I love Penelope Trunk. I don’t always agree with her, but I’m hopelessly addicted to her blog. Ms. Trunk is hopelessly addicted to the science of personality types. Every post she writes is riddled with Myers-Briggs acronyms, which she seems to see as infallible keys for predicting one’s life. I’m not sure anyone’s personality or future can be quite so easily decoded, but I did finally decide to decipher my own type - and the answer has helped me quickly become more productive.
A quick lesson in 20th century psychology: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a personality test used to determine how a subject perceives the world and makes decisions. The test analyzes four components: attitude (extrovert/introvert), perceiving function (sensing/intuition), judging function (thinking/feeling), and lifestyle preference (judging/perception). Each component is represented by one of two letters in the final analysis, and there are 16 possible combinations or personality types.
According to an online quiz that took me 90 seconds to complete, I am an ENFJ. That means I’m an extrovert who relies on my intuition and feelings to make decisions (basically). A closer look at ENFJs suggests that I’m also a big picture person and that I like coming up with ideas more than I like implementing them.
I recently spent a couple months working with a productivity coach to try to conquer my procrastination and stagnation. I have lots of ideas, but I tend to collect new ones instead of move forward with existing goals. I’ve spent years circling the same dreams, and I wanted to kick my own lazy butt.
With the coach’s help, I was able to identify important steps that I avoid and create a daily schedule that makes me less likely to do so. I also learned how to embrace my sprinters’ habits; I work best in two hour chunks on rotating projects instead of spending an entire day or week on one task.
Reading my personality profile confirmed and added detail to what I’d learned through those coaching sessions. More importantly, it helped me see that I wasn’t necessarily lazy; I’m just not a detail person. The idea that I was, to quote Lady Gaga, born this way erased the judgment I’ve been carrying around about my work habits.
Of course, idea people still need to get stuff done. I am not yet at a point in my life where I can sit back in a comfy chair and spout ideas to a team of detail people. As a solopreneur, I have to be both the creative force of my business and the one to execute. However, discovering and accepting my inherent nature helped me device a system to overcome my strengths.
I’ve embarked on a campaign to do the boring stuff. I’m calling it 100 Days of Action because I need a big idea to propel me. I’m focusing on creating a habit of doing the things I don’t like because I know it’s necessary for my success and because I now realize I need that extra push. I’m also trying to be realistic about my limitations, which is why I’m trying to do a little bit every day and build consistent momentum instead of setting myself up for a marathon of work I hate.
Self discovery and acceptance is, I’m convinced, a foolproof plan for happiness. As it turns out, it’s also not a bad blueprint for getting things done.