Are you an Obliger in disguise?

Are you an Obliger in disguise?

By now, you might have heard of Gretchen Rubin and her idea of the Four Tendencies. If you’re not familiar with it, you can learn more about it here. I’ve been a fan of Gretchen Rubin and her podcast (Happier) and her books for a few years, but I’ll admit that I’ve had my issues with her Four Tendencies framework. I don’t really feel like I’m a great fit with any of the tendencies. At times, I’ve felt like I identified as an Obliger, a Questioner, and an Upholder (never a Rebel, though, to the great shock of my youth group Sunday school teachers).

I had kind of decided to give up on the idea of the Four Tendencies, thinking, “It’s obviously not a perfect framework, it needs some polishing… Maybe it’s helpful for some people, but not really for me.” That is, until the last few weeks. Let me tell you about them.

If you’re someone I talk to regularly, then you probably know that the last 3 or 4 months have been pretty tough for me (though, thankfully, it’s all been planned and self-imposed).

I’ve been working a full time job, a part-time retail job, and running The Efficient/Creative, all while trying to spend “enough” time with my kids, “enough” time with my husband, “enough” time on housework, and “enough” time on my responsibilities with my church.

In other words, I’ve been spreading myself waaaaaaay too thin and just trying to squeak by on pretty much every facet of my life.

I was talking to my mom a few weeks ago and I told her, “There is not a single day of the week when I’m not burdened by obligations. Every moment of the day is a time when I *should* be doing something, and when I’m doing one thing, I’m thinking about all of the other, unrelated things I also *should* be doing.”

Does this sound like you? Does it sound like a personal hell? Or maybe both?!

The day after that, I had a productivity coaching session with a friend (the amazing Zoha over at Multidoer- I’ve mentioned her here before and if you haven’t checked her out yet, get on that for reals.) As we were talking, I think I used the word “obligation” 17 times in 3 minutes.

Is that, like, a record? Somebody tell me.

Her response? “Um, yeah. You’re an Obliger.” …yes. Yes, I think so.

But what does this newfound knowledge mean; why is it important? According to Gretchen Rubin, knowing your tendency is crucial for changing your habits. And the habit I have GOT to change (before my children start to wonder, “Who is that woman with the fleece pants and the embarrassing amount of facial hair who is eating dinner with us?”) is SPREADING MYSELF TOO THIN.

Here’s how I’m changing it. I’m taking stock of what my REAL priorities are. These are the obligations that are going to move me forward toward the life I want to be living. Obligations that don’t make the cut have to hit the road, and decisions like that aren’t easy—they mean having hard conversations and disappointing people you like. Like all Things Worth Doing, it’s going to be a work-in-progress, and I’m excited to take those steps.

What’s your tendency? What habits are you trying to build? And how does your tendency inform how you’re going to build those habits? I’d LOVE to hear from you, my amazing email friends list, so hit the comments below and tell me all about it!


P.S. Know somebody who likes to Get Things Done? Forward this to them and tell them they can subscribe here for all kinds of awesomeness.

Is your motivation fading? Try this to get back on track.

Is your motivation fading? Try this to get back on track.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: 

You uncover a new goal and you are PUMPED to reach it. Your energy is through the roof and there is no stopping you! But along the way, you have a setback which gets you just a little off track and before you know it, that new goal that you were so thrilled to reach? It doesn’t seem that important anymore. OR you know it’s still important, but you feel guilty for letting it slide. And it keeps sliding…

Believe me, I get it. I have been there (and I still go there… a LOT). When I work with women to plan professional and personal projects, I get a front row seat to watch how our motivation can affect what we accomplish.

The next time you get that sense that you’re getting off track because the thrill is gone, I want you to try these steps (yeah, I know I said it was ONE thing before, but it’s really two because the first one is SUPER important, I promise.)

  1. Let go of the guilt. Be forgiving with yourself. We ALL get off track, we all lose motivation sometimes, so allow yourself to acknowledge that feeling of guilt, then let it go.

  2. Visualize your end game. When you imagine your goal, what do you see? If your answer to that question is kind of hazy or nebulous, then really set aside some time (10 or 20 minutes) to practice visualizing yourself reaching that goal. How do you feel? Who is with you? Are you in a specific location? What does it look like or smell like? Is the sun shining? What are you wearing in this scenario?

Going into that much detail might feel a little nutty at first, but the more detail you can give your visualization, the more real it will be to you. Try this out and then let me know how it worked out for you. What do you do when you feel yourself getting off track? Do you have another method you use to regain motivation? If so, hit reply and let me hear about it!


Got a goal and you’re not sure how to reach it? Do you feel like you want a road map or a timeline to get there? Set up a time to chat with me about it! My consultation calendar is open only until April 28 and I only have TWO MORE SPOTS open for free inquiry/consultation calls, so don’t wait! 

Does Writing By Hand Improve Focus?

Does Writing By Hand Improve Focus?

Recently I read an article that talked about the importance of writing things out by hand when it comes to focus, memory, and creativity. The article is here, and it’s worth a look.

Here’s what the author, Peter Gasca, says:

“‘students who write out their notes on paper actually learn more,’ and doodling has been shown to help focus and creativity.

And while typing to take notes is considerably easier and faster for most of us, a Yale psychologist emphasizes that ‘with handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important.’”

When I work with one-on-one clients, I encourage them to bring their own sticky notes and a pen to our sessions—even though our sessions are online. It’s not required, but I think it can be helpful for clients, especially for those wanting to learn the process and use it on their own in the future.

One recent client, Christen, told me that even though she didn’t write down the steps for her project during our session, she wrote them out on sticky notes afterward and posted them in her planner. I sent her a hand pdf of the steps that she could refer to whenever she wanted- she didn’t have to physically write them down. But she knew that could help her focus on her tasks. 

When you write by hand onto actual paper, then move that paper around in physical space, there’s an inherent mindfulness that the activity brings. It’s easier to focus on the task at hand. At least, that seems to be the case for me (and for the Yale psychologist noted above).

All of this thinking about hand writing also got me thinking about my Bullet Journal. Recently, it’s my poor, neglected Bullet Journal.

I love my BuJo, but I have definitely let it fall by the wayside for the last few weeks. Now I’m convinced: I am restarting my BuJo practice!

I thought you guys might enjoy seeing the evolution of my Bullet Journal weekly layouts. Notice how it starts out fairly simple, becomes prettier and more elaborate, then all of a sudden becomes the simplest design possible as my life became too busy to spend time on it!

I don’t feel badly about my simple layouts, though I did enjoy the practice of making the pretty layouts. Plus, when my journal appeals to my eye, I want to spend more time with it.

I’d love to hear where you all stand on this issue. Do you find that you can focus more easily when you write things out by hand? Do you use a BuJo to help you build a focused, creative practice? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

August Resource Roundup: Reclaiming My Time

August Resource Roundup: Reclaiming My Time

OK, Gentlewomen,

August brings two AMAZING articles for our inspirational resource roundup, both happen to be from Quartz Media. 

First, an article about how romance writers can churn out material like it’s their JOB. Because, you know… it is.

Professional romance novelists can write 3,000 words a day. Here’s how they do it

It’s so easy for us artistic types to wait for the muse before really getting down to work. I know I’ve been there, and I would bet that you have, too. But you’ve heard it before (and it really is true) that SHOWING UP day after day after day to create your art is the best way to invite the muse. 

It reminds me of an anecdote that I come back to a LOT. I originally heard it from a class that Ria Sharon teaches on Skillshare, but I’m not sure the origin of it. You may have heard it before.

In the story, there is a ceramics class. The teacher breaks up the class into two different groups. The teacher tells one group that their final grade will be based on the quantity of pots they produce. So, 50 pounds of pots might equal an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on.

The teacher tells the second group that their final grade will be based on quality. They only have to produce one pot all semester, but it must be a perfect one to get an A.

At the end of the semester, however, the highest QUALITY pots came from the group that was being graded on quantity. The moral of the story, of course, is that the best way for the students to improve their craft was to make as many as they could, day after day. It’s definitely a reminder that I need to come back to.

OK, second: 

“Reclaiming my time”: Strategies from a scholar of chronemics, the study of time

Don’t let the headline throw you off, this article was fantastic. There are so many parts that I want to quote, so many ways of thinking about time and how we relate to it that I had never stopped to examine. Thank goodness for Dawna Ballard, who is examining them. I’ll give just a few of my favorites here

Ask someone, “Hey, how’s it going?” she says, and they’ll probably answer by referring to how busy they are, or the vacation that starts the next day, or the limbo they’re in waiting for a message to be returned. They might mention the angst of a traffic or subway delay, and if it’s Friday, they may thank God for it. How we’re experiencing time is how we are.

…we’ve absorbed the message that “your time-discipline is a measure of your virtue as a person.

(Yikes! She’s right!)

I highly encourage you to go read the article not only for the Big Thoughts, but also for the genuinely helpful information that Ballard has about the way we interact with time (including a concept that I know a lot of artists and crafters struggle with: “Refuse to do unpaid labor”). Go take a look at the article and make sure you let me know what you think of it.

Go forth and conquer.

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Say “Yes”

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Say “Yes”

Are you a people-pleaser? I know I am. I hate the thought that someone, somewhere might think anything negative about me.

Of course, this is silly, and we’ll get more into why it’s silly in a moment, but when you want everyone to be happy with you all the time?

It is really, really, REALLY hard to say “no.”

It’s become a joke with me and some friends that there’s a magical phrase that can convince me to do anything:

“I need your help.”

I can’t resist! I so easily fall under the power of “Somebody wants MY help! I feel needed! I want to be helpful!”

The truth is, though, saying yes to everything has gotten me into hot water more than a few times. I find myself running ragged, too busy, with too many spinning wheels, AND feeling resentful over these things I’ve agreed to help with. I end up being angry with myself and resenting the people I’ve said “yes” to.

Over the past year, I’ve been working hard on saying “No.” It does not come naturally to me. What about you? Do you find yourself in the same predicament? If so, here are 3 questions that I’ve started using that help make “no” trip more easily off the tongue. 


If you’re inclined to say yes, take a moment and consider WHY. Would you be saying yes out of a genuine desire to take on the project? Or is the motivation, deep-down, more out of a sense of obligation? 

Your sense of motivation will ultimately be the engine that drives your work. If you’re excited about a project, you are less likely to procrastinate and less likely to feel resentment. By the way, neither of these motivations are inherently good or bad–obligation has its place.

“Genuine desire” and “obligation” are also not to only two options. Are they offering to drive a dump truck of money up to your house? That can be pretty motivating! Before you agree to it, try to understand why you might do it. 



How much time (or money or resources) will this project actually take? Take whatever they tell you, then tack on a little bit more. Are you willing to devote the resources gladly? Even if the time goes past what you were promised or the budget creeps up a little bit?

Take note, too, of the potential emotional cost of the project. If you hesitantly agree to extra work, you are signing up with the advance knowledge that you may run out of motivation before the project is done. Before you say “yes”, understand that your emotional stores may run dry. Do you have adequate self-care techniques lined up for when you begin to lose emotional connection?



Remember when I said that “I hate the thought that someone, somewhere might think anything negative about me”? That, to me, is usually the biggest consequence of saying “no”. You mean someone might be slightly put-out or annoyed by my refusal? PERISH THE THOUGHT!

Yeah, it’s a little self-centered and dramatic that I feel this way. First off, I’m sure there are people around who find me annoying or who think I’m selfish with my time. That’s life and I just have to deal with it. Secondly, I’m sure nobody is losing sleep obessing over something I said. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” Thirdly, would I be genuinely angry with someone who politely declined? Probably not (and chances are, they wouldn’t be genuinely angry with my refusal, either).

Other consequences of saying “no” could be a final product that isn’t done “the way you would have done it.” Or it simply could be the living with the knowledge that someone else will have to do all the work. 

If answering these questions produces a giant neon sign that screams “NO!” at you, then you have a fairly simple answer. Of course, that’s not necessarily how it’s going to be. Take stock of each of these questions and weigh them together. Hopefully, there will be one or two factors that will tip the scales in favor of one answer.

I’ll leave you with two parting thoughts that I hope will help you:

  1. Unless the question is “Will you help me perform emergency surgery on this patient?”, a response of “Let me think about it and get back to you,” is always appropriate if you need time to consider the questions above.

  2. Are the imaginary scales equal when you rationally consider the above questions? Then drop rationality and go with your gut. “I have a bad feeling about it” can override your logical responses.

Do you have a question that you ask yourself before you say “yes”? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!


July Resource Roundup: Should You Bother Learning That New Skill?

July Resource Roundup: Should You Bother Learning That New Skill?


If you are anything like me (a multi-passionate creative type), you collect new knowledge and hobbies like others collect credit card rewards points. You may be like me and want to learn new things, but before you’re great at that new thing, you’re ready to move on and learn something else!

If so, here’s two great resources from July, both on the same topic. I recommend reading both because they each have individual takeaways.



Though the article isn’t chock-full of brand-new information, I appreciate the reminders (particularly about making information meaningful in order to remember it–telling ourselves stories really helps information stick!)



Oh, yeah, that’s the stuff. Leo starts out with the bad feelings that often accompany learning new skills or information: the feeling over being overwhelmed, the fear of failure. The article ends by flipping all of those negative feelings upside down and showing the benefit of each and how to be gentle with ourselves as we learn. 

And, the paradox:

Earlier in the month, I downloaded a few language training apps. My husband is always trying to learn new languages and I’m always *wishing* I spoke better French. So I downloaded some new apps and decided to keep at it.

Then I read this article by Jenny Marchal in Lifehack. In it, Marchal describes the goal lists that Warren Buffett recommends and it breaks down like this:

  1. Make a list of your top 25 life goals

  2. Think about which goals are the most important to you. Go through your list of 25 and cross off the ones that are less important to you until you have 5 goals remaining. These are your REAL goals.

  3. Concentrate only on those 5. Spend your time on those 5 and none of the others.

And I get what he’s saying: those of us who are always wanting to learn or do something new can have a hard time focusing on what’s important. So I wrote my list of goals and you know what didn’t make it to the top five? Learning better French.

Sure, it may be on that list of 25 goals. And maybe someday it will even be in the top 5. But right now, it’s not. So let it go! I feel better already.

What about you? If you’ve found an article or anything else that has been on your mind through the month, share it with the other Gentlewomen! Et merci!