The Happiness Project

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness

In Which I Create 'Preference Card' for Myself

Filing Out Your Own Preference Card!

Checklist

The other day, when I was listening to a presentation on organ donation, the speaker made reference to a surgeon’s “preference card” – a term I’d never heard.

“What’s a ‘preference card?’ I whispered to the person sitting next to me.

“Surgeons fill out a special form so that supplies and equipment can be set up the way they prefer.”

A preference card! I loved this idea. I work alone, but I took a moment to imagine my preference card:

Gretchen prefers to work at a desk with a lot of bare surface space.
Gretchen prefers to clear out her email inbox before turning to more difficult work.
Gretchen prefers to do original writing away from her home office.
Gretchen prefers not to fall too far behind on her compulsive note-taking, so be sure to leave time for that activity in the schedule.
Gretchen prefers not to spend time looking for things, so be sure to put everything back in its proper place.
Gretchen prefers to work at a computer with three monitors.
Gretchen prefers to drink tea, coffee, or diet soda all the time when she’s working so be sure to have plenty at hand.
Gretchen is often cold, so please keep the work space on the warm side.

Why do I find the idea of a preference card so engaging? I suppose because it gives so much weight to personal preferences. Instead of thinking, “Oh, it’s just me who thinks the office is too cold,” I think, “Well, that’s the way I prefer it.” It gives an authority to personal preferences.

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It’s funny – after I filled out my imaginary preference card, I was inspired to make some changes to my office and schedule, to make them better reflect my preferences. Mindfulness, always mindfulness! Whenever I’m prompted to think about my temperament, my values, and my preferences, I’m more able to make changes that reflect them.

How about you? If you filled in a preference card for yourself at work, in your relationship, for your friendships, etc., what would you write?

* I was surprised to see myself in this list of 10 angry and entertaining consumer rants on Time.com. I couldn't remember writing something both angry and entertaining. But yes, I did write that!

* Want a copy of my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration? Email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com. Just write “chart” in the subject line.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.

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