Creating Habits for Your Tendency


Last week I wrote about goal creation with a plan. All too often I find myself and my clients laying out lofty goals without any plan to actually reach them. Dreaming is fun, but when it comes to getting stuff done a solid plan of action is as necessary as the dreaming. A plan of action comes in many shapes and sizes and depends a lot on how you respond to expectations, both your own and others. Not everyone creates and follows habits in the same way. As I read through Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better than Before: Master the Habits of our Everyday Lives, at the end of last year I had a light bulb moment. In order to successfully reach a goal one must first understand how they will approach the action plan.

So, what does that mean. Rubin lays out four different types of tendencies in her book: Obliger, Upholder, Questioner, Rebel. She outlines the different tendencies with these approaches to habit formation:

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

To find out where you fall within these four tendencies Click Here to take Rubin’s test.

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I am without a doubt an obliger. I am a people pleaser by nature, I can keep obligations to others, but when it comes to expectations I set for myself I struggle. If I don’t have outside accountability set-up I am not very likely to stick with a habit or goal that I have created. I have used several strategies to implement accountability in different areas of my life. When it comes to exercising and eating right I have joined accountability groups and I signed up for ClassPass. If I sign up for a class and I know I have to be there at a certain time, I will be there! If I signed up for the gym and I told myself I could go anytime that works for me, I would never go. For my writing and blogging, I have a wonderful woman that I brought on to help with my social media and other small admin type work. I have used her as a tool to hold me accountable for blogging. It’s not that I don’t like blogging I just find 500 other things to do in my day and writing was falling by the wayside. She isn’t going to get mad at me if I don’t write a blog one week, but I know she is counting on me to set the tone and topics for my overall social media schedule and that is enough to kick me into high gear. My husband is my accountability partner in so many things in life – grocery shopping, dinner planning and prep, spending habits. He’s a silent partner in all of this, but just knowing that he is effected by my actions or lack of actions is enough to make me do it! I have embraced the fact that internal accountability is not my strong suit and therefore I must take the necessary steps within my action plan to reach goals with external accountability.


 Now that you have taken the test and you have a good understanding of how you respond to accountability, both internal and external and you have a list of goals in front of you, how do you translate that into action? So here are a few suggestions I have for each tendency as it relates to organizing.

Obliger – Did I mention you need external accountability? 🙂 As you can imagine, I work with a lot of obligers. I am the accountability, which is ironic, I know, but it works and I am really good at my job. As one client told me, I am a charming storm-trooper and I wear that title with honor. Other suggestions could be an organizing buddy, setting out a list of goals with your spouse to complete together at a specific time, but of course this will also depend on your significant others tendency. Set a date for a party. If you know people are coming to your home you will be more likely to get that organizing project done.

Upholder – Chances are if you are an upholder and you have made organizing a priority, you are already pretty good at keeping up with your projects. However, if you find they are slacking you can try to create a list and set aside specific times each week to work through those lists. Upholders tend to like crossing off lists and organizing can be apart of that. Make sure the lists are specific – sort and record receipts, sort and toss old and empty toiletry bottles, Not general statements like, organize the garage.

Questioner –  I also happen to work with a lot of questioners, as I find people in the “analysis paralysis” state of clutter. Papers and information have piled up to the point of no return. There is so much around in the name of “research”, “ideas”, “projects to do”, “places to travel”, “self help” that often in the name of more research and understanding nothing gets done. Questioners are internal motivators and they have so many strong qualities they can harness. Questioners are great at spotting error, they’re great at figuring out more efficient ways to do things and they tend to be good delegators, unless of course they don’t think anyone is as good as them at completing something, see analysis-paralysis. One suggestion I often pose to questioners is to set a deadline. Read books about organizing, understand how and why it is beneficial and then when that time is up dig in. If organizing isn’t for you, but you like the feeling of being organized, outsource, hire someone like myself to get you to a place that you can maintain and live in comfortably. Also, consider how it will effect the other people in your lives. This looks like an external motivator, but really it’s internal. If you live with others the space is not solely yours and it might help to think logically about how it will improve the relationships around you if you take the time to organize the communal spaces.

Rebel – The rebel is the most unpredictable tendency. The rebel is going to do something when they feel like doing it. There is no amount of internal or external motivation that will draw you to organize your closet. Sometimes you are taken to your wits end when you literally can’t find anything or your closet is so stuffed that you feel like you have no other choice but to organize it. Also, think outside of the box, you are not likely to do things in the same way as everyone else and certainly not because they told you to do it – when your mom said clean your room, you weren’t very likely to do it, but when it got so bad even you couldn’t live in it, you did. Maybe you are not an organized person and simply organizing and tidying would shock those you live with so much you find the will to do it. It’s a bit backwards, but if you tell a rebel they can’t do something, they often do it to prove you wrong – so if you live with a rebel, maybe offer up a little organizing challenge for them and see if they prove you wrong.

With the solid framework around the four tendencies and where your habit formation falls you can begin to create goals with soul around each, following up with an actionable plan that motivates you and encourages success. I would love to hear your ideas and strategies around organizing and getting things done in your physical space and with your time. Comment below!

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Happy Organizing!