Ways to Know Yourself Better

As I’ve written before, self-awareness is an important building block of both productivity and success. The better you know yourself, the more accurately you can steer your efforts and your Basic Choices in directions that are most likely to satisfy and succeed.

But self-awareness, like the self, is not a static body of knowledge. It’s helpful to keep going back to the well to find out more about yourself as you grow and change over time.

Here’s a set of considerations that will help you find out more about yourself every time you review them:

Working Preferences

Consider how you are most effective at getting things done, such as by working:

  • Early or late in the day?
  • In long stretches of concentration or short bursts of activity?
  • Alone, with one or two partners, or as a member of a team?
  • Methodically, according to a plan, or eclectically, at whatever task most appeals to you at the moment? or
  • Some other way?

There are no right answers here, but knowing your preferences allows you to set up your days, weeks, months, and even years in ways that draw out of you the best results and the smallest risk of burnout.

Communication Preferences

Consider how you most effectively send and receive information, such as by:

  • Reading?
  • Listening?
  • Watching?
  • Experimenting?
  • Writing?
  • Talking?
  • Demonstrating?
  • Coaching?

Again, any of these communication methods can allow you to be productive and successful, as long as you stick with the one(s) that suit you well. The goal is for your communications to be relatively effortless, so you can concentrate more fully on the message rather than be distracted by the requirements and limitations of a communication method you’d prefer not to use.

Meeting Preferences

Consider the ways you feel best about coordinating and “getting on the same page” with others in your work and your life.

Some people prefer regular, pre-scheduled meetings, such as:

  • Start-of-week planning sessions for the coming week,
  • End-of-week review sessions to identify what has been accomplished and what remains to be done, or
  • Mid-project milestone sessions to review, revamp, and redirect future efforts.

Others prefer impromptu meetings, called if, as, and when necessary, for reasons such as:

  • Solving immediate problems, or
  • Evaluating upcoming opportunities.

Some people feel good about “all hands” meetings that give everyone even remotely involved a chance to listen, learn, and offer their unique input. Others thrive in smaller “key people” meetings that include only those directly involved in the items on the meeting agenda.

Speaking of agendas, some people get the most out of meetings with strict agendas specifying rigidly enforced time limits for each item to be discussed. Others do better when meetings are relatively free wheeling, allowing everyone ample opportunities to weigh in and discourse at length on the topic.

Hot Buttons

Consider what makes you feel good or feel bad. All of us have psychological “triggers” that generate far more emotion in us than they do in most others. It’s helpful to know your own, so you can steer clear of the turn-offs you see coming, and aim for the turn-ons, whenever they’re available. For example:

How do you feel about “waiting?” Waiting in line. Waiting for answers. Waiting for results? Waiting for supplies and resources? Waiting for opportunities?

Personally, I hate to wait. But I’ve learned to do so now and again, particularly when waiting for a situation to “ripen” to the point where I can take action that will likely be effective.

Some people recognize the need for waiting and can stay calm, even busy, while delayed. Others are impatient, and feel frustrated as their needs or wants are deferred for longer than they can comfortably accept.

There are many other personal triggers you can discover about yourself, such as:

  • Other people’s tone of voice: loud or soft, pitched high or low, emphatic or self-effacing, and so forth.
  • Confrontation: do you avoid them at all costs, initiate them whenever you can, or something else?
  • Other people’s judgments, positive or negative: Do you accept them? Reject them? Resent them? Crave them? Or something else?
  • Closeness: how comfortable are you in close working or personal relationships? Do you initiate them? Sustain them? Reject them? Tolerate them? Or something else?

None of these necessarily limit your effectiveness. But knowing your hot buttons allows you to navigate around them when appropriate or convenient.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Consider where you shine and where you fall flat. This is where most people concentrate their attention when trying to increase their self-awareness. It’s important, but I put this category last because you probably know this aspect of yourself better than you know any of the others.

Knowing your strengths allows you to seek out opportunities where you can likely hit home runs. Knowing your weaknesses allows you to avoid situations where you’re more likely to strike out, and also provides a shopping list of skills, knowledge, and abilities you can fruitfully seek to build up.

There’s more to know about yourself than these few items, of course. But these are fundamental. Considering these and related questions will help you establish and develop your self-awareness en route to enhancing your overall productivity and level of success.

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