Planning Series: Know Thyself! Planning with the Temperament God Gave You


Have you ever considered that you have a planning temperament? A style that is all your own that determines why and how you tend to look at, consider, record and execute plans?

Thinking deeper about planning is good for me – it jogs my brain cells and prompts me to think, “well, why do I do something like this anyway?” And thinking deeper always prompts foundational questions…the kind you really need to think about and address before you can say, “I do something this particular way.” Because what if my answer is like a foreign language to you? And it probably would be if we don’t tackle one of those foundational ideas first – your temperament – and particularly your planning temperament. I really believe that your planning will stall quickly unless it is intuitive to you, and I think understanding and considering how your temperament factors into planning is worthwhile.

I have to be clear {or…here’s the disclaimer} I’m not an expert in temperaments: I haven’t studied them for research, or written a book about them, but I have a temperament. And I’ve had it for nearly 45 years. And every member of my family has one. So between the seven of us {more if you consider my extended family}, every one of the four temperaments is represented. So, if I appear to speak from any authority, it’s the real-life kind.

There are four temperaments (did you know that the second century physician, Galen, actually described them – so this isn’t some new idea!): choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic, and sanguine. Often, we are a combination of temperaments. A fantastic book for reading more and understanding temperaments is, The Temperament God Gave You by Art and Laraine Bennett. Understanding the temperaments isn’t at all like adding a label, which tends to say, “you fit into this box,” it’s more like a tool for understanding how you are fearfully and wonderfully made, your uniqueness, and will probably explain a lot about what is intuitive to you. It’s a tool for understanding.

Here is probably the most important part of today’s post: Christ is the perfection of all four temperaments! And that should be our goal, too! That’s how we become a saint! It means embracing the gifts of our particular temperament and then S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G toward the good in the other temperaments. And that…can be challenging. We’ll leave the how-to of stretching for your own spiritual reading and direction, but let’s chat briefly about the four different temperaments and how they relate to planning so you can begin to see your own planning temperament in one or two of them and then consider that temperament in how you approach planning, and how you execute it! Each temperament brings very unique gifts to the table when it comes to planning…and each has its own pitfalls to watch out for. Know thyself…and you will be a better planner!

I’m going to suggest tools that I think each temperament will probably gravitate toward. This isn’t hard and fast – just an observation and hunch! Go with what’s intuitive to you!

planning temperament

Planning Temperaments


The phlegmatic is a pretty mellow person. You’re rarely flustered by unplanned events that pop-up on your calendar – you just roll with it. In your mind, things are pretty ok just as they are – no need to revamp or change your planning system…which may consist of nothing more than an occasional post-it note dropped in your bag. If someone close to you wants to do something, you’re generally motivated to do it out of your generosity toward that person and your great desire to please. You may work out a really good plan, and in living it you tend to be very relaxed about it, preferring to consider the people and relationships around you over the plan. Tools: Phlegmatics work well with digital forms of planning because they almost always have their phone with them. Or…they use the same monster cube of 4000 sheets of 3″ x 3″ square paper that they had in high school. Because they still have 1019 sheets left…and because it’s what they’ve always used. LOL!

Your strengths in planning are:

  • You’re pretty relaxed and calm!
  • You’re able to handle unplanned events and crises with grace – you quickly reset and pivot toward what is most needed in the moment.
  • Once the phlegmatic has embraced routine, it’s SET!
  • You are very interested and invested in the happiness of others and that motivates you more than anything else.
  • You’re a very practical, intuitive thinker – great for planning!
  • You can probably wing-it really well in the kitchen! {How I long for this gift!!}

Areas you might have to stretch toward in planning:

  • Gathering plans into some kind of format that keeps it all on “one page” or on any page isn’t your cup of tea.
  • Sometimes, it’s hard for you to see that there is even a need for a written plan in the first place. It just isn’t natural to you. You keep a mental checklist in your head {and you might not tell anyone that it’s there} and would prefer to simply react-in-the-moment than consider and plan ahead. After all, it’s gotten you this far, right?
  • The phlegmatic resists change like the plague…which makes any plan difficult since planning is typically going to involve brainstorming and adjusting to fit {change}. Phlegmatics: be ready to stretch toward change!
  • Indecisiveness is a battle – one way seems like a good idea…but so does this other way…and you heard a friend mention her way which seems perfect, too. The phlegmatic, more than any other temperament, will really have to be honest with herself to figure out her own intuitive planning style – otherwise, she’ll just end up doing whatever pleases those around her.


The choleric is motivated, driven, and focused. So planning – any planning – is a breeze for the choleric. They like order and routine and pretty much insist on it in the day-to-day. Don’t suggest an unplanned event to a choleric because they’ll politely inform you that the event wasn’t on their planner in time to shift other events, isn’t the best use of their time, and therefore, they will not be attending. The choleric is a very confident planner and super decisive so trying new formats is fun for the choleric – because it’s a new tool that could increase her efficiency. They plan with an eye toward the best use of time and efficiency. Tools: The choleric works well in a variety of formats – paper and digital – and probably has different planning systems that span between both.

Your strengths in planning are:

  • You’re naturally organized.
  • You are very decisive which is great in planning –> make a decision, execute, evaluate, and try it again –> this is how you roll!
  • You’re great at seeing the “big picture” and planning your way toward the day-to-day because your goals are very focused.
  • You’re great at brainstorming the most efficient ways to get something done, and that is reflected in your planner.
  • You are very good at setting personal boundaries and keeping your plans realistic because you have no problem telling people “no” if it would conflict with a goal or interrupt your already carefully crafted and considered plans.

Areas for stretching toward in planning:

  • People first. Since planning is an extension of hospitality, it’s good to remember you’re planning for your husband and children. Keep a picture of your family on your planner or near your planning station/desk/corner of the kitchen table.
  • Flexibility is not your strong suit – yet children pretty much demand flexibility! So get ready to get on the treadmill of virtue if you’re not already there.
  • You might get annoyed easily when life circumvents your plans. LOL! Remember: God’s will be done. Raise your hand if God’s will has ever trumped your plans – yep, my hand is raised, too! Work on (rehearse, role-play, fake-it-til-you-make-it) a response of grace that allows you to excuse the plan when needed.


The melancholic is so intuitive and logical! They make great planners because they can break down the steps of a goal better than anyone else! They’re passionate about getting something right – and will often invest lots of time and thought considering how to do that! You’re very slow to jump on whatever the next trend happens to be which means you’re pretty focused on staying the course with: your planner tools, your method of planning, and the way you think about plans. Of all the temperaments, you’re the best at knowing what is intuitive to you! You’re very sensitive and self-sacrificing which means you naturally put people first in your plans! Tools: almost always paper. Because it’s traditional. And because you’re still suspicious of the whole smart-phone-digital-phenomenon thing. Although, if you try a digital tool and you find it’s a good fit, you’ll keep it for life.

Your strengths in planning:

  • You’re very thoughtful and logical so you consider every angle of your plans.
  • You break down goals and order them with ease because you intuitively “see” the big picture and the people involved.
  • You are a fantastic brainstormer because you ask gazillions of questions! And asking questions is how you get from “broken point a” to “potentially fixed/better point b”. Build on your talent of asking great questions when you meet a challenge!
  • You tend to be pretty organized and you need order – visual clutter and noise of any kind derails you! Even if your organization is in piles, it’s still organized and you know where to find things!
  • You’re VERY creative!

Areas for stretching toward in planning:

  • Your talent for questioning can extend to an uncertainty of yourself…enough so that you get stuck in the questions.
  • Your very good desire to do things right means you lean toward perfectionism…which means in planning your goals are never clear enough and you’re constantly re-writing. Or your handwriting isn’t neat enough…therefore, you don’t write. Or the cover doesn’t fit perfectly and that’s the only thing you see when you look at your planner, and possibly, you can’t even find “the perfect planner” to even start getting a plan in place. Which makes planning frustrating to you because you have these great ideas and plans in your head and no place for them to land.
  • You might seek lots of reassurance and validation in your planning – which is fine! Your 6 year old will give you a very honest affirmation of your color coding choices. 🙂
  • You have to think a L-O-N-G time before you can commit to a plan…or a planner…or even the right pen to use…or where to sit when planning…or the warm beverage of choice to have at your side. A pretty planner and a set of nice pens paralyze you because they require waaaaay too much planner commitment! Go for something simple and practical. Give yourself permission to make a landing place for ideas and plans. And know that it will be imperfect. Eek.


The sanguine planner loves to decorate! Your planner is so pretty and color-coordinated – it’s often embellished with stickers and washi and color-coded with pens in no fewer than 36 variations of the color wheel. You enjoy trying new things in planning – new ideas, new ways to make a list, new tools, new pens! Ever optimistic, your planner tends to sing, “I’m happy” and your lists and appointments are plentiful. Your planner is full of social events! It’s not unusual to find a sanguine with multiple planners – after all, there are so many pretty planners to choose from! Planning for the sanguine comes in fits and spurts – she recognizes the value but might get caught up in the peripherals and tools-of-it-all. Speaking of…Tools: The sanguine likes pretty paper planners because they can embellish it and they are likely to have a new planner before their old one is complete! They’re the least likely to use digital tools in planning, but if they do, it better be pretty!

For the sanguine, planning itself isn’t the challenge – it’s following through. Plan realistically! Let yourself enjoy the pretty-of-it-all and in very do-able lists and increments. Then find a little reward to help motivate you on the mundane stuff that has to make it to the planner and get done. Like cleaning the fish tank. Ugh. Purchase a little bag of special chocolates {or a new tea, treat coffee, scented lotion} that is only for you and enjoy it after that fish tank is pristine, or the ceiling fan is clean, or as a reward after finishing a weekly list of to-do’s. Put something pretty and happy on the back end of mundane and boring!

Your strengths in planning:

  • You are very visual so your plans are easy to read and follow…and usually pretty!
  • Your plans are always person/relationship focused – no worries about you focusing on the plan and not the person!
  • Because you are so relationship-oriented, your plans are able to key in very effectively on the people in your home.
  • You’re very open to hearing other ideas which can really translate into some creative planning.
  • You’re passionate about trying new ideas and throw yourself into these passionate pursuits wholeheartedly! This allows you to fully investigate every nuance of an idea or a tool in planning.
  • You are probably very creative!

Areas for stretching toward in planning:

  • You might lack attention when it comes to following through for the long haul in planning and executing. Your attention is interest based – so….not interested = not attentive…and that means that a lot of those dull chores…like cleaning toilets and dusting ceiling fans probably don’t rank at the top of your to-do list…if they rank at all.
  • You might be a little disorganized – because who wants to organize the utensil drawer when you could be out with friends?!
  • Your plans are probably more activity-focused than task-focused because of the social component that motivates you.
  • You’ve probably got every tool under the sun for your planner and for planning menus and coordinating appointments, and wall calendars, and binders – your challenge is putting them to work…and following through. Consider first! Ask yourself if you’re about to acquire a tool that is redundant/already serving? Maybe you could tweak it with a little pretty to help motivate you to stay the course with what you already have.

That’s it! Did it help to start thinking of your “planning temperament”? Because if someone asks me {a choleric/sanguine} what I do after I’ve got my plans and lists together, I’d say, “I go do it! Plans considered, written down, looking pretty, GO!” But that answer will only get the cholerics nodding. That would be like a foreign answer to…

  • a melancholic who would need to think about it a lot more. I mean, there are some things on that list that are really out of order, and just don’t belong there at all, and there are so many things that need to be considered. What if something is left off the list? Or…
  • a phlegmatic who might agree that the things should….probably get done………………….and they will…… some point………….but they’ll need to sit on the couch and relax and enjoy a little more down time before they can commit to a list that requires action, or…
  • a sanguine who could agree that the plans and list are together, and doing the jobs needs to happen, but only after they completely decorate a dedicated page of the planner with pink and mint washi, and build a happy little checklist to carry around with them to check off in a coordinating pink, and make sure all the cleaning tools are matching, and…by then they’re distracted with a new hobby.

My hope is that this has started your thoughts rolling around – how well do you know yourself? Do you know what’s intuitive to you in planning? What is your planning temperament?

Planning is such a personal expression that it should most definitely be intuitive! Think about it – we all have to cook meals, but each of us has a unique style, unique challenges, and a unique way of creating meals in our kitchen as a way of serving our family. Planning is no different – be yourself about it! We don’t all have to use the same planning tools, nor do our lists even have to look alike – but we’re all serving our families through planning as a way of stewarding time. Knowing yourself and your own style lets you build on your strengths and stretch out of the weak areas that can be a pitfall.

Happy {INTUITIVE TO YOU} planning!


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  1. golly, I was pegged on your descriptions for Melencholic/Sanguine (which in itself is a wacky combo to learn to live with! lol)
    This is a wonderful description and so very helpful to see in writing what I ‘knew’ but didn’t want to admit out loud!
    Looking forward to this planning series

  2. Jen, you summed up my phlegmatic with a touch of sanguine temperament perfectly! I guess that is why I steal YOUR lesson plans most of the time (decisions made for me) and love your blog-because the sanguine part of me loves the pretty. I honestly have not come to terms with my phlegmatic disposition-it tends toward lazy-and something I am always trying to work on. I can’t think of many upsides to being phlegmatic!!! I tried to tell my husband today that his choleric/melancholic temperament is so lucky to have me and he quipped back that his temperament would improve if I could just GET THINGS DONE!! LOL!! Anyway, so happy to have you posting again!!

    1. Judy,
      Your phlegmatic temperament has so many great aspects – and I know because I’m married to a phlegmatic! And I’m {mostly} choleric/sanguine {just a little}!!! LOL!! {Isn’t that hilarious that it’s exactly the opposite of you and your husband?} Listen, you possess a fantastic ability to relax and roll with the kind of stuff that freaks me out and irritates me to the nth degree! Sure, you’ve got aspects you’ve got to work on – I do, too! Every temperament does! See if you can break down your biggest challenges into baby steps – and find little mini-rewards for yourself – as motivation tools! I love my afternoon coffee time, and an evening glass of wine and sometimes when I’m tempted to impatience or irritability with the unplanned stuff that YOU would be able to roll with so gracefully, I remind myself to be calm and work toward my mini-goal of coffee-all-by-myself! LOL! But choose something that floats YOUR boat! Just pick something smallish and dangle it in front of yourself to keep working on virtue!

      Thanks so much for your kind note, Judy!!! 🙂

  3. Gee how fascinating. Found it so interesting, explains why some people just don’t plan the same way as I. Though can’t say I know myself;-) can’t work out my temperament at all.

    1. There you go read and re-read came to the conclusion I’m phlegmatic. Then had to laugh when I re-read “The phlegmatic, more than any other temperament, will really have to be honest with herself to figure out her own intuitive planning style ”

      I guess the thing is though over the years I’ve grown to love lists, and plans and routine. They bring order which I crave to a mama of a large family. So whilst I once loved to wing it, I now love my lists but true I can easily drop plans for people.

      Will be re-reading your post several times to get all this:)

  4. Such a great post!…I am a Sanguine, and this was really acurate and helpful for me to read…It’s like you know me :-)…I have probably all of the strengths and weaknesses you mentioned…I am working on doing a better job at follow through and will take to heart the advice you gave…Thanks again!

  5. Great info! And I guessed you as choleric before getting to the end of the post! I am a phlegmatic melancholic, but only slightly more phlegmatic by just a few points (my husband and I actually took personality tests at a Catholic homeschool conference a few years ago and it was very enlightening!). So the melancholic part of me loves to plan and iron out the exact details, then the phlegmatic (or as I joke, lazy) side lacks the desire and motivation to follow through in a punctual way… getting my homeschool day started before 10am is a challenge, but luckily the melancholic side planned independent morning work so at least my kids are starting something before me! My husband is a melancholic choleric stop he keeps me in check, often doing the laundry and such before I can get to it because it takes me three hours to make a grocery list for the week. ;-p. And I am constantly behind on checking the kids’ work and my oldest daughter’s written narrations; trying to improve on that!

  6. I am 100% the melancholic temperament. I have been shopping for a planner for at least six months and haven’t been able to pull the trigger because I’m not sure if any of the ones I looked at are EXACTLY what I want. Being a creative-type, I place a high value on aesthetics. I want my planner to look pretty, but also have all of the functionality. You’ve inspired me to just pick one and get on with the process!

  7. I am a Sanguine/ Phlegmatic and you TOTALLY nailed my planning style. I couldn’t find an organizer that had what I wanted exactly the right way, AND pretty, so I had to make one myself. And you had better believe it is colorful 😉 I am totally guilty of starting a new planner before I finish the old one. And I am WAAAAY better at planning than following through!

    1. Ooooh! I wish I could see your planner, Vanessa! Sometimes coming up with a planner that works exactly as we “think” about something is the very best tool! Happy planning! 🙂

  8. YES!!! I spent a week last summer creating my own planners complete with cute clip art to mark feast days, and they are less than half filled…but they are cute! And plural, because there is a monthly calendar, an appointment style calendar for planning weeks, and a list-making version similar to another popular planner that I can’t remember the name of right now. Oh, and I’ve tinkered with an online type planner called Trello that has great potential… Le sigh… Thank you for your suggestions!

  9. I so enjoyed this post Jen! I’ve always loved reading about the temperaments; when described, I always chuckle because I know strong types of each as well as many combinations. I’ve always been melancholic but seem to switch between phlegmatic and choleric, given the day and it’s tasks; some days are relaxed and others I feel like I’m a general giving orders. This was very eye opening for me – I will have to re read and take note of the different methods. Thank you so much! God bless!

  10. I really enjoyed this post and found it to be so interesting! I am a total Melancholic/Sanguine person and my husband is a choleric/melancholic combination-oohweee it’s a lot to manage lol. I am curious how you feel about the planning the more mundane aspects of home keeping and family life? I know intellectually that being intentional about everything is always better but I struggle to deal with the monotony of laundry, enforcing kids chores, budgeting, etc. When I dive into these things deeply and have a well running home the need for all of those things is so obvious, but when life gets hectic again I really struggle to assign things the proper value and time.

    1. I’m a fan of planning the mundane – maybe because my day is so anchored to that ordinary, and as you’ve observed, it all fits within the scope of a smoothly running household and day. If I don’t list it or plan it, it doesn’t typically get done here. In general, if something is NOT a habit yet, I keep it in my planner and track it in my planner. If it’s in my face, I’ll keep up with it and give it my full attention. Once those mundane routines and chores have become habit, they move to various habit tracking tools like big magnetic boards, or a chore list reminder checklist on the fridge.

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