Applying the 4 Tendencies to Productivity

While not infallible, Gretchen Rubin’s work in The 4 Tendencies to explain how people react to expectations is important to improving productivity. In this post we go deeper to understand the four tendencies and what you should do about it.

Upholders: benefit the most from knowing in detail what needs to be done. If you’re an Upholder you are self-directed and can take initiative without supervision. You find routines and systems enjoyable and get defensive when interrupted. Getting things done is your fuel!

What should you do: If you’re an Upholder, you should capture and schedule everything in Todo Cloud with utmost detail and scrupulousness. Chances are you derive great joy from doing so. To avoid conflict, remember, not everyone else in your team or life is as motivated by processes as you are. But do spread your love of systems and organization to help those around you.

Questioners: can meet expectations only when properly justified. They need a why to fall back to. If you’re a questioner you follow your judgement even if it goes against that of experts whom you don’t really consider as such. You value reason, research and data more than processes.

What you should do: When using Todo Cloud, always use Notes to map the tasks to the bigger goals and reasons why you’re doing them. Clarity is your friend, so the more detailed your tasks, the bigger the chances of seeing them through as you won’t question their validity or importance. Adding structure to your routine by using time and location alerts and syncing across your devices will optimize your daily productivity substantially.

Obligers: want accountability, and seek deadlines and oversight. As an Obliger, you might have a hard time saying no to new requests which means your to-do list might often be bursting at the seams.

What you should do: What can help you better manage your time and others’ expectations is setting clear deadlines, avoiding overcommitment, and setting up an accountability system. Have frequent evaluations of your to-do list and delegate or defer tasks that lend themselves to a list. The Getting Things Done framework to Capture, Clarify, Organize, Reflect, Engage should be part of your daily planning as it will release some of the burden of overcommitting to requests. It might feel like losing control, but delegating is a form of self-protection for yourself and showing trust in others.

Rebels: benefit the most from having the freedom and agility to do things their way and in their time. If you find yourself in this category, the best way to focus on task completion is to have a justification. As a rebel, you might feel that you don’t know how to channel your willpower to complete tasks and don’t respond well to direction, systems and supervision.

What you should do: As an outside-of-the-box thinker who is unswayed by conventional wisdom, you can benefit from adding more relationship- and goal-focused orientation to productivity. For each task at hand, remind yourself of the why, the cause, belief or person you’re doing it for. Again, Simon Sinek’s powerful speech, Start With Why is a great starting place. Finally, as a rebel, you can use Todo Cloud’s Smart Lists to categorize your projects and tasks around people that matter to you, or causes you believe in rather than time or theme-based ones.

Remember, these are merely tendencies and it’s normal if you don’t find yourself fitting tightly into any one category. Most of us have a dominant category and then several non-dominant ones. Use this information to better understand your strengths and weaknesses and how to translate them into increased productivity.