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Time management - Monochronic time

Monochronic time


This view of time is easily recognised by most. It is characterised by punctuality, rules, conformity and speed.


Monochronic time followers are great at repetitive tasks that are easy to define within boundaries.
How long does it take to get a bottle of milk?
How long does it take to clean the car? They have a clear start and a well defined end point. You don’t need to have a big reliance on people skills to complete them.
They tend to be data orientated with results based on easily accessible precious experience.

Jobs involving repetitive task tend to be based upon monochronic views of time, for example, accountants, train drivers etc and a polychronic approach is less important.
If you are required to think to much or need flexibility then the job will often falter.


Northern European countries (for example Great Britain, Germany) and the USA have a monochronic view of time. This can be a hindrance if a polychronic approach to tasks is not considered for those countries that favour this system.

Many cultures value human contact, patience and honesty above speed, for example, Asian, Arabic, Japanese and others. Their approach to tasks will tend to conflict with yours if, like many Northern European countries and the USA, you take a monochronic view on matters.
In the case of the Japanese they blend both styles. In technology and dealings with foreigners they tend to be monochronic and polychronic for personal relations.


The monochronic person loves plans. He probably wouldn’t even start a project without a plan that must be adhered to. The logical approach to tasks means completing activities in a stepwise manner should all go to plan provided the necessary thought has gone into it.
What happens if the plan goes awry? Monochronic people are less flexible and don’t like detours from plans. However, plans do go wrong and flexibility is a useful trait of the polychronic person.

You may say, that in this case, the person would have considered a back up or contingency plan.
However, a true contingency plan would have been considered already and would be awaiting a trigger to implement it. A true deviation from a plan is unforeseen.

This is tackled in more detail in ‘The Complete Risk Management package’.


The monochronic person will favour plans. They will be reluctant to modify plans unless forced to and will want to finish one task properly before beginning another.
Their sense of logic will require supporting information that governs their actions. Inter personal relationships will not hold great importance in the search for project completion.


If you have a polychronic personality It is likely that meetings with monochronic persons will be short and to the point. You may need to expand particular areas to fully understand the issues and possible solutions. You may need to manage the expectations of a monochronic person to expand on the exact requirements to make sure you have the correct task definition.

You may need to renegotiate the time of individuals so that you can complete a meeting properly rather than wrapping it up prematurely.
If you feel under time pressure take some time out to recharge your batteries.
Give your self space for creative thinking.
Make sure you create backup plans that you may have to implement.


The problem with approaching tasks in either a monochronic or polychronic format is that you may miss the benefits of the other.
For example, what may appear to be an untidy desk top to one is an easy retrieval system to another. The less organised person will still work on one task at a time but flit from one project to another quite effortlessly as that person can find the relevant files easily.

The monochronic person’s desire to follow ‘rules’ may cause problems if there is an interruption in the process flow. However, enforced flexibility can be a good thing as rethinking or returning to an issue can have benefits as for the polychronic person, see 'polychronic time'.

Non - PRINCE2 information