The Big Idea
Play to your strengths and your weaknesses.
Questions I Answer
- How can I set better habits?
- Why do I struggle with getting rid of my bad habits?
- What’s the best way to use habits to help me be more productive?
Actions to Take
- Take Gretchen’s quiz to see which tendency you fall under.
Key Topics in the Show
Learn the Four Tendencies Framework: Figure out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger or Rebel so that you can learn how to best create good habits
Discover ten different loopholes you may be using to get out of your good habits.
Hear the Story of the Growing Heap – How ‘one coin’ can affect your consistency of good or bad habits.
How to create habits for tasks that aren’t always easy or black and white.
One action item from Gretchen that you can do today to successfully create YOUR good habits.
Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, and this is episode 32. I’m really, really excited about today’s show because we have an amazing guest on the
show. Before I share anything about our guest, I would like to give a quick word from our sponsor.
FreshBooks is the simplest way to be more productive and get organized with your finances if you’re a freelancer or
entrepreneur. I’ll be sharing more about them later on in this
episode, but for now I want to jump in and introduce you to
Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen is our guest today and she is one of the most influential and thought-provoking writers on the subjects of happiness and human nature.
She has an enormous readership, both in print and online, and her books have sold almost 3 million copies worldwide in more than
30 languages. Her books include the blockbuster New York
Time’s bestseller Better than Before and The Happiness Project.
She has a new book coming out soon all about habits and what
she calls The Four Tendencies, which is what we’re going to be
talking about today.
Let’s get started. Gretchen, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Gretchen Rubin: Oh, I’m so happy to be talking to you today. Thanks for having me.
Tanya Dalton: Of course, yes. I would love for you to share with my listeners a little bit about your story. How did you get interested in habits?
Gretchen Rubin: Well, for years ever since I wrote the book The Happiness Project I’ve been reading and researching and talking to people about
happiness, and what I’ve realized is that a lot of times when
people face a big stumbling block in happiness it was because
there was a problem with a habit. There was something that they wanted to do or wanted to stop doing and they just weren’t able to do it. That got me very interested in the role that habits can
play in helping us to be happier, healthier, more productive and
Tanya Dalton: That makes perfect sense. I totally agree with that. Now, I know you’ve been talking about the four tendencies framework. Can
you explain a little bit about what that framework is and what
©Productivity Paradox Page 1 of 15
Gretchen Rubin: Yes. This is a framework that I identified in the world when I saw all these certain patterns of people responding in similar ways, a
lot of times in ways that really didn’t make sense to me. So, I was trying to figure out what was going on. It has to do with how a
person responds to expectations. We all face outer expectations, which is like a work deadline, or you’re expecting me to do an
interview with you at a certain time, or inner expectations, your
own desire to keep a new year’s resolution, your own desire to
get back into practicing meditation. So, there are upholders,
questioners, obligers and rebels. Upholders readily need outer
and inner expectations, so they keep the work deadline. They
keep the new year’s resolution without that much fuzz.
Then there are questioners. Questioners question all expectations. They’ll do something if they think it makes sense. They resist
anything arbitrary or inefficient or unjustified. They make
everything inner expectation, ’cause if it meets their standard
they’ll do it, and if it doesn’t meet the standard, they won’t do it.
And then, I’m married to a questioner.
Then there are obliger. Obligers readily need outer expectations, but they struggle to meet inner expectations. I got my big insight into this when a friend said to me, “You know, I’d be so much
happier if I could get back into the happy of exercise. When I was on the high school track team I had no trouble showing up for
track practice, so why can’t I go running now?” Well, I would say
when she had a team, and a coach waiting for her she had no
trouble showing up, but when she’s just trying to go on her own
Then finally rebels. Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. They want to do what they want to do in their own way, in
their own time. If you ask or tell them to do something, they’re
very likely to resist. You can imagine when you’re dealing with
yourself or when you’re dealing with other people understanding how an expectation makes you react is a really helpful piece of
Tanya Dalton: Yeah. I can definitely see that. It’s almost like the Myers-Briggs, that once you understand what type of person you’re dealing
with, that you know how to handle that situation a little bit better. Would you agree?
Gretchen Rubin: A hundred percent. A key there is like … I think that there’s desire on everybody’s part and this is like regular people and also,
experts, to have like, “I’m going to find the one best solution. I’m
going to tell you the best way to do it, or the right way to do it.”
When I found more and more in happiness and habits, there is no one right way, because I’m different from you. Maybe I want to
get up early and do something first thing in the day ’cause that’s ©Productivity Paradox Page 2 of 15
when I’m freshest, but you’re a night person, and you’re at your
most productive and creative much later in the day. So, telling
you that the right thing to do, or the best thing to do is to get up early and do it, it’s not going to work for you.
Same thing with the four tendencies. A lot of times when we approach other people, and we’re trying to persuade other
people, we speak to them with what would work with us, which
makes perfect sense. I know this is how I would react, so I’m
going to behave to you assuming you’re going to react the same way. But you might be completely different. It might actually be
counterproductive for me to you talk to you the way somebody
would effectively speak to me. Or, maybe somebody keeps
saying, “Hey! You should just keep a ‘To do’ list. Sit down. Think
about your priorities. Write it down. Put it on the counter. That’s
going to work for you.” No! There are people for whom that is
terrible advice. So, I think to myself, “I have no will power. I’m lazy. There’s something wrong with me.” No! You’re just a different
kind of person! So, something else will work for you. It’s not that
there’s no way for you to do it. It’s just that something else is
going to be more effective for you.
Tanya Dalton: I love … You’re speaking my language here. Absolutely! Gretchen Rubin: Oh, good!
Tanya Dalton: Yes! The whole foundation for this show and really everything that I teach as far as productivity goes, is all about personalizing productivity for those same exact reasons, that we are all
different. Those differences are good. They’re to be celebrated
and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for anything, really,
whether it’s habits or productivity or anything. I love that, and I
love how you’ve identified these four different tendencies, the
upholder, the obliger, the rebel and the questioner. Because I
think that fulfills that whole idea of making it personalized and
customizing it to you. Right?
Gretchen Rubin: Yes, absolutely because what happens is that people get discouraged because they’re like, “Everybody says this is what I
should do and yet I’m not having success. Everybody says, “This
is the way to be productive, but I find that it doesn’t work for me, and I feel that there’s got to be something wrong with me.” Well, no! It’s just that that’s not good advice for you. That doesn’t mean it might not work for somebody else. Your sister-in-law might’ve
had great [inaudible 00:06:49]. Maybe this is what Steve Jobs
does. It doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. You could try it.
It’s always good to try things, and then learn about yourself. It’s
so true there is … Everybody wants a one-size-fits-all solution.
They all want the answer, but there can be no one right answer. It just-
©Productivity Paradox Page 3 of 15
Tanya Dalton: It just doesn’t work.
Gretchen Rubin: … and we know that. We know that. If you stop and think about it for five minutes you know that’s true.
Tanya Dalton: Yep. Exactly. I knew we’d get along. I’m really excited to have you on ’cause you’re saying a lot of the same things that I talk about
because I feel like people see these solutions that are supposed
to work, these one-size-fits-all ideas, and they don’t work for
them, and then they feel like they failed.
Gretchen Rubin: Yes.
Tanya Dalton: They don’t look at it as, “Well, this didn’t work for me. There’s something else out there.” It’s very black or white, so I love that
you’re talking about this whole kind of gray area of finding your
way and finding your path. And I know
Gretchen Rubin: Yeah and
Tanya Dalton: Go ahead. I’m sorry.
Gretchen Rubin: One of the things I think is really helpful for people, it’s like my friend on the track team, is to say, “Well, was there a time in the
past where you did have good success?” Because a lot of times
you can learn from the past. What I would say to my friend is,
“Hey, when you had outer accountability you were able to
succeed. That’s just that you’re an obliger. So if you want to
succeed now you need to find that kind of outer accountability.
Maybe you’re not going to join a track team, but you could take a class where your teachers can expect you to show up, where
you’re going to work out with a trainer, where you’re going to pay for that time whether you go or not. Or workout with a friend
who’s going to be disappointed if you don’t show up,” because
looking at the past is telling you outer accountability is what
helps you succeed. There are clues to it when you know what to
Tanya Dalton: That makes sense. I think this fuels this idea of the self-knowledge that you talk about a lot.
Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.
Tanya Dalton: You talk a lot about strategies for self-knowledge. Do you want to share a little bit about that?
Gretchen Rubin: Yeah, it’s exactly what we were saying. You have to begin … Whenever you’re thinking about how you’re going to do
something, how you’re going to be productive, how you’re going to get where you want to go, you have to start by figuring out,
©Productivity Paradox Page 4 of 15
“Well, what kind of person am I?” And you’d think that would be
the most obvious thing because all you do is hang out with
yourself all day long, but it’s actually very hard to know ourselves.
One of the ways to know yourself is to know your tendency, but there’s a million. In my book Better than Before, which was all
about habit change, one of the strategies is called … I identified 21 strategies that people can use to make or break their habits.
Twenty-one sounds like a lot, like sometimes people feel like
that’s too many. They can’t deal with it, but it’s actually good
because some work for some people and some work for other
people. Some are available to us at some times in our lives, but
One of the strategies is the strategy of distinctions. That’s just like, think about it. Are you a morning person or a night person?
That matters. Are you a finisher or an opener? Do you like to
finish things or do you like to start new things? That matters. Are you a simplicity lover or an abundance lover? Do you want to join a gym like my gym where there’s only one thing that you can do and there’s no music and you go in and you go out and you’re
done? I love it, or do you want to join a gym where there’s
abundance and there’s a million classes and a lot going on?
Once you know what kind of thing works for you and what kind of thing is going to set you up for success, once you know
yourself, then, back to your idea of customization, you can say
like, “Well, this might work for somebody else, but it’s not going
to work for me because it’s not the kind of person that I am. It’s
not the kind of thing that appeals to me.”
Tanya Dalton: Right, it’s almost building a foundation for yourself and you can build the rest of it upon that foundation once you know what
type of person you are.
Gretchen Rubin: A hundred percent. Absolutely.
Tanya Dalton: Excellent. Well, obviously I totally love that. Right? Now, I know you’ve talked about there’s no one way to create long-lasting
habits, again, because we’re all different. Last week I talked about Charles Duhigg’s Method of the cue, routine and reward. Does
this system work for the four tendencies?
Gretchen Rubin: It’s a whole different way of thinking about habits. I don’t really think about that cue. To me that’s not a helpful way because it’s
like, “Well, I’m not writing my PhD thesis.” How do I use that
framework? I think I have a totally different way of thinking about habits.
Tanya Dalton: Okay. What’s your best tip for making habits stick? ©Productivity Paradox Page 5 of 15
Gretchen Rubin: Well, I think you do begin by asking what kind of person you are and then there are these 21 strategies, as I said. I think for a big
habit, for something like exercising or working on your novel or
finishing your PhD thesis or quitting sugar, you might think about using many strategies simultaneously. There’s 21 strategies. Let’s
say that you want to throw out a habit. What do you think is the
habit that most of your listeners are struggling to … and we’ll use that example. What’s your big go-to habit that people want to
Tanya Dalton: I feel like exercise is always a big go-to habit. Gretchen Rubin: Absolutely, a hundred percent. A hundred percent.
Tanya Dalton: We all think we should do it, but we don’t know how to do it. Right?
Gretchen Rubin: Okay, there’s some strategies that work very well for some people but not for others. There’s some that work for just about
anybody. One is the strategy of convenience. You want to make it as convenient as possible to do it. If you can pay a little extra and go to a gym that’s closer to your office, maybe you want to do
that. I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve started sleeping in their gym clothes, so they don’t have to get changed in the morning.
It’s just that much easier to get out the door, so make it
Also, make it inconvenient not to follow the habit. Like, I told my mother, because my mother wasn’t sticking to her exercise, I said like, “You’ve got to change into your exercise clothes before you
can put on your day clothes. Maybe you’re not even going to
exercise, but you’ve got to put on the exercise clothes first.” So,
she’s like, “If I’ve got to go through the hassle of putting on my
exercise clothes, I might as well exercise, because I’ve already
Another thing is the clean slate. This is something that’s not available to us at all times, but it’s super powerful, so we always
want to be on the lookout. The clean slate is when there’s been
some kind of transition, so that the old habits have been wiped
away. You’ve transferred to new school or you have a new job, so that you have a new daily routine. Or all of a sudden your kids are back in school, so your routine changes. That is a great time to
plug in a new habit. It doesn’t have to fight against your existing
habits because everything is wiped away. It’s a great time to start it.
Another one is safe cards. This is when you say, “Okay, this is if then planning. This is thinking about why might I fail.” Okay, well, I’m doing a pretty good job exercising, but what happens when
the weather turns colder and it gets darker earlier? What happens ©Productivity Paradox Page 6 of 15
when I travel for work? What happens when I’m on vacation?
What happens when I go to my childhood home where
everybody discourages me from exercising? What happens if my trainer quits and I don’t have the trainer that I’ve worked with for three years and so I have to meet somebody new?” What do I do? I’m going to build in a safe card so that I think about everything
that I’m going to do.
This is a very, very powerful strategy. How are the other people around me making this harder or easier for me? Am I hanging out with people that are doing this habit? Or the people around me
are they neutral? Or are they actually kind of sabotaging me? A
lot of times people don’t like to see people around them improve their habits. So, you want to be very, very mindful of how other
people could be doing it. These are just strategies that I would
say would work for everybody.
Let’s say I knew you were an obliger. If you came out to me and said, “I’m an obliger and I need to exercise,” I’d say, “Well, then
what you need is outer accountability.” That is what obligers
need. That is the crucial thing. That is the key thing for an obliger. You have to have outer accountability. Then it’s problem solved,
because once obligers have outer accountability they’re amazing at following through. This is why obligers are the rock of the
world. But they need that outer accountability. They can’t do
what … A questioner could sit around and think, “What’s really
important to me? What’s the most efficient way for me to
exercise? I’m going to commit to that.” Then they just what? That would work for a questioner. It’s not going to work for an obliger.
Tanya Dalton: It’s really about finding that path that is yours and then building on it.
Gretchen Rubin: Yes.
Tanya Dalton: I think you’re so right when you talk about how other people can impact our habits in positive and negative ways, because I feel
like that’s part of our environment. The things that they say and
do can really change the way that we look at ourselves and how
we’re handling our habits.
Gretchen Rubin: Absolutely!
Tanya Dalton: Which leads me, of course, to loopholes. I want to talk about loopholes in just a minute, but first let me give a quick word from our sponsor FreshBooks. FreshBooks is a cloud-based accounting software that they’ve designed from the ground up, and they’ve
just completely redone it. It’s not only ridiculously easy to use,
but it also makes your work day even more productive from
creating professional looking invoices in less than 30 seconds to
©Productivity Paradox Page 7 of 15
setting up online payments. It just takes a couple of clicks. Really, really easy to use. I love how it takes the stress and the extra work out of keeping on top of your finances for business.
FreshBooks has generously offered a free trial for my listeners. Just go to freshbooks.com/paradox and in the section that says,
“How did you find us?” Type in Productivity Paradox, and they’ll
get you all set up with a free trial.
I want to take a minute and talk a little bit about loopholes.
Gretchen Rubin: Oh, that was my favorite chapter about Before and After, because they are so hilarious. Oh my gosh! I love talking about loopholes.
Tanya Dalton: Perfect. Well, can you tell us a little about what that means?
Gretchen Rubin: Okay. This is one of the strategies, one of the 21 strategies that you can use to make or break your habits. One of the strategies is called loophole spotting. Loophole spotting is the idea that a lot of times we let ourselves off the hook for a habit, but we don’t
even consciously do it. It’s like these ideas are running through
our heads so quickly that we don’t even consciously
acknowledge, like, “Well, I said I was really committed to my habit of exercise, but here comes a loophole, and I’m going to take this loophole and knock myself off the hook.” We buy into that so
quickly that we’re not even consciously aware of it. For many
people, just recognizing a loophole is coming into view is enough to help them fight that loophole and stick to the habit.
Now, there are ten categories of loopholes. We are such good advocates for ourselves. Most of us have a couple of loopholes
that are our go-to loopholes. In my case, my go-to loophole is
false choice. False choice is, “I can’t go to the doctor. I’m too busy writing.” Really? “Are you so busy writing you can’t go to the
doctor? ’cause that sounds like a false choice.”
One is moral licensing, which is, “I’ve been so good on my diet up to now. I deserve to have a day off.” The reverse of that is the
tomorrow loophole. “Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be so good about sticking to my budget that it doesn’t matter what I spend
today.” Then another one is the lack of control loophole, which is, “Well, with a boss like mine I can’t possibly be expected to take
vacations,” or “Of course I had a couple of beers and so then I
couldn’t control myself.”
One that’s interesting and it’s very hard to spot is arranging to fail, which is you put yourself in a situation where you’re like,
“Well naturally, there I was at this cocktail party and I was
standing right next to the desert thing, so of course I’m going to be reaching out and taking one after another after another.”
©Productivity Paradox Page 8 of 15
You’re like, “You’re at a whole big party. Why are you standing
next to the desert table?” You could just go stand next to the
window man and then they’re not going to be right in [inaudible
One thing is, this doesn’t count, which is, “I’m on vacation. It’s the holidays. I’m sick. It’s the weekend.” One is questionable
assumption, that is … I know there’s a lot, but I love them all.
Questionable assumption is like, “All creative people are messy.”
Tanya Dalton: Yes, I hear that one a lot from people. “I can’t be productive. It’s part of the way I work. This is the best way I work.”
Gretchen Rubin: Yes. “I’ve been working out. Yeah, I’ve gained a couple of extra pounds, but it’s all muscle.” And you’re like, “That’s kind of a
questionable assumption.” Or “I can’t start working until my office is clean.” It’s like, “Well, I think you can.”
Now, back to your point about the influence of other people, I think one of the strongest and most pervasive loophole is the
concern for others loophole. Like, “It’s going to hurt your feelings if I don’t have a piece of your birthday cake,” or “Well, I have to
buy this food because everybody else in my household wants it,” or “Well, yeah everybody at this business center is having a glass of wine, and it’s going to make them uncomfortable if I don’t have a glass of wine.”
One that is so tricky is the fake self-actualization loophole. This is one where breaking the habit, you almost embrace it as the sign
of living life to the fullest. You say something like, “Well, you only live once!” Or “Life’s too short not to have a brownie,” or “On a
gorgeous day like this, how can I possibly go inside and work on
my PhD thesis?” You have sort of a [inaudible 00:20:08]. Or you
say something like, “I want to embrace myself just as I am.” Well, you can accept yourself and expect more from yourself.
Tanya Dalton: I like that. Yeah, that’s so true.
Gretchen Rubin: I think this was the loophole that took me the longest to identify, but it’s actually one of the most pernicious loopholes because it
works every time. This is a universally applicable loophole and it’s called the one-coin loophole and it’s because of this ancient
teaching story. I love a teaching story. The ancient teaching story is, I ask you, “Can one coin make a man rich?” And you would say, “No! One coin cannot make a man rich.” Then I would say, “Well,
what if you gave a man another coin? And what if you gave a man another coin? And what if you gave a man another coin?” At
some point you would have to say, “A man is rich because one
coin made him so.”
©Productivity Paradox Page 9 of 15
Now, the relevance of this is habits. Because what you can always say to yourself to justify not keeping a habit is, “What difference does this make? What is one trip to the gym? What is one trip to the library? What’s one brownie? I’m going to ride my bicycle.
Okay, I’m not going to wear my helmet. What are the chances I’m going to get in a bike accident today?” And the answer is always, “It makes no difference.” In a lifetime wearing your helmet one
time, eating one brownie, going to the gym one time, it isn’t
consequential. So, it’s absolutely true.
The problem is the only way that we have good habits is one coin after one coin after one coin. You can always let yourself off the
hook today, but the only way you’re going to ever have a good
habit is by doing it over and over and over again. This is called
The Story of the Growing Heap, because it’s “Are you looking at
the one coin? Are you looking at the growing heap?” This is a
very important loophole to recognize because unless you’re
building that growing heap, you’re never going to get the
advantage of the habit, ’cause you can always let yourself off
today, because one coin is meaningless.
Those are the ten loopholes. I don’t know, do you have a go-to loophole? One of those you have particular attraction to you, you were like, “Oh yeah!” What’s your favorite?
Tanya Dalton: There’s a few in there. Definitely there’s a few. I think the one-coin one is one that applies to so many of us. Where it’s like, “It’s just
this one thing. Right?” I agree that compounding interest of it just adds up. It adds up over time. Like, going to the doctor because I have too many other things going on. I tell myself things like that all the time. So, yes.
Gretchen Rubin: The funny thing too is that once I became aware of the loopholes I would realize how in one conversation or even in one breath,
people would cycle through four or five loopholes because they
would sort of say like, “Oh, you know, I was thinking about going to the gym, but then I thought, ‘Well, you only live once, and
what’s one trip to the gym?’ And I thought, ‘If I go to the gym my husband’s going to have to watch my kids, and that’s going to
bum him out and given the week I’ve had I feel like I just really
can’t expect myself to go, and I’ve been so busy working. There’s no time for me.'” I’m like, “That’s five loophole categories that you went through.” That’s lack of concern, that’s one-coin, that’s
moral … It’s very easy to invoke these and we’re so creative. I
couldn’t believe some of the loopholes that people came up with. I mean, so imaginative.
Once you see them coming it’s a lot harder to kid yourself. You’re like, “hmm, I think I’m going to be falling into the moral-licensing loophole. I keep telling myself I’ve been so good I need a day off.”
©Productivity Paradox Page 10 of 15
I don’t really need a day off. This is something that I want to do all the time.
Tanya Dalton: Right. It’s almost like once you give one loophole they start building on each other. It becomes easier to throw in more
loopholes. Knowing what your loopholes are is a good way to
combat them and to close those loopholes, so to speak.
Gretchen Rubin: Yeah, yeah. A lot of people have something that they tell themselves over and over. You have to be like, “Well …” I know
somebody who was saying how … She often would say to herself, “Well, yeah. I want to go to the gym and everything, but I couldn’t go right now because my son wanted me to read to him, and
that’s really important.” I’m like, “Well, it is true. They’re both
important. Going to the gym is important, reading to your son is
important, but are they necessarily in conflict? Because you could read to your son later.” I mean, that’s a false choice. If you keep
making that false choice … It’s like, “I can be a good attentive
mother and go to the gym.” That’s actually not that hard to do.
Tanya Dalton: Again, it’s that self-knowledge, that knowledge of yourself, not to just know what your tendency is but also what your go-to
loopholes are that really can make a difference in helping you
create these healthier habits, healthier meaning, not just working out, things like that, but healthier just mentally, emotionally,
physically in all those regards, but really in making those stick and continuing to grow off of those. It sounds like …
Gretchen Rubin: Yes. Yeah, and for instance a thing that you hear a lot is people who are like, “Well, I can’t take care of myself. I’m really bad at
self-care. I meet everybody … I keep my promises to everybody,
but not to myself.” This is a very common thing. If that’s true, if
you are thinking that, then you’re an obliger. That is something
that obligers say. The other tendencies do not have this problem. You may say yourself something like, “Why is it that busy moms
like us can’t take time for ourselves?” I would say, “It is not a fact. It is not a factor that you’re a busy mom. It is an obliger thing.
You need to tackle it from an obliger standpoint, which is have
outer accountability.” So, if you want to read a book, join a book
group where they’re going to be disappointed in you if you
haven’t read the book. If you want to go get your nails done, go
with a friend who’s going to be disappointed if you don’t show
- Or tell a friend, “Oh, I’m going to do this for myself,” and your friend’s going to be like, “Hey, how did that go?” Because you
said you were going to do that. Or make [inaudible 00:26:09]
with other people.
This was a hilarious thing. This woman wanted to get off her devices more. So she was saying like, “I’m at work all day long,
and I come home and I’m on my devices. I’m on my phone. I’m on ©Productivity Paradox Page 11 of 15
my iPad, and how do I stop?” And she was an obliger, so how do you have that outer accountability for not being on your device? Right? I said to her, “Well, do you have kids?” She’s like, “Yes, I do have kids. Part of the problem is they’re always on their devices
and it drives me crazy the whole …” And I said … No! No! What
she said was, “And they never are on their devices because I
won’t let them do it.” Sorry, I got that wrong.
She was like, “I never let them do it,” and I said, “This is what you tell them. You say, ‘I believe that we should be device-free at
home. If you see me on my devices, you can be on your device.'”
Of course, her kids are running around after her saying, “Mommy, mommy, check your email.” You know what I mean, but now she’s accountable because she doesn’t want this for her children.
They’re holding her accountable. They’re watching her, and
they’re seeing “Is she doing this?” Because if she is it’s going to
have a negative consequence on them, which is that they’re going to be using their devices, which is something that …
A friend of mine, I heard his grandmother wanted to quit drinking. She wasn’t really an alcoholic, but it was just affecting her health. She was like, “I just feel better when I don’t drink. I want to stop,” so she told her grandchildren that if they caught her drinking, she would buy them an Xbox. Again, her grandchildren were like,
“Grandma, grandma have a drink! Have a drink!” which she said
people thought was pretty weird, but it’s ’cause they were like,
“Oh, if grandma has a drink, we’ll get an Xbox.” She’s like, “I am
not going to spend …” what she felt was like the worst way to
spend money. She was horrified by the thought, so she’s like,
“There’s no way I’m buying those kids an Xbox. It’s the worst
thing I could possibly do for them.” So she set it up.
There’s a lot of ways to deal with these things. Once you realize the nuts and bolts of what’s going on, what’s tripping you up,
what’s helping you succeed, how you set up circumstances in a
way that works for you … Sometimes these things are kind of
almost wordless. It’s hard. It’s not like, “Oh, every time I walk into the kitchen, I reach for an Oreo,” and so then the answer is like,
“Well, A, don’t buy Oreos. B, put an Oreo on a high shelf where
you have to get a stool to get it, or put it in the basement freezer. Put it in a bag where it’s tied really tight, so it’s a huge pain to
open it.” But sometimes they aren’t so clear. Maybe it’s something like, “I’m not good at taking time for myself.” What’s the habit of
that? Sometimes it’s a little bit more diffused, so I think thinking
broadly about how people are different and the same, can help
you, because not everything is straightforward.
Tanya Dalton: Right, not everything is so black and white. There is a lot of gray. Gretchen Rubin: Yeah.
©Productivity Paradox Page 12 of 15
Tanya Dalton: Yes. Definitely.
Gretchen Rubin: There’s just a lot of things where it’s not so concrete. I think when things are very concrete it’s easier. It’s like, “I keep using the
snooze alarm.” It’s like, “Okay, well that’s a very concrete habit.”
You can think of five ways at the top of your head, but if it’s
something more like, “I really want to be in better touch with my family,” how do you have a habit for that? What would go into
that? That you have to think about a little bit more broadly. “What kind of person am I? What’s my family like? How do we engage?
How do we stay consistent? Is there a way I can make it into a
true habit so that the decision-making and the will power follow
the way. It takes a little bit more thinking about, but I think that if you do just take not even that long, and just sit down and think it through, a lot of times answers present themselves.
I think part of it is, in the tumult of everyday life we’re so distracted. We’re doing a million things, so we don’t really even
step back for five minutes to be like, “What is really going on
here? Why am I not able to do this? I keep telling myself I’m going to start managing my diabetes better, but I just don’t. Why not?” Well, why not? Let’s think that through, because probably there’s some low-hanging fruit, and there’s things that you could do that would help build that habit.
I heard about a hilarious person wasn’t taking their prescription medication and was trying to think about the importance, and
was reading about the consequences. Couldn’t do it. Couldn’t do it. And then used pairing. Pairing is when you say that something can’t happen unless something else happens. It’s not a reward, it’s just that two things only happen together. This person was a total caffeine fiend. He put his medicine bottle right in front of the
coffee pot, and told himself that he couldn’t have his first cup of
coffee in the morning until he had taken his medication. Problem solved!
Tanya Dalton: Problem solved, yeah! It’s all about figuring out how to solve the problems for yourself, because everybody is different.
Gretchen Rubin: Everybody’s different.
Tanya Dalton: Exactly. I love it. Let me ask you this. You’ve given so many great examples and tips and strategies. If you can give my listeners one action item, one thing they can do today to help understand their habits better so they can be successful, what would that be?
Gretchen Rubin: I would say, go to happiercast.com/quiz and that is where you can take the super quick quiz that will tell whether you’re an
upholder, a questioner, an obliger or rebel. If there’s somebody
else in your life for who you want to find out what their tendency ©Productivity Paradox Page 13 of 15
is, you can ask them to take it. I’m coming up on like 800,000
almost a million people who have taken this quiz, and once you
take the quiz it will spit out a little report and give you some
ideas and clues about what you might do differently or what
might be most useful for you to try based on your tendency.
Again, it’s happiercast.com/quiz. I know a lot of people are like, “How can you divide a whole community into four categories? I’m a mix of all the categories.” Really, no. I think really people do fall into one of the four categories. Once they think about it, I think a lot of people really do see that they really do solidly fit within a
tendency, and from there, there’s a lot you can do better and
more efficiently because you’re doing it in a way that’s right for
Tanya Dalton: I love that. I’ll make sure to put the link in our show notes for today’s show.
Gretchen Rubin: Perfect.
Tanya Dalton: I know that we need to wrap up, but there were so many great nuggets of information that you shared today. I really appreciate you taking the time to come onto the show. I will make sure and
have Gretchen’s link to that quiz in the show notes, as well as
links to her social media and her book, and of course her weekly
podcast that she does, called Happier with Gretchen Rubin.
Gretchen, again, thank you so much for coming onto today’s show.
Gretchen Rubin: Thanks! I feel like we could talk all day our favorite subject. Tanya Dalton: I know. Right?
Gretchen Rubin: Yes.
Tanya Dalton: Thank you. Wasn’t Gretchen amazing? I was so excited to have her on the show, and she definitely did not disappoint. Now, I will have show notes so you can get all the information about the four tendencies. If you go to my website at inkwellpress.com/podcast, look under episode 32.
I’ll also have links to Gretchen’s social media and to her books if you’re interested in learning even more about habits and living a
Now, if you’d like to connect with me, I do encourage you to join our brand new group. We have a community on Facebook, which you can find at inkwellpress.com/group, where we are going to be talking about things like today’s episode, so we can go a little bit
deeper in depth talking to one another and sharing ideas and
encouraging one another. I hope to see you in there.
All right, until next time. Happy planning.
©Productivity Paradox Page 15 of 15
**This transcript is created by AI, so please excuse any typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.
Tanya Dalton is a female productivity speaker. She gives keynote addresses on time management, productivity, goal setting and finding your purpose.