Join Gretchen Rubin for an in-depth discussion in this video Habit distinctions and the four tendencies, part of Gretchen Rubin on Creating Great Workplace Habits.
- View Offline
- When you're trying to shape your habits at work, or when you're trying to work with other people and their habits, it's very important to recognize the way that you might be like other people, and also different from other people. Understanding the distinctions among people can make it much easier to keep the habits that you want to keep, and also work harmoniously with people who might have different habits from you. So, for instance, the difference between marathoners, sprinters, and procrastinators. Marathoners are people like me.
We like to start early, do a little bit of work each day, have plenty of time at the deadline. They like slow and steady. Now, sprinters, by contrast, they love the adrenaline of a deadline, the crunch, they like the intensity of having to do a lot of work at the last minute. They feel like if they start too early, they lose momentum, they lose interest, they waste time, so they really like to work up against the deadline. Now, the problem comes when you have two kinds of people working together. Because the marathoners are driven crazy by the fact that the sprinters aren't working yet, and the sprinters feel like the marathoners are wasting time.
As a marathoner, I talked to a woman who said, "Oh , well when I have to give a speech, "I'm thinking about my subject, "while they're micing me up back stage, "it drives my staff crazy but that's how "I do my best work." Well, for me, creativity flows when I start early. These are two different work styles, and so you have to think about how can different people work together to get the best of both kinds. But it's very important to remember that a sprinter is not the same thing as a procrastinator. Procrastinators wish they could work earlier, but they do all their work up against a deadline because that's what they're forced to do, but a sprinter looks back on their work and thinks, I did great work.
They like working that way. Procrastinators are often full of regret. They think they could have done a better job if they'd given themselves more time. So if you're a procrastinator, the thing is to schedule yourself, use all your habit energy to start that work early, because once the work starts, often the anxiety drops and it becomes easier to work as you approach that deadline. So that has to do with the habits related to work pace. Now, there are other habit differences that come into play. One is, are you a finisher, or an opener? Now finishers are people like me.
We like to finish, we like to cross things off the list, and sometimes we're a little bit too conservative about thinking about starting something new, because it's so important to us to know that we're going to be able to finish. Openers, by contrast, they love new projects, new ideas. I talked to a law professor who said, "Oh, I've got the syllabi for 15 different classes "half finished in my desk drawer." Because she loves thinking about starting something new. Well, in a workplace, it's great to have some of both. You need the people who have the excitement and the energy, and the willingness to think about starting something new, but you also need the people who are going to get you across the finish line.
So you want to be very aware of your own work style, and other peoples' work style, so that you can find that right balance, so that you open as many projects that are going to make sense for you, but that you also get them finished. Now, another way that differences come to play in the workplace is people who are abundance lovers, and people who are simplicity lovers. And this has to do with the kind of environment in which you thrive. So, abundance lovers like a lot of buzz, a lot of profusion, a lot of choices, a lot of visual stimulation.
Simplicity lovers thrive on quiet, calm, bare walls, clean surfaces. And I remember going into a workspace where it was decorate your cubicle day, and everybody had decorations hanging from the ceilings on all the cubicles, and it looked like so much fun, but I thought, I could never work here, because I'm a simplicity lover. And so, when you're creating work environments, you have to think about the fact not everyone is going to thrive in the same kind of environment and so how do you create an environment which is going to really stimulate different kinds of people and how do you manage that.
And then, another kind of distinction, a very, very pervasive and important kind of distinction when you're understanding how to manage your own habits and the habits of the people around you, has to do with the four tendencies. And these have to do with how you deal with an expectation. And we all face outer expectations, a work deadline. Or inner expectations, our own desire to keep a new year's resolution. And there are upholders, questioners, obligers, and rebels.
Upholders readily meet outer and inner expectations, they need a work deadline to keep a new year's resolution without much fuss. Questioners question all expectations. They'll do something if they think it makes sense. You have to convince them that it's not arbitrary, it's not inefficient, it's a good use of their time. Once they decide, they will absolutely meet that expectation. Obligers readily meet outer expectations, but they struggle to meet inner expectations, so they have no trouble meeting the work deadline, but they're going to have trouble keeping that new year's resolution.
And then finally, rebels. Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner expectations alike. They want to do what they want to do, in their own way. If you ask or tell them to do something, they're very likely to resist, and they don't even like to tell themselves what to do. And the tendency that you fall into will make a very big difference on how you best form habits, and also how you manage other peoples' habits.