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Rethinking Productivity: How Personality Affects Productivity (and Why No One`s Ever Told You)

Rethinking Productivity: How Personality Affects Productivity (and Why No One`s Ever Told You)

(Editor’s Note: We’re starting a new series this week featuring new Lifehack contributor Kirsten Simmons called “Rethinking Productivity”. The hope is our readers will ask Kirsten questions about productivity, organization, and time management so that she can provide answers that will make people take a step back and “rethink” productivity. Enjoy.)

Dear Kirsten,

It’s funny that you mention Getting Things Done, because my crash with that system is what initially prompted me to write. I’ve heard so many people rave about it and read so many good reviews, and when I picked up the book it was the most confusing thing I’d ever read! I had to pull out my sketchbook to try to visualize all the steps and even now I’m not sure I got them right.

I started with the collection of outstanding stuff to do, and ended up with an inbox at least a foot high. Then I tried to sort through it all and do the two minute tasks. After three hours my head was pounding and I’d only gotten halfway through! At least a third of my “two minute” tasks ended up taking much more time, and I felt torn between trying to finish them or going back and leaving yet another item hanging in limbo. I took another stab the next day and managed to get all the way through, leaving me with hefty stacks of short and long term projects, subdivided between personal and income-producing.

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But now here’s the thing – I really want to dig into some of my long term projects now! The short ones should have the priority, but going through the materials I had collected for the long term projects simply has rekindled my desire and excitement for them.

I pushed past that and started trying to keep GTD going day-to-day. I spent at least an hour each day trying to keep everything straight and moving tasks back and forth as I completed them, went on to something else, then came back with a new idea for a completed task and reopened it again. On days where I taught workshops, my inbox piled high with tasks and I’d have to work twice as long the next day to catch up. I began to second guess myself and lose track of tasks in the system, especially when they’d been moved back and forth a few times. Finally I crashed after a 3 day workshop when my inbox was full of at least 5 hours of sorting, categorizing and networking tasks. The pile was back to the 12+ inches I’d had when I first started, and it had only been a month!

Reading back now, it feels so silly – why couldn’t I just have done the work? Clearly other people use this system to great effect, but the sight of that mile-high inbox was just so demoralizing! I tossed the entire thing into the recycling bin and felt a bit better, but my inherent problem still remains. I’m ditzy and flakey and I don’t mean to stand people up with work and play, but somehow it ends up happening anyway and I hate to disappoint people. Any ideas how I can prevent that?

Signed,

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G – (aaaah!)

    Dear G,

    Your brush with GTD sounds similar to my own, except that I believe my inbox had reached around 3 feet in height before I bailed. I distinctly remember the thing falling over in a landslide of paper, business cards and post-it notes, and my dogs rushing in to investigate and gleefully grabbing pages to rip apart. I should have scolded them, but it was such a relief to see the remains of what I should have been doing!

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    As I mentioned last time, productivity needs to fit within your own personal ecosystem. That ecosystem includes your goals, your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, your habits and your life commitments. In GTD, productivity is the be all and end all, a blunt instrument which can be effective in the right hands, but which can be overwhelming or even destructive in others. Let’s say you had a tomato and needed to cut it in two. http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/when-to-use-email-when-not-to.htmlWould you choose a chainsaw, a butcher’s knife, a paring knife or a butterknife?  You need to have the right tool for the job!

    You don’t mention much about your goals, habits or strengths/weaknesses in your letter, but you have provided me some hints as to your personality. Given the physical height of your inbox, your need to visualize the steps of GTD and your mention of hating to disappoint people, I’m going to guess you’re Environmental or Fantastical, and I’ll go out on a limb to say that Environmental is your primary and Fantastical your secondary. Everyone has a primary type that comes most naturally to them and picks up secondary types based on the strength of the influences around them growing up.

    • The Environmental Type is an amazing people person. They have the enviable skill of being able to feel and interpret the body language and emotion of the people around them, and they are happiest when those they love and spend time with are happy. This is a double edged sword, however, and I have seen many Environmentals neglecting themselves to the point of ruining their health in favor of supporting those around them instead. Your routinely overflowing inbox is indicative of a classic Environmental conundrum – saving anything that might have value to someone, someday. Let me guess – your email inbox is the same way, isn’t it?
    • The Fantastical Type is a visual thinker, and they bring an impressive problem solving ability to any task they undertake. They have a tendency to get lost in what they do and remain lost for hours on end, regardless of what’s going on around them. This is the author who stays up into the wee hours of the morning writing and the scientist who dives into his lab with an idea and emerges hours later having forgotten to eat, drink or do anything else on his calendar in the intervening time.

    There are two additional types, the Analytical and the Structural.

    • The Analytical Type is a brilliant big picture thinker, and is able to internalize and process information quickly. This is the person who can look at a chart or figure, understand what’s going on and how it fits into her goals, and speak intelligently about the meaning of the data and the next steps. They are also very ambitious, sometimes to the detriment of other pieces of their life when they’re in pursuit of a goal.
    • The Structural Type is the naturally gifted systems person – they can see a situation, understand the pieces, and think through the potential possible outcomes to put together a repeatable process. While I don’t know David Allen personally, the simple existence of the Getting Things Done empire tells me he’s a Structural. And systems like GTD can work great – for other Structurals. That’s why you see so many Structural systems in the productivity arena – it’s a natural response when you see others struggling to want to help, and if you have a productivity system that works for you then you’ll naturally tell others about it when you see them struggling with productivity. But when an Environmental or a Fantastical tries to use a Structural system, we see the frustration, stress and eventual abandonment that you describe, G – (aaah!). When an Analytical uses a Structural system, they can manage it but it’s not the best use of their time and abilities.

    So what’s the solution for those of us who have differing strengths than our Structural counterparts? Well, that depends on the other elements of the ecosystem – your goals, your habits and your life commitments. Why don’t you write back and tell me about the first and the third, G – (aaah!)? Then we can start to test out ideas that have a greater chance of working for you.

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    With Love,
    Kirsten

    Now it’s your turn – given these type descriptions, which one do you think you are?

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

    Featured photo credit: One Green Car Among Many Other Cars via Shutterstock and inline photo by Johannes Kleske via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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    Rethink Productivity: How to Use Your Personality to Reach Your Goals Rethinking Productivity: Why Your Brain May Be Keeping You from Getting Things Done Rethinking Productivity: How Personality Affects Productivity (and Why No One`s Ever Told You)

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2019

    How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

    How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

    Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

    I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

    Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

    How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

    Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

    Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

    At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

    Want to know the good news?

    No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

    All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

    1. Develop a Positive Mindset

    If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

    According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

    That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

    Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

    Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

    Absolutely!

    But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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    Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

    Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

    It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

    “I’m not smart enough to…”

    “I don’t have enough experience to…”

    “I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

    When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

    If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

    When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

    • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
    • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
    • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

    Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

    Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

    All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

    But this isn’t true!

    If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

    If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

    When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

    Ditch the Dwelling

    Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

    Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

    When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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    But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

    The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

    Easier said than done, right? Try these:

    1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
    2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
    3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
    4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

    The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

    Be Patient about the Process

    No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

    Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

    If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

    To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

    2. Connect with Your Purpose

    One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

    If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

    Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

    Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

    Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

    “Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

    One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

    Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

    Find Intrinsic Motivation

    Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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    Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

    But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

    If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

    3. Find Strength in Unity

    The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

    Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

    Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

    If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

    If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

    Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

    The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

    A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

    If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

    Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

    Recruit Some Cheerleaders

    If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

    Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

    As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

    Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

    Form an Accountability Group

    Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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    Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

    Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

    Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

    Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

    4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

    Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

    As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

    We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

    When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

    • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
    • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
    • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
    • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
    • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
    • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

    Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

    Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

    Tying it All Together

    Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

    But here’s the bottom line:

    A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

    No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

    More About Mental Strength

    Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

    Reference

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