How Your Personality Tendency Affects Your Productivity 

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What if there was one question you could ask yourself that would reveal a whole new, more effective way of approaching productivity? Are you ready? That question is:

"How do I respond to expectations?"

New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin suggests that this question -- and the answer to it -- are the key to increased productivity and better relationships at work and at home. Rubin found our responses to expectations break down into four main categories. She refers to these categories as, The Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels.

The Four Tendencies   

Our tendency affects the way we respond to both internal and external expectations, greatly affecting our work efficiency. Here is a breakdown of The Four Tendencies and their relationships with productivity:

  • Upholders respond well to both internal and external expectations. For instance, an Upholder will readily meet deadlines for work but will also meet personal goals, such as going to the gym consistently.

  • Questioners meet internal expectations with no problem, but will only meet external expectations if they feel it makes sense to do so.

  • Obligers respond well to external expectations (such as arriving on time for a meeting) but have trouble meeting internal expectations, like cutting back on sugar.

  • Rebels, as the name implies, resist both inner and outer expectations. They are passionate and value freedom, so may have a difficult time following rules or doing repetitive tasks.

How to make your Tendency Work for You

Each personality tendency has its strengths and weaknesses. Were you able to identify yours? If not, Rubin offers a free personality quiz to help you discover your tendency.

Once you know your personality tendency and its connection to how you meet expectations, you can begin improving your productivity and relationships. For instance:

If you're an Upholder: You are self-directed, self-motivated, reliable, and thorough. However, you also might have difficulty with changes in routine or understanding why people around you sometimes need reminders to get tasks done.

  • To increase your productivity, write down what you need to accomplish and add it to your schedule. Upholders like an overview of what needs to be done so getting your objectives down on paper is an effective way to give your productivity a boost. If you find it difficult to delegate tasks but need help, seek out another Upholder or an Obliger, who can manage external expectations well.

  • If you're working with an Upholder, they value knowing what the rules and expectations are, and will absolutely deliver. However, they may have trouble delegating as they might not feel others are as dependable as they are. Watch out for overworked Upholders -- they may not tell you they have too much on their plate.

If you're a Questioner: You value reason and don't have a problem using your judgment, even if it seems to fly in the face of popular opinion. However, you might also get hung up in "analysis paralysis," making it difficult to make decisions quickly.

  • To increase your productivity, review the long-term importance of completing a particular task or project, and pay attention to deadlines. Appeal to your sense of logic and appreciation for data by listing the tangible results or benefits you'll gain if you complete the project on time.

  • If you're working with a Questioner, understand they are strong-willed and will do something only if they see a logical reason to do so. Questioners value information so whenever possible, make sure to provide it for context.

If you're an Obliger: You are a team player, responsible, and the one who goes the extra mile. Unfortunately, people often take advantage of Obligers so setting strong boundaries is essential to your sanity. If you don't, you may end up in Obliger rebellion: which is when you've finally had enough, dig in your heels, and refuse to do one more thing.

  • To increase your internal productivity, external accountability is the key. If you don't have a specific deadline for a project, create one and enlist the help of an accountability partner. Knowing someone is expecting you to finish by a specific time will help keep you moving forward.

  • If you're working with an Obliger, provide accountability in the form of deadlines and clear expectations. Obligers are usually extremely accommodating so understand that if an Obliger does say "no" to a request, they are probably stretched past their limit.

If you're a Rebel: You think outside the box, are often artistically inclined, and you don't mind bucking convention. However, you may find it difficult to settle down in a job or in a relationship.

  • To increase your productivity, view reaching a goal or completing a task as a way of expressing your unique identity. If you approach productivity from the angle of being true to yourself or pursuing something you're passionate about, you'll be much more likely to follow through.

  • If you're working with a Rebel, keep in mind that the more you demand they do something, the more they will resist doing it -- even if it's something they actually want to do. Instead, pose assignments, deadlines, and tasks in a way that empowers them to take the reins as a decision maker.

Which is your personality tendency?

Knowing your tendency is a great way to gain insight on how and why you do things. Acknowledging others' tendencies, however, is also important. Each tendency reacts differently to the demands of work, life, family, and relationships. Understanding how to communicate with each tendency will result in both you and those you work with being happier and more productive.


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About the author: Holly Layman is a freelance writer based in the greater Los Angeles area. Connect with Holly at