I get a slight gagging feeling when I read about “add these 5 habits to your morning routine to become extremely productive.” These may be great habits, but they’re not all necessities for everyone. In fact, in my workshop on priorities & productivity, I emphasize that different things work for different people. The best thing we can do is to try out different ideas, figure out what works for us, and implement that consistently.
There’s no point in trying to change ourselves. You may think that getting up early is a great idea, but if you’re an evening person, that may not be the best approach for you. Or you may think that it’s great to be able to follow your own to-do list, but if external accountability is what you need, you’d be wasting precious time trying to change yourself instead of doing what works for you.
The Schedule + To-Do List Person
Some people do great by creating a to-do list and a schedule and sticking to them. I have to admit I’m that type of person, if you hadn’t guessed already! I love planning out my days and knowing what I’m going to do, making sure nothing important gets left out or forgotten.
For example, if I want to work on writing my paper, I’d put it on my work to-do list. On Tuesday morning, let’s say, the first thing I do at work is to write my paper for 2 hours.
If I’d like to go for a hike, I’d put it on my calendar: “Saturday, 15:00: Hike.”
(By the way, this personality type corresponds to Gretchen Rubin’s Upholder (take her free quiz to find out your tendency). That’s somebody who meets external expectations as well as internal ones.)
This approach works very well for me, and it means that I usually get done the things I intended to get done. The drawback, however, is that I may come across as rigid, inflexible, or selfish because I don’t want to adapt my schedule or to-do list to other people’s preferences.
When I was a child, this often frustrated my parents. On a Saturday morning, they’d say, “Hey, the weather is nice, let’s go to the park!”
“I can’t, I’m going to do my homework now,” I’d reply, giving them a stern look.
“Just do your homework tomorrow!” they’d say nonchalantly, waving a hand.
“But I always do my homework on Saturday mornings! I want to do it today and be done with it!”
“Ah, you’re so inflexible, can’t you do things differently for once?”
And so the discussion continues…
I emphasize the drawbacks because people often think it’s amazing to be organized and scheduled. “You get everything done, it must be awesome!” Yes, it’s great, and at the same time, it’s not.
Ask my husband. His most common complaint is that I get upset when things don’t get done my way. That’s true. It’s just that my way is the best way, so why can’t everybody see that and just do as I say?
…You see what I mean? It’s not all great about being an Upholder and sticking to schedules and to-do lists, and it’s probably not easy living with one.
However, I still think it’s pretty cool. My life usually does reflect my priorities, and I make time for the things I find important. I also make time for fun stuff and friends, and I ensure I don’t get overburdened with work or overwhelmed by responsibilities. I am good at knowing when I’m doing too much, and I’m learning to delegate and ask for help. I also make sure I get enough sleep, rest, and me-time.
Whether you do well with schedules or not, this is something we can all try, inspired by the Upholder tendency. We do it every morning in our family. At the beginning of the day (usually over breakfast for us), Jacob and I ask ourselves:
“What would I like to do today?”
This is an open-ended question. If it’s a workday and we have a lot scheduled already, we can go through our calendar and to-do list and remind ourselves of the main events of the day. You’d think this is unnecessary (“If it’s on the calendar, why do I have to think about it at the beginning of the day?”), but you can forget what you’ve scheduled if you don’t check your calendar (duh!!!). The other day, Jacob had an appointment at the city hall. He almost missed it! Luckily, he checked his calendar over breakfast and remembered that he had to hurry up and get there on time.
By reviewing your day like this, you can also find possibilities for little things you want to do. Where can you find a 30-minute slot to exercise or go for a walk? Between which two activities can you call a friend? This can help you identify and look for those opportunities.
This type of intention-and-implementation-setting can also be helpful on a day when you don’t have much planned. Such a day can easily be spent lounging about on the couch, and that’s awesome if that’s what you wanted! But if you intended to do your groceries shopping and clean the house, not getting those things done can making you feel disappointed at the end of the day. So I’d say set the intention to lounge about, if that’s what you want to do, and enjoy it to the fullest!
Over the next weeks, I will go over different approaches and tips from different personality types. Stay tuned!