My business partner and I came up with a model that we call Climbers and Bursters, describing two different types of personalities and work styles.
- Climbers are people that love climbing hills. They love the feeling of doing work, of expending energy, of being in action. For a climber, an optimal day is a day of non-stop meetings, non-stop work, non-stop action and activity. Full of movement without pause, without rest. The action itself energizes them. A climber feels anxious when not in action, like life is somehow slipping away.
- Bursters like to work in short bursts of intense focused work and then be finished and back at rest. They will spend time in advance thinking through what needs to be done, figuring out the most effective way to do it with the minimum amount of time and energy expenditure necessary to achieve the desired result. An optimal day is a day where everything necessary is done in the shortest time possible, and then empty spacious freedom to do whatever they want. Relax. Spend time with the family. Work on other hobbies. It is the spacious freedom that energizes them. They feel anxious and trapped when they have too much to do, like life is somehow slipping away.
- If climbers and bursters don’t understand this about each other it can lead to conflict in the relationship. Climbers will become concerned that their partner is not working as hard as they are. Bursters will become concerned that their partner is wasting time on low-yield activities that don’t move the needle. But if they can understand each other they can benefit from each others’ strengths. Climbers can rely on bursters to help them focus their actions. Bursters can rely on climbers to give them a boost of energy to get even more done than they otherwise would have.
I’m a burster and my business partner is a climber. We discovered this about ourselves and coined these terms on a long hike in the Santa Monica mountains years ago. We talked vulnerably and openly about our concerns with each other’s work style and created a plan for how to effectively work together in the future. And our relationship is now much stronger as a result.