Since I’ve talked a lot about structure in the last two posts, here are some thoughts probably the most important aspect of that structure: accountability.
Practical odds and ends:
- Don’t go all in at once
Select one task to be accountable for. As that becomes habitual you can add some more. For me, more than one task at once is simply too much to bear, and probably for you as well. You want to be realistic as well.
- Think 80/20
Since I’m picking 1 thing to be accountable for at first, I try to find the thing that will have the greatest impact. The details will follow, and just having the momentum of getting something done will take care of a lot of them.
- Choose the right amount
If part of your accountability involves losing money like with Stickk.com, choose an amount that will hurt but that won’t destroy you. For instance I lose $100 for any weeks I fail to write on schedule. This is enough money that it keeps me from making excuses, but not so much that if an emergency came up I couldn’t take the hit.
- Be specific
Very specific (preferably quantifiable) tasks and deadlines work best. “I will work out for an hour 5 days out of every week” is way better that “I’ll get in shape.” “I’ll write a chapter each month and submit it to my monitor for proofreading for the next 9 months” is better than “write a book”.
- Find someone to keep you honest
Stickk.com calls these “referees”. I’m lazy enough by nature that I need someone to check up on my progress for each task. And someone to make sure I get penalized and lose money when I don’t follow through. Don’t select an enemy for this – but do select someone who will hold you to it!
. . .
Here are some things you might be surprised to learn when you use accountability in your life:
- Accountability is liberating
Believe it or not, holding yourself accountable doesn’t make you feel constrained – it frees you up. Get ready to feel a lot less drag from all those odds-and-ends that you “ought” to be doing. By attaching a penalty to a task, you’ll know that is the thing you need to focus on. Everything else can wait, and you don’t need to waste time or energy thinking about it.
- Your motivation will increase
When you’re held accountable, you won’t simply be “forced” to do something. There’s an odd sense of actually wanting to do it. Your subconscious will rank it higher in your life, and you’ll feel a lot more motivation to get it done. In other words, you don’t just have to white-knuckle it to complete the task but quite the opposite. The willpower necessary to get something done decreases, while your motivation to do it increases – YAY!
- You’ll feel way more in control
Accountability puts you in the driver’s seat – and not the lazy eat goldfish crackers and watch Weeds version of yourself, but the awesome “get stuff done and improve my life” self. You’ll feel like you can plan long range, and you won’t have to wonder what the “you” of tomorrow or a week from now thinks about your decisions.