Planning Basics 1: Planning by Personality

I’m an art educator, and one of the things I work on with my high school and college-age students is planning and time management. I thought I would adapt one of the lessons I prepared for them into a series of blog posts about how to plan. This post discusses how you can use a personality test to help you use your planner more effectively.

If you know yourself well, then you can “hack” your planning tools, methods, and habits to make sure you are using all of them in a way that really suits how you work best.

love personality tests and one of my favorites right now is Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies. Before I go on, one thing I want to note (that I always say to my students, too!) is that this is just ONE of many, many personality tests. I chose this one because the Tendencies are all about how you respond to expectations, which in my view is very tied to how you plan and get things done. But it’s important not to get too caught up in this kind of thing to ensure you don’t box yourself in or become a self-fulfilling prophecy of a type. Use it as a tool but not to define your life (after all, none of us really fit into boxes even if we love to check off boxes in to-do lists!). Other personality tests that I have found useful in work and life are Myers-Briggs, North/South/East/West, and a healthy dose of anything by Brené Brown to remind us how to be wholehearted people who are more than the results of a quiz.

On to the Four Tendencies. This is a personality tool that helps you identify how you respond to expectations. I highly recommend you take the quiz before reading on to help you identify which one you are. Yes,  you have to give her your email but she definitely sends useful things!

Did you take the quiz yet? Hope so, ’cause I’m about to delve into spoilers of a sort! As Rubin says:

We all face two kinds of expectations—outer expectations (meet work deadlines, answer a request from a friend) and inner expectations (keep a New Year’s resolution, start meditating). Our response to expectations determines our “Tendency”—that is, whether we fit into the category of Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.

Gretchen Rubin

In short, as she writes on her website:

  • Upholders want to know what should be done.
  • Questioners want justifications.
  • Obligers need accountability.
  • Rebels want freedom to do something their own way.

Personally, I’m a questioner — I like to have reasons and explanations for why I’m doing something and then I’m perfectly happy to do it. That means I’m pretty much only internally motivated, so I basically have to turn every expectation into an internally driven one. Most people I know are obligers, as is much of the U.S. population. You can also be on the “cusp” (like astrology!) — you might be an obliger who leans into upholding, pretty able to accept when something needs to be done and then do it.

Now that you know your “tendency,” you know how you best get things done. If you’re a questioner you might need to really break tasks down or take a minute to think about why you need to do something to convince yourself it’s worth doing.

If you’re an obliger you might need to be assigned something by a professor or boss; if you have a personal task you keep putting off, ask a friend to hold you accountable too. If you’re a rebel you’ll honestly need to sort of “trick” yourself into doing an assignment, and one way to do that is deciding how you’re going to go about doing a task so that you still get what you need to do done. And if you’re an upholder — you’re in luck, it’s probably pretty easy to follow through on what you need to do!

Do you use personality tools (directly or indirectly) to help you get things done? Share below!

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