How to Make Yourself Accountable
Episode #5 of the course How to overcome procrastination by Jurgen Wolff
In the previous lesson, you discovered how to create the kinds of conditions that encourage you to get things done on time. In this lesson, we’ll look at the strong motivation that comes when you make yourself accountable.
What Is Accountability?
By making yourself accountable, we mean declaring what you are going to do in a way that lets others check whether or not you follow through. Most of us don’t want others to think less of us or feel like we’ve let them down. If you go public with your intention, your odds of success increase.
How to Go Public
You can declare your intention to 1 person, a group with similar goals, or the world.
If you choose to be accountable to 1 person, make sure it’s someone whose opinion you value, and check that they’re willing to cooperate. It’s good to choose someone for whom you can play the same role. You don’t both have to have the same type of goal. For instance, one of you may plan to lose a certain amount of weight 60 days from now, and the other may plan to write at least 10,000 words of a novel by that same date.
Joining a group with similar intentions and a structure for having everybody report how they’re doing can be very motivational. Examples include Weight Watchers and various versions of “anonymous” groups (like Alcoholics Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous). If you can’t find a local group, look for one online.
You can go public in a much larger way by posting your intention on Facebook or another social media site. Let people know that you’d like them to comment on your progress reports.
Which of these approaches do you think you’d find more motivational?
Whichever approach you choose, knowing that you’ll be reporting your progress (or lack of progress) to your accountability partner or audience can give you a strong reason to stay on track.
Declare the Steps, Not Just the Destination
If it’s a large project, you’ll break it down into smaller steps. Be sure to declare those steps as well as the end goal. For instance, if you plan to lose 25 pounds over the course of the next 3 months, you might have a weekly goal of losing 2 pounds. You would check and report your progress once a week.
Make Your Progress Reports Constructive
If you don’t achieve that week’s goal, include in your progress report the reason you think things didn’t go according to plan and how you intend to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen the next week. That helps you focus on what you need to do differently, and it keeps the entire effort constructive. If you have an outstanding result that week, note why you think things went especially well.
Haters Gonna Hate
If you post your results on a public site, there’s a chance you’ll get some negative comments from trolls. You can ignore them, block them, or create a private group consisting only of people you know and trust. It’s hard not to take negative or hateful comments personally, but think of how pathetic a life someone must have if they get their thrills by trying to make fun of people who are working to improve their lives.
Keep a Copy of Your Progress Reports
Your progress reports can be a valuable record of your success and of what worked for you and what didn’t. You may be able to apply those lessons to your next goal.
Now you know how to use accountability to motivate yourself. If you’ve got a project or goal in mind, why not take action right now to declare your intentions using whichever of these methods you think would work best for you?
In the next lesson, we’ll look at 2 additional strong motivators: rewards and punishment.
All the best,
The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson, John David Mann
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