Are You an Opener or a Finisher?

Vanity Tray with Makeup

My mom gave me a really beautiful shampoo and conditioner set from eva-nyc for Christmas that I am still currently using even though it is now the end of August. This is not because I've discovered the Everlasting Gobstoppers of the hair care world, but rather because they sat in my linen closet for months while I finished using my gallon jug bottles of Pantene, even though I was significantly less excited about those.

Every once in a while my mom would ask me if I loved the shampoo and conditioner as much as she did, and I would tell her, even months later, that I hadn't opened them yet. She must have thought I was crazy to wait, especially since her bath tub is likely lined with several different shampoos and conditioners. She, like a lot of people, would have most definitely opened them as soon as possible.

My mom can also be halfway through several different books at the same time, finishing the ones she likes and simply quitting the ones she doesn't. The mere thought of that, however, completely stresses me out. There have been books in my life that I didn't enjoy even a little bit, but painfully finished before moving onto the next one. For continuity's sake or just for the sake of not giving up- I'm not sure- but I doubt you will ever catch me halfway through a stack of books.


When I came across this discussion by Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project), I realized my mom and I simply have a fundamental difference in preference: she's an Opener and I'm a Finisher. Finishers get a certain sense of satisfaction from using that last drop of shampoo before starting into the new bottle while Openers subscribe to a more is more philosophy. Openers love an excuse to get something new and feel satisfaction from having as many options as possible.

Now don't get me wrong, I love a brand new pair of socks or that first scoop of peanut butter from a fresh jar as much as the next opener. But to me, the satisfaction only really comes after I've worn a hole in another pair of socks or I've used every last bit of that old jar of peanut butter. Finishers often feel overwhelmed when there is more than needed. Opening a new jar of peanut butter before the other is completely gone seems a little too chaotic. Clutter and over-abundance cause stress. Openers, on the other hand, feel comforted by those half empty jars or that overstuffed sock drawer. It's often more than just the satisfaction of a freshly-opened-something-new, but rather that this abundance provides a sense of security because it means they won't ever be without.

Flour Canisters

If you're not sure whether you're Camp Opener or Camp Finisher, consider these scenarios:

  1. The toothpaste is running low, do you (A) clamp and roll until you've made your way through or (B) grab a new tube and pop it open, leaving the nearly empty tube in your medicine cabinet for emergency backup?
  2. Your friend recommends "the perfect" lipstick but you've already got a couple shades for work and a couple for going out, do you (A) mentally bookmark the brand and color for when one of your standbys needs replacing or (B) buy it anyway, claiming there's no such thing as too many lipstick options.
  3. When you open your closet is there (A) a place for everything and everything in its place, or (B) a sweater in all six color options and 15 of the same pairs of jeans.
  4. Which of these puts your mind most at ease, envisioning (A) meditating alone in your backyard on a quiet peaceful day or (B) listening to loud music in a room with lots of visual cues, photo collages, contrasting colors, etc.

If you most identify with the (A) options, you are most likely a Finisher, while the (B) options signify an Opener. It probably won't be a perfect match either way. You may inhabit something from each camp. For me personally, I favor aesthetic abundance and don't mind a little chaos every now and then, but decided I am more on the Finisher side in spite of those aspects because of my love of crossing things off the to-do list and an overall need for minimal clutter.


But let's take this discussion a step further- how might being an Opener or a Finisher impact your work?


Well, first let's look at the pros:

Openers are essentially abundance lovers. They are attracted to overflow and addition, meaning they are less likely to get distracted or overwhelmed in more chaotic environments. If an Opener is low on money, they would be more likely to take on outside work rather than cut back.

Finishers are essentially simplicity lovers. They are attracted to emptiness and subtraction, meaning they are more likely able to make difficult edits for things like time-management and budgeting. If a Finisher is low on money, they would be more likely to cut something like an premium cable package to save money.


Now, consider if there are ways that being an Opener or Finisher may be holding you back:

For an Opener, it would help to remain aware of any tendencies to move on to the next thing before completing the task at hand. If you have a goal that you can't seem to make headway on, consider adopting some Finisher behavior. Create lists, schedules, and the overall structure needed to complete your goal, making sure to eliminate unnecessary distractions in order to complete the necessary actions before moving onto something else.

For a Finisher, make it a point to not only remain open to new opportunities, but furthermore,  to actively pursue them. It can be easy to feel comfortable in your current state and intimidated by the thought of taking on more responsibilities or using precious resources, such as time or money. Fight this urge and try to think like an Opener by going after new challenges and opportunities whenever you are feeling stagnant.


Are you an Opener or a Finisher? Do you agree with these distinctions?