This week I sat down with my nicely organized and detailed planner and looked at my daily list. It wasn't anything unexpected or overly daunting (okay, writing new words is always daunting, but that's always on my list so I'm used to it.) However, I found myself digging in my heels about doing the smallest things on the list. Box up a book prize. Schedule a dentist appointment for my son. Set up flu shots. I looked at the list and just DID NOT WANT TO DO THE THINGS.
On Tuesday, I was supposed to schedule some appointments and maybe blog. Instead, I decided to completely clean out my closet. Something that I wouldn't have done if it had been on the To Do list. :-/
And I've found that it happens a lot for me. I LOVE my planner. I love setting it up each week and knowing what's coming. But for some reason, once a task is written down on a particular day, I resist. Now, usually, that means I'm still going to get it done, but not that day. For instance, this week, 80% of the nagging, non-writing tasks were done this morning (Friday).
So it got me to thinking again about personality and habits. Why do I feel this resistance? And it reminded me of a book I'd read earlier in the year--Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. It's a book about habits but within it, there's a framework describing how we approach things/tasks in our lives. Rubin refers to them as the Four Tendencies. She's writing a full book about just the tendencies that isn't out yet (and that I'm very excited about), but Better Than Before covers them in overview and her podcasts and blogs go into more detail.
Basically, there are four types according to Gretchen Rubin:
Upholders - They meet both inner and outer expectations without having to fight too hard to do it. If they set a goal for themselves, they meet it. If their boss sets a goal for them, they meet it.
Obligers - They meet outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations. Basically, these are the "givers". They'll do anything for others to the point of wearing themselves out, but if they set goals for themselves, they let themselves down often. They need outer accountability to keep them on track.
Questioners - They'll meet inner expectations but will only meet outer expectations if they makes sense to them. This is my husband. He wants to know, "Why?" Why am I doing this? Why is this rule this way? Why is this procedure done this way? If he doesn't buy into the answer, he won't do it.
Rebels - Resists inner and outer expectations. One of the podcasts had a listener who summed up the rebel motto as "You can't make me, and neither can I." Lol. Rebels only do things they WANT to do, that they find enjoyable, or that someone matches up with their identity.
To find out your type if you're unsure, you can go here and take Gretchen's free quiz.
When I first read the book, I thought I was an Upholder because, in general, I've always considered myself a rule follower. I was a straight A student. I did well at jobs. If the sign says, Don't Walk, I don't. My husband, on the other hand, will walk if there are no cars coming.
However, after looking at it more deeply and listening to her podcasts for better understanding, I looked back on this year and things through my life and realized--I'm a rebel. A quiet one. In my head, I imagined rebels to be more out there, easily identified. But I'm an introvert. I like to fly under the radar (hence the rule following in public.) But I rebel quietly. I've never enjoyed having a boss, so I followed my passion and became a writer. And not just a writer, but a writer of erotic romance, which is a rebellion in and of itself. I wasn't a straight A student to please anyone. I liked school. I liked being called smart. That was part of my identity, which apparently is a key for rebels--to make something part of how you define yourself. And through my life, I've consistently done my own thing. I don't work hard to fit in. If I do, great. If I don't, *shrug*. But if you met me, you'd never think--ooh, super rebellious.
But how does this play into To Do lists and productivity?
For me, I'm learning that the easiest way to get me not to do something is to tell me to do it. I might have wanted to do it, but once I'm told I must, I'm out. It's not a conscious thing but it's consistent.
So, for instance, obligatory reading. Y'all know I love reading more than anything and always have. But, the books we were assigned in school? I read Cliff's notes. I could never really pinpoint why except that I knew I didn't want to read that ASSIGNED book, no matter what it was. And the same thing has happened when my agent or an editor has asked me to read another author's book for a potential endorsement. As soon as I agree, I suddenly don't want to read the book even if it's a book I would've picked up on my own to read. I already hate it. Now it is an obligation. So I've learned to stop saying yes to those and instead, if I read a book that I loved and the author may benefit from an endorsement, I will write one and send it to the author or their agent in case they want to use it. Because then it's on my terms. No one asked me to do it. (This is also why I don't accept book review requests on this blog.) Weird, I know. Frustrating to me to, but it seems to be how I'm wired.
Now in that same scenario, if you are an Upholder, you would read the book on time and get the endorsement there with no problem. If you are an Obliger, you'd read the whole book on time even if you hated it, and then you'd feel guilty if you didn't like it and would probably still give an endorsement so you don't hurt anyone's feelings. If you're a questioner, you'd read the book if you thought it was something you might enjoy, and you'd only finish and endorse it if you loved it.
So what I'm learning for To Do lists is that maybe me writing them down is setting off my big NOPE gene. "You're not going to tell me what to do, planner." And as a rebel, it's odd that I have a planner at all, but one of the keys to getting a rebel to do something is to make it fun or make it something that is part of their identity. I've made planners a hobby. It's decorative. It's fun. If I just had some plain planner, I wouldn't use it. But anyway, someone in one of the podcasts suggested Rebels could make a "Could Do" list, not tying things to a day. "These are the things I could do today..." I may try that next week. Make one big list in my Inkwell Press (pictured above) and do the tasks that I'm in the mood for each day and record that in my Day Designer as I go. I need to trick myself, which is sad, but it is what it is. And each tendency has to trick themselves in some way.
But if you're an Upholder, To Do lists will be your jam. You want all the gold stars. Obligers might dread the To Do lists because you know once you write it down, you will be COMPELLED to do it and will feel bad until you do. Questioners will use To Do lists if it makes sense to them (my hubs is not big on them.)
So this is only one aspect I'm applying the tendencies toward, but it's food for thought. I love thinking about this stuff and trying to come up with more effective ways to do things. So I highly recommend the Better Than Before book and the Happier podcasts if you want to learn more.
Has anyone else read the book? Or if you take the quiz, what tendency are you? Are you surprised? Do you know without taking the quiz?