“How Do I Hold Myself Accountable?” No One Answered.

Therein lies the problem.  Making a resolution with yourself, on New Year’s Eve or at any time, requires feedback.  Hear the sound of one hand clapping?  That’s me making a New Year’s Resolution. 

Feedback doesn’t always require a person, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  

Preparing Yourself

First, let’s talk about why you want to be accountable in the first place.  Is it to meet a goal?  To make a major change in your career or your life?  Is it because you think you’re not an accountable kind of person and should really start being more intentional?  Before, you went where ideas and opportunities took you and that usually worked.  All of those pebbles along the way made a path.  But maybe you find yourself at an inflection point where change, big change, seems to require a more structured approach.

Second, are you adopting someone else’s system to hold you accountable?  If you can’t work an Access database to chart your progress but that’s what your friend with the big smile does to get ahead, you’ll end up focusing on the means and not the end.

Third, have you overloaded what you want to be accountable for?  Are you trying to find a new job, make healthy dinners, read 125 books, and be more attentive to your family?

Making a career transition is a process, much of it emotional.  As one fired senior executive told me, “You have to go through the grieving process to release the crap you’re carrying around.”  At the same time, we yearn for pragmatic tools to help us get out of the mental muck and 3am ruminations.  

Be the Master of Your Own Progress

Here are some of my best practices for accountability:

1. Track.  Some kind of tracking is essential.  I can’t tell you how many times I thought I was doing more than I was.  Your tracker is your feedback.  Whether it’s stars on a sheet of paper like when you were a kid or data on a spreadsheet, it doesn’t matter.  Having a record of what you’ve actually done to move forward gives you the feedback you need without the verbal flourish. If you find that your progress is slowing down, that’s okay.  Adjust what you can do each day rather than give up.  You’ve opted for a process, not a one-and-done.

2. Figure out your own system.  Some people like a buddy to walk with.  Some people track miles on their apps.  Some do both.   If the system you choose is alien to the way you accomplish other tasks in your life, you’ll be stymied.  I have a friend who insists that resistance bands are better for building muscle.  I like free weights.  Isn’t that why the gym has all those options?

There are apps of all varieties that can help you with tracking, ranging from those that encourage you to make “commitment videos” to those that help organize your email to keep you focused.  Choose carefully and if you find yourself dreading the input, move on.

3. Block the time.  Time blocking has become a term of art.  Really, it’s just scheduling time for yourself to do what you need to do.  It’s too easy for day-to-day stuff to cloud the big picture.  I’m a scheduler.  I have big blue blocks of “fake” meetings on my calendar so my digital calendar can’t crowd those out.

4. Figure out your triggers.  Are you more accountable when you pay money for something or someone to help you?  Do you know that you need a buddy or an advisory council to report to because you get stuck on your own?  Enlist, recruit, and pay it forward.

5. Consistency.  This can also be called persistence but somehow consistency sounds more doable, as if it entails less strenuous mental muscle.  Ironically, consistency doesn’t have to be forever.  You can set a time period for when you want to put a process in place, just like you did for your ex- company, but this Q1 is for you.

6. Be realistic.  You’re not going to make up for or change everything at once.

7. Perfection isn’t the goal or the mindset.  Self-compassion and happiness always come first.

I’ll leave you with one other piece of advice.  Setting a goal is a destination.  Changing your mindset is a path to anywhere.  No matter how you choose your path to rewrite your success, headline your value every day with affirmations.  Here’s your new mental billboard:  “I’m outstanding at what I do!

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