How a "20 for 20" List and Learning My Personality Tendency Makes Me Happier

One of my favorite podcasts is “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.” Gretchen is the bestselling writer who “explores human nature to understand how we can make our lives better.” The weekly podcast, co-hosted by Gretchen’s sister Liz Craft, a writer and producer in LA, gives tips and ideas and explores ways to make our day-to-day lives just a bit happier.

One of the ideas that came from Gretchen’s podcast is the yearly task list. “20 for 20” is a personal goal checklist of 20 tasks to complete in 2020. (Last year it was 19 for 19, before that 18 for 18 — you get the idea.) In January, with the new year full of possibilities, I created my 20 for 20 and posted the list in my office, in a prominent place where I see it every day. When the world shut down in March because of COVID19, I thought this exercise wouldn’t be worthwhile, but instead, the list created focus and gave me something on which to concentrate in the chaos.

This list is not another New Year resolution, but it is more of a task list. For instance, I challenged myself to get my essential yearly medical exams completed by July, have my son’s homeschool high school transcript completely updated, learn how to use my Instant Pot and take an online Photoshop class. 

“20 for 20” is also a progressive list; it adaptable when there are shifts during the year. With budget changes and having to shelter-at-home, I had to readjust my 20 for 20 with alternative projects I could do based on today’s environment. Other tasks listed that I thought were more of a stretch because it would take more time, were surprisingly easier with having to shelter-at-home for several weeks.

To date, I have accomplished 8 of 20 tasks. While this doesn’t seem too accomplished, I feel good since some of those items where lengthy projects (such as my son’s transcript!). Other tasks will take an entire year to complete, such as my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 50 books and meeting a monetary goal of rebates through apps such as Ibotta.

To learn more about the 20 for 20 List, listen to “Happier”episodes #255, #263, and more recently, #279.

Having success with the “20 for 20” list is attainable because I know that I need outside accountability to make it work.

After reading one of Gretchen’s recent books, “The Four Tendencies”, I discovered why I can finish some goals more successfully, while some are surprisingly harder. As a person who can be “motivated while still procrastinating,” this book gave insight into my tendency and how that affects my achievements and goals.

In her book, Gretchen explores four different tendencies we tend to gravitate to:

  • Upholder – “Discipline is my freedom.”
  • Obliger – “You can count on me, and I’m counting on you to count on me.”
  • Rebel – “You can’t make me, and neither can I.”
  • Questioner – ‘I’ll comply – if you convince me why.” 

Learning about temperaments and personality tendencies interests me, as I explained in a previous post how you could tell your personality type by how you are sheltering-at-home. When you learn how to accomplish tasks in line with your personality profile, it provides you with another avenue for achievement and success. 

And a little more happiness. 

The “20 for 20” list is a good tool for me to stay accountable – especially when I share it with my spouse. 

Based on the “Four Tendencies,” I am an Obliger – I will meet outside expectations much more than inner expectations. When finishing my 20 for 20 list, it was vital for me to type it and hang it in a place where I have to see it each day. Seeing the list prominently on my bulletin board causes me to accomplish what I set out to do, especially since I am updating my husband on my progress. (And it feels so good to check something off the list!)

Another example of the outside accountability that an Obliger needs is exercise. If I depend entirely on myself to exercise, I will find a million other things to complete except exercise! (It’s that “motivated while procrastinating” thing!) However, if my husband asks me to walk or go to the gym with him to hang out, I will do it since I don’t want to disappoint him. I know that doing something I don’t care for with another person helps me follow through.

It is halfway through the year, but if this idea appeals to you, consider doing a “10 for the rest of 20” list. (I just made that up, but it fits!) It may be the activity you need to write down and post those tasks or activities you must accomplish to help you progress in your changing job position, find a new job position, or sustain your small business. Or it could simply be a tool to help you finish tasks and feel more fulfilled with the current COVID climate.

Find out more about the book, “The Four Tendencies” by Gretchen Rubin at her website. She offers a quiz to help you find out your tendency plus other resources. From her site, there is a link to subscribe to her newsletter, as well as her podcast.  

8 responses to “How a "20 for 20" List and Learning My Personality Tendency Makes Me Happier”

  1. Ha! “You can't make me and neither can I.” I resemble that one. 🙂 Congrats on checking items off of your list. Especially the transcript – my son and I worked on his together and it was more than a notion.

  2. This is a great idea! Maybe I will try 10 for 20, too! I have a new job and a new apartment! So I think that I have a good start!

  3. I did the 20 for 20 list too and like you – I've done some and had to revisit others. I'm not going to change the ones I can't do while we are under quarantine. I'll just move them to next year. 🙂

  4. I didn't know she had a podcast! I am going to check it out. In fact, it has been a long time since I have invested any time in her teachings so I am on it now. Especially halfway through the year, it is easy to shift now – 🙂 Thanks for the info! Looking forward to seeing more of you via the Ultimate Blog challenge!

  5. I never make resolutions, but I do keep a list of behaviors I find important, like be kind and be brave. I keep meaning to put it on my bathroom mirror, but for now, it remains in my notes on my phone!

  6. I love this! The last few years, I've been doing a decluttering challenge. This year is 2020 in 2020 (meaning get rid of 2020 items this year). It sounded really impossible the first year, but it surprised me how much needed to go out of my house. Sadly, I still have a long ways to go to achieve any level of minimalism.

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