How Do You Create Habits to be a Successful Freelancer? This Tool is What You Need

NOTE: This is NOT a sponsored post, nor does it contain affiliate links. I’m simply sharing a resource that has been extremely helpful to me and many others.

One of the questions I’m most asked is how do I, as a freelancer who works from home, schedule my time and complete work each day.

This is actually a tough question to answer because what works for me is not necessarily going to work for anyone else. And that is because we all form habits and respond to expectations in different ways.

Two different people have asked me this question in the last few weeks and I told both of them that if they are struggling with creating a schedule or want to understand how to get work done, they need to check out Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies framework. Put simply, The Four Tendencies explain why we do and do not do things.

According to Rubin, people fit into four tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Once you understand your personality tendency, you can find methods that support you creating and sticking to habits and expectations.

What is your tendency? Take the quiz to find out.

I won’t go into detail on each tendency (Rubin does it much better than me), but here’s a basic explanation of each tendency:

  • Upholders — Meets outer and inner expectations
  • Obliger — Meets outer expectations; resists inner expectations
  • Questioner — Meets inner expectations; resists outer expectations
  • Rebel — Resists outer and inner expectations

Now let me explain why I tell people that knowing their tendency will help them in their quest to create a schedule and habits to work from home or own their own business. Once you know your tendency, you can create structures to help you work. And each tendency is going to have different motivators.

For example, Obligers have a tough time keeping commitments they make to themselves if nobody is holding them accountable. So if an Obliger knows she needs to write three blog posts in order to market her new business, she may have a tough time sitting down and doing the writing. But if she has an accountability partner or coach who is counting on her doing that work, she will complete it because she does not want to let that person down.

Another example (which is not work-related) is starting an exercise routine. A Questioner will need an internal motivation or reason to start exercising, and he may do a fair amount of research on what exercise routine works best for him. And Upholder will decide to start running, and that’s all he needs to lace up and hit the streets. If an Obliger wants to start a running habit, a technique to ensure his success is to meet up with a running buddy or join a running club where other people are counting on him to show up to run.

Once you know how to create the habits – which Rubin helps you do – you can create something that will stick.

My tendency is an Upholder. This means I respond to both outer and inner expectations. Put simply, I meet deadline and accomplish tasks without much struggle or supervision. According to Rubin, Upholders take great satisfaction from moving smoothly through their daily schedule and their to-do lists. This is definitely me and probably why a freelance career works well for me.

This is also why it’s tough for me to recommend a system that will work for everyone else, because what works for me may not work for the other tendencies. For example, if I plan to accomplish three tasks on a Monday, I will do them because I set that expectation of myself.

By the way, if you think being an Upholder is the perfect tendency to have, think again. There are plenty of downsides! We struggle in situations where expectations are not clear. We are very uneasy breaking the rules (even pointless rules). We get very frustrated if we cannot accomplish what we set out to do, and change often brings on anxiety. And we can be relentless about keeping to habits, which can be really annoying to people around us. 😉

So bottom line: If you’re trying to create a system to manage your time and accomplish tasks (whether it be work or anything else in life), first look at yourself and your personality. And do this by determining your tendency. Once you’ve done that, use the methods Rubin suggests that will play to your strengths and set you up for success.

What is your tendency? How do you struggle with respect to forming habits and meeting expectations? How do you accomplish work?

Image credit: GretchenRubin.com

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