Are You Accountable to Yourself?

Posted: March 29, 2012 in Uncategorized
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We hear a lot about accountability, though usually as being accountable to others. However, we often forget the power of what I call ‘self-accountability.’ This is the feeling you get when you look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself how you’re doing, what you’ve achieved, and how you’re meeting your personal objectives.

I believe self-accountability is more important than being accountable to others. We are all our most intimate partners and our greatest critics. We know more about ourselves and our actions (or should anyway) than anyone else. We are also able to assess how we’re doing better than anyone else (or should). I’m not talking about negative self-talk and self-criticism. I’m referring to the fact that we should be able to call on internal resources to challenge ourselves, measure our progress, and know what’s right and wrong. When we have a strong sense of self-knowledge and self-accountability, we can call on others to calibrate our goals, metrics, results, and values, rather than creating our own solely on the basis of outside pressure and standards.

Here are some quick tips for creating self-accountability:

  1. Transform your goals into tangible actions and then turn these into habits. For instance, if you want to write a book, you have to determine when you will work on it. Don’t just trust yourself to create under pressure or when the ‘spirit moves you.’ If you want to be productive, you have to sit down and “do the work,” as author Steven Pressfield says.
  2. Habits should be the instantiation of your work goals.
  3. The best way to create habits is to turn them into routines. Continuing with the writing example, if you determine you need to write every morning for 2 hours, i.e. 10 hours a week, then you set the time aside in your agenda AND YOU DO IT! You do this for any ongoing activity. DO NOT WAIT FOR THE ‘RIGHT’ TIME. The right time is NOW!
  4. Create minor penalties and rewards for non performance. For instance, if you miss one day of writing during the week, you have to make it up on Saturday morning. If you miss another day, then you have to make a contribution to a charity, or better, an organization whose goals you don’t support (assuming it’s legal of course). Your reward? Following through every day according to your routine. In other words, don’t ruin the free weekend you’ve earned by adhering to your routine by writing for 6 hours on Saturday and Sunday. You met your goal, so now you get to enjoy the reward: a free weekend. After a more important milestone, for instance, finishing a chapter, you can reward yourself with something minor but significant, say a day off of writing (as long as you get right back on schedule afterwards).
  5. I’m using the example of writing merely for illustrative purposes, mainly because writing tends to require a lot of willpower for most people, but these processes are applicable to anything. Here are some other approaches.
  6. If you use an electronic calendar app, schedule time for the productive activities, not just appointments and meetings, and create reminders. Use a calendar that works on your desktop and your mobile devices, such as Apple’s apps and Google/Android apps. They update through the cloud so you don’t have to reenter information on your devices.
  7. It’s better to work on something regularly for shorter periods of time than to binge.
  8. Start early, or at least earlier, so you aren’t rushing around at the last minute.
  9. Leave for a meeting earlier. Arrive earlier. If you get there early, relax, bring some reading material, have a coffee. There’s an incredible amount of freedom that comes from not overscheduling or ‘scheduling for perfection.’
  10. Don’t set too many goals for any particular time period. If you get 3 or 4 significant things done during a day, that’s usually a pretty good day. If you launch a major initiative during a week, manage the progress on three projects, and do all the other minor things you do during a week, that is a pretty good week, by any measure.
  11. Review your accomplishments at the end of the day, week, month, quarter, and year. Do this before setting goals for the next relevant time period.
  12. If you haven’t met a goal, ask yourself why. If it’s something you can control, do something about it. If not, then build more flexibility into your plans.
  13. Create plans to achieve your goals and then turn them into tangible actions by scheduling the time to do them or delegating them.
  14. Give yourself regular breaks for downtime, rest, recreation, and just to reward yourself for progress.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a darn good start. I’d be thrilled to hear from you in the comments if you’d like to share your own tips or techniques for creating ‘self-accountability.’

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

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