by Susan McCarthy
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If a technique doesn't work for you, don't blame yourself for not trying hard enough. Try something else instead of repeating the same process again.
Have you ever felt frustrated with the way you get things done (or don’t get things done)? Do you wonder how a friend started a new habit so easily while you struggle? Or, how a coworker shines working with a group while the energy of groups leaves you exhausted?
Below are quizzes that grant you an objective view on how you learn and use information, your core strengths and skills, and how you deal with expectations. One of the most important aspects of all these methods of self-discovery, is that they emphasize that no single learning style, strength, intelligence, or personality style is more valid than the others.
When you think life would be so much easier if you were different from the way you are, the realization that you need to work with your qualities (instead of fighting against them) can make you more productive. Now, when you read suggestions on how to organize objects or manage your time, you’ll know which tips will have a better chance of working for you.
Myers-Briggs and How You Deal with the World
This link sends you to the Myers & Briggs Foundation, where you need to pay to take the hour-long test. However, there’s a lot of sites that offer a free version of this test. The assessment helps you identify your preferred ways to make decisions, deal with the outside world, and take in information.
Why would you want to know this stuff? I think if you find yourself getting frustrated by the way you get things done (or don’t get things done), you can find out if you are using methods that just aren’t going to work for your personality type.
Do you want to go through the garage by yourself or with a group? If you’re an extrovert, turning your garage clean-out into a party will energize you; whereas, if you are an introvert, you may meltdown as too many people touch your stuff.
The Way You Learn
Do you learn best by looking at something, listening about it, or physically acting? If you aren’t getting information in a way that helps you learn the information, you’re going to miss a lot. Webinars where I’m looking at PowerPoint slides or a person’s talking head rely on my oh-so-poor auditory skills. Years ago, I realized that I focused better if I did a mindless task with my hands (I usually crochet a simple hat).
When I was in school, I learned best by rewriting my class notes (sometimes multiple times). I always thought this was a waste of time, but the act of copying my notes (which I still do today) helped me more than rereading them would have. Knowing your learning style can help you process information in the most effective way for you - particularly when you have the choice as to how you can learn something.
Name Your Multiple Intelligences
Harvard Professor Howard Gardner identified eight intellectual abilities in contrast to a single IQ number, which he describes in his book, Multiple Intelligences.. We usually have some degree of each of the eight, with some intelligences stronger than others. Knowing which of the eight intellectual abilities are strongest in you could help you realize how you can best learn information and maybe even work more productively.
When planning out the steps you need to complete a project, would you do best with a linear list, a mind map, a drawing that you label with the different steps, a detailed time table, or time spent journaling about the project? Depending on your key intelligence, any of those techniques could help you or make you miserable.
Focus on Your Strengths
CliftonStrengths (also called StrengthFinder 2.0) requires the book or payment for their quiz while the VIA Character Strengths is free. Both test for your strengths, with the idea that if you work at building your strengths you’ll improve your life in more productive ways than if you focus on trying to improve your weaker characteristics (which is something we all too often do).
When I took the StrengthFinder 2.0, the results seemed more focused on the skills I’d use at work whereas the VIA Character Strengths offered insights into my strengths as a person. Of course, you could align your work with your character strengths. Both tests emphasized that I love learning and conveying that information to others. (Yep, 25 years of teaching different topics, so that wasn’t a surprise). VIA Character Strengths also listed humility and forgiveness in my top five strengths, although I can’t say I’ve consciously worked those into my work life.
The Big 5 Personality Test is free and, as the name suggests, breaks down your personality into five characteristics. As they point out, these are generalizations based on other respondents’ answers. So, instead of listing characteristics, you see where you fit on a scale compared to other people. I was surprised that I scored low for Conscientious, but when I thought about it, I am easy-going and don’t care for a lot of guidelines and rules; however, I scored high for Neuroticism, an indication for anxiety and worry. Apparently, I’m so easy-going that it makes me anxious!
What Do You Expect of Yourself?
I’ve been a fan of Gretchen Rubin since her book, The Happiness Project. When people kept asking her how she managed to follow all the tasks she gave herself as part of her project, she started to investigate personality. More specifically, she questioned how people meet expectations they set for themselves as well as the expectations others have for them.
Rubin’s idea is that if you know your tendency, you’ll be better able to make and follow the habits you want to establish, details she sums up in her book, The Four Tendencies. She also has a book about habits, Better Than Before, so you can pick the habits that will work best with your tendency.
I realize that I’m much less productive when I work against my learning or personality strengths. Also, when I’m dragging my feet, I can step back and see that I’m expecting myself to act in a way I don’t naturally act. However, and this is key, that doesn’t mean I can’t act in a certain way because I have a label for a characteristic.
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