Are you a scanner? And how to cope if you are.

Here’s a post originally published in 2014 but I think that some people may find it a help…

So here’s a question for you, have you heard of the term “scanner” when it comes to describing someone’s personality?


No? But I’m sure that you’ve heard the variants such as multi-passionate and multi-potential which have become somewhat buzz words of late.

But the term scanner was coined by Barbara Sher who describes this personality type as:

“People who love to read and write, to fix and invent things, to design projects and businesses, to cook and sing, and to create the perfect dinner party. (You’ll notice I didn’t use the word “or,” because Scanners don’t love to do one thing or the other; they love them all.)” 

Well, this is me down to a tee. I’m constantly digging, scheming and dreaming. I’ve known about this term for quite a while and you know what? I’ve learned to embraced it.

And I’m not alone!

I’ve had quite a few careers jobs in my young(isn) life (call centre agent, sales, talent agent, event planner, public relations, small business owner, journalist etc) AND alongside a vast range of interests and willingness to try new things has meant that I’ve often been branded unfocussed and scatty…

But as the New York based author says: “A scanner is GENETICALLY wired to be fanatically interested in multiple things at once.”

You hear that? It’s genetically wired.

But scanners have a major problem. We become bored and go off on tangents and we think it’s bad that we keep quitting things and moving on. Something which Sher thinks we should stop feeling bad about and instead start having fun with. We also tend to doubt ourselves because we fail to decide on just one career path which then leads to worrying that we could be getting it wrong which then leads to the frantic need to focus.

But before you start thinking that procrastination habit is OK, not everyone is a scanner. There are people who jump from idea to idea that do so because they actually can’t make up their mind about what they want to do or have other reasons for doing so.

Apparently, it can also be good for business. According to an article published on “While focusing 100 percent of your energy on your business may seem the path to success, having varied interests can be the key to making you better at your work. Erin Hopmann, co-founder and CEO of Dabble, a Chicago-based company that offers one-time courses in everything from pasta making to calligraphy and glassblowing, says dabbling in different interests can stimulate the creative juices, expand your network, and aid in the pursuit of better balance.”

So who is a scanner?

Intense curiosity about numerous unrelated subjects is one of the most basic characteristics of a Scanner. Scanners are endlessly inquisitive. In fact, Scanners often describe themselves as being hopelessly interested in everything (although, as you’ll find out, this isn’t so). A Scanner doesn’t want to specialise in any of the things she loves, because that means giving up all the rest. Some even think that being an expert would be limiting and boring.

Our society frowns on this apparent self-indulgence. Of course, it’s not self- indulgence at all; it’s the way Scanners are designed, and there’s nothing they can or should do about it. A Scanner is curious because he is genetically programmed to explore everything that interests him. If you’re a Scanner, that’s your nature. Ignore it and you’ll always be fretful and dissatisfied.

It’s a whole new way of thinking, I know. And much of the world doesn’t see Scanners’ behavior as admirable or even acceptable. But it wasn’t always this way. Read more here.

 Are YOU a scanner?

• You have creative ideas all the time, whether it’s for a book, a TV show, an art project, a website, a business, starting a movement, creating a brand, or writing a bestseller

• You love to learn about new subjects and ideas and then quickly move on to something else

• You have loads of seemingly unrelated interests

• Trying to choose between all your ideas, interests and projects stresses you out

• The thought of concentrating on one job or business for the rest of your life horrifies you

• You start lots of projects but don’t always finish them before you get into something else

Here are my top tips on coping with a scanning lifestyle…

1.Keep a note book – or as Barbara Sher calls it “a scanner daybook”. This is to be used to jot down every idea that excites you. So I use mine to jot down everything from book and article ideas to ideas for radio shows, businesses, online hubs etc. It works on the theory that scanners never get all their ideas completed in one lifetime which leads to them becoming frustrated and in turn getting nothing done, this exercise simply releases the idea forming process.

2. “Do everything and don’t finish any of it” < another quote direct from Barbara (who let me tell you is a bit of a hero of mine).

3. Play out the ideas: Scanners are fast learners, we need constant flows of passion to keep our brains buzzing. So if you’re done with an idea, job or project – just move on. The reason we stop when we do is because we got what we came for.

4. Buy Refuse to Choose!: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love

5. Don’t be daunted by the mountain: Scanners can often end up frozen and fearful by the amount of “things” they have going on, which then leads to a total case of inaction. But to overcome this try using a Scanner’s Calendar: a two-year wall calendar where you can plan out all the things you want to do and learn. Knowing that you’ve set aside time for each interest means you can relax and focus on one at a time, reducing ‘Scanner’s Panic’.

So what about you? Are you a focus on one thing or do you understand scanning? If you’re a scanner, what are your tips on living with it?

image credit

Author: Rachael

I'm a journalist and creative consultant. I write about how busy women (just like you) can live, work and eat - better.

31 thoughts on “Are you a scanner? And how to cope if you are.”

  1. I have never heard of the term before Rachael. I have read the description and it sounds like I am scanner too. Makes me feel better a whole lot better.
    Thank you

  2. Certainly sounds like me, ticks a lot of the boxes, especially the bit on the thought of doing one thing horrifies me! Quite amused by your article thanks Rach:)

  3. Light bulb moment! That’s my Dad….. and ME! Wow, I’m not scattered, I’m a Scanner. Loving the two year planner idea.
    Ps just popped over from – welcome to the community 🙂

  4. Oh wow, This is me to a tee. When it comes down to picking one job for life it terrifies me because I know that if I focus on just one area that I love I’ll become bored of it and resent it and start wishing I was doing something else. Oh dear lordy! lol x

  5. WOW. I had never heard this term used before, but I see me in the description so clearly. I like a variety of different things, yet often beat myself up for not finishing them. I’m glad that it’s not just me. x

  6. I don’t think I am a scanner although it sounds like a great thing to be to me, always busy, creative kind of exploring everything there is as oppose to tying yourself to just on thing!

  7. I am so happy that I came here, I never heard the term but now I am happy that I have, and I relate to a lot of these things. For nearly half my life I have been struggling with this, parents and teachers literally yelling at me to commit to one thing, I had no words to explain to them what I was going through. I’d like you to tell me about how can I make money with all the interests I have.

  8. But how do you make a living like that? I want to have a stable monthly income and save lots of money to get some expensive stuff that I want like a house with a garden and a pool…etc. how can I get money to do that if I can’t figure out a career that would provide me all the money I need?

  9. I’m interested in Astrophysics, Astronomy, Astrology, applied physics, data analytics, AI, Machine learning,Robotics, Aerospace engineering, genetics, industrial agriculture,global logistics,E commerce,international politics, defence industry, history, geography, strategic management,economics, oceanic studies, classic English literature,big business, edutech, fintech,environmental protection,ecology,music human psychology, travelling,cooking, swimming,hunting and even doomsday survival.

    I though I was crazy. But, Barbara’s book has given a lot of peace to my mind.

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