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Rethink Productivity: How to Use Your Personality to Reach Your Goals

Rethink Productivity: How to Use Your Personality to Reach Your Goals

Dear Kirsten,

Reading through your descriptions, I think your guess is spot on. I’m a yoga teacher, and the best hours of my day are the ones I spend helping my students to open up and relax. Over the summer I had the idea to teach at one of the local lakes, first on the shore and then out in the water on paddle boards. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s a whole new dimension when you know you won’t hurt yourself if you fall! Plus you put new stresses on your muscles and gain additional strength… but that’s not really what I’m writing about, is it?

My goals… now that it’s getting cooler I can’t do the classes on the lake anymore, but they were a huge hit. I want to offer them again next summer, along with more traditional ground based classes. Longer term, it would be amazing to have a building on the lake shore where I could offer classes year round. Imagine a wall of windows overlooking the water, such a perfect place to find peace…

My commitments, well, I have my two daughters to provide for. Their father moved overseas and hasn’t seen them in years. My parents need help around the house occasionally, and I teach a yoga class at one of the homeless shelters downtown. Most of my income comes from teaching yoga and dance at various studios around town, which mostly covers the bills. I was able to pay off the last of my credit card debt by offering the water yoga classes, but that income stream is gone until next year.

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So I guess my goal is to open my own yoga studio on the lake without letting down the people who depend on me. Can my personality type help me do that?

Signed,

G

Dear G,

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In a word, yes.

You are sitting on top of an amazing resource, thanks to your personality. As a primary Environmental, you have a giant network of people for whom you’ve given your time and energy, and they’re just waiting for you to tell them what they can do to help you in return. Think about it – when you teach classes, you connect with your students, right? You get to know them, their strengths and weaknesses, and you see them regularly. I’ll bet a lot of them helped to make your water yoga sessions such a success – they registered for them, told their friends about them, and generally helped spread the word. Now think of what you could do if you approached that network with the end goal of building your yoga studio on the lake. You’ve touched hundreds of lives, G! And your envisioned studio is hardly selfish – it’s a foundation from which you can touch hundreds more!

So let your network help you build this studio. Tell people about your idea. Listen to what they have to say. Perhaps bring together a few groups for brainstorming about how you might get from where you are to where you want to go. When the web designer in your Wednesday morning class offers to put up a quick site for you, say yes! When the wife of an architect convinces her husband to draw up some blueprints, thank them both! I am a firm believer that the universe responds when we commit – but also that we make our own luck by creating a life that gives the universe something to work with.

Now, let’s address your secondary Fantastical type. I’m guessing that is where your water yoga idea might have originated. The Fantastical can pull together concepts that would never be considered by other types, and the results can be breathtaking. Now, the Fantastical also has some issues with organization, and your Environmental type isn’t going to help much when it comes to marshaling all the resources that your network can command. If you can’t handle the logistics of bringing your vision into reality, all the goodwill you’ve built up will disappear pretty quickly. You have two options to avoid that fate.

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1) Find someone in your network who can handle the details. You’ll want this person to be reasonably close to you, and someone that you trust, because they’re going to be handling communications, money, even offers of supplies and labor. You may want to bring this person on as a partner in your business, because they’ll deserve the recognition. This person is likely to be Structural, or possibly Analytical.

2) Get a giant whiteboard or chalkboard. Spend some time with a small group thinking through the steps you’ll need to take to get to your goal, and then divide up the board in such a way that you can keep track of both the steps and the people who have offered to help with them. This board will need to become an integral part of your life, because only by keeping it visible, checking it daily, and updating it regularly will you be able to stay on top of all the moving pieces and direct the efforts of others on your behalf.

Reaching your goal will take a lot of work – that’s true for any goal worth achieving. But tell me, what sounds easier to you: finding, screening and hiring all the contractors you’ll need and trying to get a bank loan to finance the studio, or reaching out to your network to see what they can provide and letting some of the good you’ve put out into the world come back to help you achieve your studio?

With Love,

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Kirsten

Now it’s your turn – how can you use your personality to smooth your path to your goals?

Have a productivity problem? Tell Kirsten all about it and get a solution!

Featured photo credit:  soccer ball via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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