What I've Learned About Accountability

Jul 6, 2019

One of the hardest parts about building a solo business is holding yourself accountable. Without a boss or teammates, it’s up to you, and you alone, to get things done. This isn’t always easy, particularly in the age of distraction that we live in.

I know some people who are full of intrinsic motivation and are able to just get stuff done. I admire the heck out of them, but personally, I need a lot more help to hold myself accountable. I think this is why I was first drawn to building an accountability product.

Since then, I’ve learned a few things about accountability while working on Accountability Pledge and my consulting business. So if you’re like me and could use some extra accountability, here are a few methods I recommend.

Personal Weekly Reviews 🔗

I started doing weekly reviews with myself about a year ago. I realized that the most successful teams I’ve been on have had some sort of weekly review or retrospective. So I figured why not do them for myself. It usually only takes about 20 minutes at the end of your week.

Here’s my process:

  • Write what went well for you in the past week, and what you were able to accomplish.
  • Write down any lessons learned or changes you would like to make for the upcoming week.
  • Write what you plan to accomplish in the next week.

You don’t need a fancy system for this. I simply keep them all in one long document titled “Weekly Reviews”, in reverse chronological order, so that the most recent week is at the top.

I’ve found that there are two main benefits to this process.

  1. By writing down your weekly accomplishments, you have a history of all the progress you’ve made over time. You can look back and see where you were a year ago versus today, and how far you’ve come. We tend to always be looking forward at what we don’t yet have, so sometimes it’s helpful to review all the successes you’ve already had.
  2. By setting weekly goals, you put yourself in the accountability mindset. Rather than just floating along, day after day, unsure of where you’re heading, you are living with intention and aiming toward something.

Habit Tracker 🔗

The next method I use for personal accountability is I track my daily habits with an app. My personal favorite is Coach.me. Where weekly reviews are helpful from week to week, habit trackers are helpful for your day to day activities. Whatever daily behaviors help set you up for success, habit trackers help you stay on track with those.

Perhaps you want to meditate for 15 minutes a day, exercise 5 days a week, or own the first hour of your day. Rather than just saying you want to do something, by tracking your behaviors, you have incentive to actually follow through. When you’ve got a streak of 20+ days in a row going, its very motivating to want to keep that going!

Habit tracking apps also provide you with insight as to how well you’re sticking to your habits. You may be doing your weekly review one week and notice that it wasn’t a great week. Chances are, if you open up your habit tracker app, you’ll see that you were off track with your daily habits that week.

Remember that successful days turn into weeks, which turn into months, which become successful years.

Online Mastermind Group 🔗

While the first two methods are great and can be done on your own. To really take accountability to the next level you need help from your peers. I joined an online mastermind group earlier this year and have greatly benefited from it.

If you join a group, you can expect to be doing weekly reviews, only instead of solo, now you’re sharing with a group. Sometimes it can be too easy to miss weekly goals when you’re just setting them on your own. It feels a lot worse to tell a group of people that you missed your goals. This is because, as humans, we naturally “display a strong need to belong and want to be evaluated positively by others in the group.” - iResearchNet. Use that to your advantage to get things done!

My group also adds an additional level of accountability by having you commit a dollar amount to each item that you say you’ll get done that week. If you don’t do it then you’ll have to pay that amount, which gets donated to a charity our group has selected. This was, in fact, the original inspiration for Accountability Pledge. Interestingly enough, this isn’t as motivating as I expected. You have to force yourself to pledge an amount that you actually aren’t willing to lose. Otherwise, you won’t gain any additional motivation from this. This strategy is an okay fallback when all other motivators fail, but difficult to rely on week to week as studies have shown we are more driven by intrinsic motivators than extrinsic.

In fact, this experience has actually led me to pivot away from the original Accountability Pledge idea toward a more intrinsically focused product. More on that in a later post…

Local Accountability Partner(s) 🔗

Finally, the most effective accountability method I’ve found is having someone or a small group of people that you meet with weekly in person. While having an online group is great, meeting up in person every week is even more effective. Ideally, they will have similar goals and desires as you as well.

Ever since Corey Gwin and I started doing weekly meetings while working on our products (Blurt and Accountability Pledge respectively), I’ve felt extremely accountable to him. I know that every week he is going to do what he said he was going to do, thus I better get my stuff done as well, in order to not let him down and hold up my end of the deal.

Being a solo business owner can be quite lonely. It’s helpful to have an accountability partner to lean on in tough times, and also to celebrate wins with. I get so motivated when I see Corey complete his tasks and reach his goals, and I know he gets the same thing from me.

Summary 🔗

So while all the other methods are effective, and I continue to practice them, if you can find someone local to meet up with, you’ll see that it can supercharge your growth and productivity. In fact, there are even some people that take this to an extreme and have created a co-living situation for accountability.

If you have any other tips for accountability that have worked for you, please share. As someone who’s always looking for additional and better systems for accountability, I would be grateful to hear your suggestions!