Work Strategies Based On Your
If you haven’t heard yet, we’re a bit obsessed with the Enneagram. As a team of mostly threes and fours, we’ve found this ancient tool to be a relevant resource for personal growth, as well as for fostering healthier relationships. The more we learn about our numbers, the more we discover and understand ourselves and those around us. Most recently, we’ve been discovering how each number channels productivity.
If you’re new to the Enneagram, we recommend starting with this quiz. Then head here to learn about your number, and here for some tips on thriving in relationships. You can also check out our list of recommended resources at the bottom of this piece (take note of the books decolonizing Western Enneagram teachings!) for further reading on this sacred personality tool.
Type One: The Reformer
My partner is a one, and I can always count on him to find solutions to problems. No matter how impossible something seems, he finds the fix—even when that means creating a new solution. He is also renowned for doing jobs better than anyone else. When we renovated our home a few years ago, he worked alongside the contractors, learning and asking questions. By the end of the renovation, he was not only doing projects on his own, but he was doing them better than the professionals.
If you’re a one, you know the love/hate relationship you have with your work. On the one hand, your attention to detail, need for lists, and commitment to excellence makes you a natural at productivity. But you struggle to believe a project is truly finished. In your mind, there is always something you can do to make it better. Learn to recognize the voice of your inner critic and, when you hear it, shut it down. Done is better than perfect (and, if you’re anything like my partner, your final product is likely perfect anyway).
Productivity Tips for Ones: Before beginning a project, set hard deadlines for yourself so you don’t fall into the 'it’s not perfect yet’ cycle. Once you’ve finished a project, counter every 'flaw’ you see in your work with five positives, then move on. When others praise your work, embrace their words as truth.
Type Two: The Helper
Twos are nicknamed The Helpers on the Enneagram, and for a good reason. You are observant, genuinely interested in others, and committed to caring for people. When it comes to productivity, though, you will set aside what you’re working on to help others complete their projects. This response is rooted in your fear that people won’t love you outside of your role as helper. Be careful with this. Setting aside your tasks for the sake of others can often lead to buried resentment.
To thrive and ensure optimal productivity as a two, it’s essential you set clear boundaries and repeatedly remind yourself that your projects are equally valid and important. My sister—a poster child two—tells me she is most productive when working in isolation. Being alone helps her stay focused on her own tasks, and it frees her natural obligation to help others.
Productivity Tips for Twos: Set boundaries for yourself and guard your time. You’re easily persuaded to help others, so be wary of working in group settings when you have important deadlines to meet. Also, prioritize personal and creative projects to foster your sense of independence.
Type Three: The Achiever
Productivity comes easy for threes. Sometimes it can seem they have an endless well of energy, and it’s rare to hear a three say no to new projects and opportunities. Half of The Good Trade staff identify with this number (and it’s my Enneagram wing), so we know how hard it can be to slow down. Because threes are driven by the need to be seen as successful, it feels necessary to operate in productivity mode 24/7. We’ve learned the hard way that taking on too much only leads to stress, poor performance, and eventual burnout. Let’s be real: no one can complete all the tasks in the world, so it’s essential we honor our boundaries and use that well of energy to hone in on fewer projects.
We’ve also discovered how essential it is to carve out time for creative endeavors. Because threes are motivated by performance and competition, personal projects invite us to step out of the spotlight and engage with our (sometimes forgotten) emotions.
Productivity Tips for Threes: Set healthy boundaries and monitor your pace. Resist the urge to rush through tasks and take on new assignments before finishing current projects. It’s also okay to delegate tasks. Finally—and most importantly—don’t take your work home.
Type Four: The Individualist
I’m going to speak from personal experience here: as a four, I’ve discovered productivity only comes easy to me when I feel inspired. This is great when my emotions are in full swing. I’ll be intentional in creating something and channeling my moody energy into a meaningful project. The problem arises when it’s time to work and I’m not feeling emotionally stimulated. I can fall into a pattern of procrastination and become distracted. I am also disenchanted with the mundane tasks.
In talking with other fours, I’ve found this to be a common frustration. We long to feel that our work is unique and meaningful. This isn’t a bad thing to want, but we need to remember mundane tasks are necessary and a part of even the most creative endeavors. All jobs (even art) require showing up and putting in the hours.
Productivity Tips for Fours: Do the work even when you don’t feel like it. Creating mindful rituals around your projects will also help to propel you into a productive workday. My rituals include going for a morning walk, making coffee, and lighting a candle on my desk. Even when I’m not in the mood, these actions ground me in the present moment and help me to focus on the task at hand.
Type Five: The Investigator
If you’re a five on the Enneagram, you’re more likely to think about and analyze your projects than complete them. You may have said, “I plan to be productive” on more than one occasion without ever actually being productive. As the investigator of the bunch, this makes sense because you love researching and mapping things out—it’s just the commitment and action you struggle with.
These characteristics can actually work to your advantage when it comes to productivity. For projects that require tedious research, you’re already ahead of everyone else because it comes naturally to you. Just don’t get stuck there. Keep things moving by working in time blocks. Allow yourself space for planning and research, and then move forward into action.
Productivity Tips for Fives: Keep a timer on your desk, using it to allocate part of your day for research and part of your day for completing tasks. Work with hard deadlines to ensure you stay productive.
Type Six: The Loyalist
As the security-driven number on the Enneagram, sixes are most productive when they feel confident in their abilities to succeed and finish a project. You know you’re a six because you never commit to something without having first assessed the risks and rewards. You also need clear instructions—if someone assigns you a project, don’t be afraid to ask questions and clarify expectations. You’ll be more equipped to succeed once you feel secure about the assignment.
You are also profoundly impacted by your environment. You work best when things are predictable and go as anticipated. While it’s important to remember that you can’t always control your surroundings, you can create structure and routine for your days. These habits will serve as signposts and help to relieve anxiety, ensuring you are your most productive self.
Productivity Tips for Sixes: Map out your project goals. If at any time you feel fearful or begin to doubt your abilities, reference your list and take each task one step at a time. Moreover, lean into your need for routine and habits. Enlist a safe person for accountability.
Type Seven: The Enthusiast
The most enthusiastic and fun number on the Enneagram, Sevens LOVE (all caps, because you sevens are all caps kind of people) being busy and taking on countless projects. And you do so with the most genuine enthusiasm.
From the sevens I’ve spoken to, variety is the key to a successful workday. The trick here is setting time blocks for your many obligations. It’s okay to be involved in a lot of things—just ensure you create a realistic schedule to get everything done. You’re overly ambitious so working in time blocks can help you from committing to too many projects. Time blocks can also ensure you carve out space for self-care and alone-time—two things you desperately need in order to thrive and get in touch with your emotions.
Productivity Tips for Sevens: You get bored easily and skip necessary tasks that fail to meet your need for fun and adventure. These steps are important to the overall project, so find ways to make them engaging. Use a time-block journal to organize your days.
Type Eight: The Challenger
Eights are born to be productive. You enjoy setting goals and accomplishing tasks, and you find a sense of purpose in solving hard problems and making systems better. One of my good friends is an eight, and she tells me that she is most productive when working with a group, especially when she is the one in charge.
Even when you’re not the boss, you can be your most productive self when you’ve identified a problem that needs solving. No matter what you’re working on, spend a few minutes thinking about the big picture, and then outline the smaller steps required to get there. Having something to work towards will keep you motivated, driven, and focused throughout the day.
Productivity Tips for Eights: Lean into your innate leadership skills and delegate tasks to your team. Use a vision board to stay motivated and focused on the end goal. When possible, work alongside others to think through and solve problems.
Type Nine: The Peacemaker
You know who loves nines? Everyone. With your easygoing personality and peace-making skills, nines are arguably the best team players on the Enneagram. You sometimes struggle with procrastination when it comes to assignments, but it isn’t because you’re lazy or opposed to hard work. Rather, you believe the most productive days are ones spent building relationship with others—you’d prefer to invest your time in experiences and people, not projects. Obligations and assignments can also seem overwhelming. One of your favorite phrases is, “I’ll do it later.”
If you’re a nine, you can channel productivity in a few ways. First, avoid working alone. When it comes to meeting deadlines and getting tasks done, work with others. Because you’re an idealist, your most productive days are the ones when you can bring your ideas to a task-oriented team. Working in a group will allow you to do what you love most: connect with people. Moreover, take tiny steps and use to-do lists, as well as accountability partners.
Productivity Tips for Nines: Invite others to join you in completing your projects. If you must work alone, focus on one task at a time, and find ways to make it fun. Bring your dog to work, listen to an inspiring playlist, and reward yourself when you accomplish your goals.
We’d love to host a space for conversation around this topic. Do you know your Enneagram number? Share your thoughts and suggestions for becoming your most productive self in the comments below!
Kayti Christian, a staff writer for The Good Trade, is a storyteller, creator, activist, and avid traveler hailing from Colorado, now living in London. With 30+ stamps in her passport, she is passionate about responsible tourism and is always looking for new ways to be a more conscious traveler. She is currently pursuing her MA in Creative Nonfiction Writing at City, University of London.