How to hold yourself accountable.


Why do we fail?

Sustained interest, that’s what always gets me. Too often we get fired up to do something, invest our time in research trying to figure out what fundamental tools we need, and then lose interest a few weeks later.

I have a folder full of unfinished writing projects. Why? I ask myself this often and the answer is always the same: Accountability.

My personal experience has led me to be honest; I can’t always hold myself accountable. Instead, I rationalize excuses to make my day easier. I know what I want to do, long term wise, but I avoid the day to day when I feel my willpower diminishing.

We’d all like to be like Stephen King, and write 2000 words a day no matter what. However, for many the habit of writing daily, or any other personal goal, just isn’t there yet.

Good intentions bad results.

Lately I’ve found distractions. For instance, instead of writing, I try to talk myself into watching TV. This reminds me of Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art, where he highlights that every individual starts with a finite resource of willpower. Sure it’s replenished each evening as we sleep, but it’s still finite. I’m always motivated to start the day, but as it moves on my willpower wanes until all I want to do is lie down. Unfortunately this applies to most of us. We start our mornings energized, but also with obligations to go to work. The goal is to find ways to mitigate the loss of willpower by structuring times to focus on you.

In other words, we have to structure our time because it’s limited, and our desire to do things wanes as the day wears on.

Acknowledging this, the importance of accountability becomes clear. I’m not always going to have time to put what I want to do ahead of what I have to do (admittedly when I do have the opportunity to do this I write my ass off), so I need someone there to call me out when I’m slacking off.

Ironically, this understanding only came after I spent a little over a month being alone. I limited my social time and tried to focus on writing. Unfortunately, the more I wrote the more I resisted writing. I found that isolating myself, while great for thinking, didn’t really work when it came to writing because I’m the type of person that loves to share. Sharing, or collaborating gets me going and adds the pressure while also making my work feel important.

Granted, while much of what I do is behind closed doors, this doesn’t negate the importance of having someone around to encourage me when I’m being lazy. The opportunities to bounce ideas off friends and family is invaluable. Short of that, I highly recommend online communities.

There comes a time when you run out of ideas and fall into a lull; some might call this writer’s block but I’m still not sure I believe in this. Finding someone to help hold you accountable can be a huge advantage during these times of inaction. In fact, it’s during these times that we most need an outsider’s help. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing interest entirely and giving up.

Create a buddy system based on similar goals and map out an accountability plan that you both agree on.

Here is what to do.

It’s really simple:

  • Set a goal you both (or all three, four, five, etc) agree on.
  • Make weekly deadline to measure progress.
  • Write out why you want to do this (to remind yourself when the going gets tough).
  • Enforce a repercussion system for those that fail to meet the goals you’ve set.

From there a friendly text every day or two, or even a call will help keep the momentum going and also indirectly influence your creative impulses (i.e. what you write or work on).

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