Tidsoptimism: charm or offensive?

Tidsoptimism | Audit Career Advice


In all my extensive years of personal performance and productivity training in audit, I cannot believe I have never before come across this wonderful word!

It's not in general use (but it should be); it's Swedish in origin, with a literal translation of 'time optimism', while the Collins dictionary affords us a more idiomatic definition:

'Tidsoptimist, a person who's habitually late because they think they have more time than they do'.

What a different slant on the perpetual laggard! Being a tidsoptimist is more akin to having a zest for life and a drive for activity. It evokes the individual who is driven by passion and can't say no because they want to do everything, be involved, befriend the world. You can imagine the intrepid tidsoptimist, brave, fearless, venturing into unchartered territory, powered by joy, bouncing to your rescue, never too busy to agree to help out a needy colleague.

But then there's the dark side...

For every effervescent, enthusiastic go-getter, there's a price to pay; late arrivals, missed deadlines, slapdash work and team-angst as the group pitches in to help out, yet again, as the promised goods fail to materialise thanks to unrealistic personal expectations. 

But in reality is tidsoptimism any worse than tidspessimism? You'll recognise this one too; the person whose scheduling is ultra cautious, inclined to say no, 'just to be on the safe-side' and will waste time hanging around because they are too early.  Tidspessimists and their questionable productivity will crop up throughout your audit career, in your personal life and you might even be that way inclined yourself. And what potential for a clash of personality types, stressful relationships, unrequited promotion prospects! Take the scenario of the audit partner who leaves everything to the last minute, say yes to every whim of her client and pushes it all down to her long-suffering audit manager who's inclined to assert the work-life balance of his team with a 'no can do' and pays sorely in zilch promotion prospects. Sound familiar?

I wonder if you are starting to squirm a little? Do you recognise yourself in either of these extremes?

In fact there really is no right or wrong here, you should consider your tids³-attitude on a spectrum. Operating at the extremes is neither sustainable nor compatible with twenty first century professional life for an auditor. But your tids-inclination is thankfully not set in stone. Once you've raised your awareness of where you sit on the spectrum we all have the inherent brain plasticity to change our habits, build new neural pathways and adopt different behaviours.

But first you have to recognise your default tendencies. Optimist or pessimist, fanatic or pedant, where do you default to on the time spectrometer? Still not sure? Time to ask a friend!

And then... can take control, in the words of Michael Altshuler:

'The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot'.


¹with apologies to the Swedes for desecration of their wonderfully obliging language!


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