pattern.

My Related Posts

Photo by permanently scatterbrained.


  1. Hi J.D.

    That’s a great list. I had a good laugh picking myself and people I’ve worked with out. It is always empowering to see the “bad news” about ourselves… bad news is good news because we can do something about it. Now, I have some things to “perfect” before I call it a day. 🙂

  2. Hello!

    I can see a bit of myself in several of those categories! I am a finisher though, I loathe to begin something only to abandon it later. I mean, I have done this. Too many times in the past, so I chose to change that!

    Very good post, so much good info here.

    Thank you for all the effort you put into writing this! It shows and was worth it.

  3. J.D. Great information yet once again. Thanks for sharing and passing it along. I thought the Productivity Personas was definitely an interesting and helpful concept. Now I just need to do my homework 🙂 Great post.

  4. JD
    I will be back…this week just got to be too much so I will start again next week…I want to know this material backwards and forwards..

    My partner was jogging this morning and fell we thought his nose was broken – swollen and no skin remaining…abrasions on hands and elbows and lots of stitches on both knees….

    I was doing so well, so I will come back….I still don’t understand it all…
    doing my best

  5. Focusing on the fact i am an achiever it’s now easier for me to make a decision toward what path I should take now. Hint: i am at crossroads now…

  6. @ Rob — Thank you. It’s not as colorful as my original set (“Mad Scientist,” “Mad Hatter, “Class Clown,” etc.) but it’s really helped me analyze productivity issues and spot recurring patterns.

    @ Keith — I know what you mean. Doing projects helped me learn to be an effective finisher. Now I like turning things into project that have a start, a finsih, and an end … and a way to iterate on results.

    @ Sibyl — Thank you. It’s a lens that’s really helped me for myself and for optimizing teams.

    @ Patricia — I’m very sorry to hear about your partner. That sounds like a horrible situation.

    I will do a presentation that shows how it all fits together in a very simple way.

    @ Alik — One of my favorite distinctions is, “doing great things” vs. “talking about great things.” You need to know where your passion is and it sounds like “doing great things.”

  7. hah… like patricia, this week got to be too much and i thought i was off to a great start. however i did the best i could given the circumstances so… i think the next weeks will be better. i congratulate me for accomplishing more than what i typically would when things just pull me off my horse

    i am a bit of everything but i guess am more of a starter, thinker, perfectionist…:)

  8. Great info yet again.
    This made me really sit up and listen. I’m definitely a starter, wherther it is a work project, the cleaning, a new diet or exercise regime I start loads of new things and then have to work hard to see them through (and I’m selctive about what I do finish – important work things I do, diets I don’t and exercise I always find a new routine to start!)
    I often think it is my motivation which is lacking but this has given me a new perspective, I’m going to find a finisher to team up with!

  9. @ Riza — Life sure is good at throwing curve alls and change ups. It sounds like you’re responding over reacting and that alone is a powerful way to reframe your game.

    @ Kate — Thank you. Pairing up and teaming up is a way to stack the deck in your favor, time and again.

  10. Hi JD .. I think I’ve been both – but in recent years life has stretched me .. so achieving within time frames has been difficult .. however in a few weeks and with ‘new’ goals I can forge ahead – having decluttered quite a lot & having my work-life mapped I can put into practise your 30 day action plan and achieve and finish!

    Thanks – Hilary

  11. This all connects. When i am in my strength zone i’m a good starter, good finisher, good critic good everyone.

    on other times i’m a good starter.


  12. @ Hilary — Here’s the secret — you can always achieve within time frames … it’s just a question of what or how much you can achieve within that time frame 😉

    That’s the tough lesson I had to learn. I have a high quality bar, so I had to learn how to “satisfice” more, hit windows of opportunity, bite off what I could chew within the time I’ve got, and when I missed something, just catch the next train.

    It was a tough switch to make. Doing projects that were time-based really helped me make the shift.

    @ Varuni — It’s all scenario based, and the key is to change our defaults and preferences to make the most of the scenario or situation we’re in.

  13. Hey JD,
    Very cool. Thanks for sharing!
    I’d like to read further about starters vs finishers. Are there any further resources you’d recommend?

  14. @ Duncan — I’ve seen the pattern mostly on the job and leading a lot of project teams. However, you might explore it from the angle of the MBTI. You can take a look at the Judging and Perceiving, which explain our preferences for interacting with the world. They map to characteristics of Starters and Finishers.

  15. I am a starter & an achiever. I love to simplify lessons learned, create a pattern for successful iterations, and integrate new practice into my routines…as long as I don’t forget to make time for it or come back to it. I’m going to meditate on what more I can do with my productivity persona. I am going to do this as a part of my strengths analysis[added to my Must list].

    Thank you for the nice pointers for the friction-free-glide-path. I added your advice to my reminders for that exercise. This exercise made me think of Ganesha, which is a remover of obstacles, a symbol of the second chance and a master of oneself… Interesting? I love spirituality and symbolism of all culture especially Indians.

    • Yumi, you are really getting this down.

      That’s the key: iterate more, plan less, adapt and learn to flourish and thrive.

      There is so much science here. I picked up another book today: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. It’s all about how mindset is the ultimate key to success. And it’s how a focus on continuous learning, dealing with setbacks, and getting a little better each day, makes us a lot better over time.

      Here’s a little tip for reminders:
      Add one appointment to your calendar and call it “Reminders”, and then inside of it, list all the little things, the little habits that you want to remember to do … the new practices you want to integrate into your daily routines.

      It sounds simple, but it’s incredibly effective.

      I like Ganesha … I think we all need more second-chances and do-overs in life.

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