Accountability is a difficult thing to establish, but it is a key component to increasing your likelihood of success.
If someone is checking up on you, then you are more likely to complete the task with integrity despite obstacles or fatigue. Knowing you will have to respond, answer, or confess to someone ups the ante for doing the job and doing it well.
The first step in creating accountability is admitting you need it! Our culture thinks accountability means weakness or nagging or punishment. However, that is an extreme. Yes, if your performance is poor, accountability may challenge you, but it starts with positivity! Accountability helps ensure your success; it does not have to be a reprimand.
There are lots of organizations that offer structured accountability with positive reinforcement like Jenny Craig, life coaches, and Alcoholics Anonymous. Each of these programs offers different ways to keep people on track and help them reach their goals through accountability.
The people or mechanisms used to keep you accountable are there to help you succeed, so let them!
The second step is figuring out what will keep you accountable (there may be some trial and error here). Here are a few ideas to help you incorporate accountability this year:
Having people ask you, talk with you, or actually do your goal with you will keep you accountable. This community could be one person, a small group, or a class.
I recently realized that at this stage in my life, community keeps me accountable the best, whether it’s leading a small group (all those ladies did their lesson and are going to ask me questions about it) or meeting a friend (she is going to meet me at the stadium for a workout at 7 am).
Text or call some people and ask them to regularly check in or participate with you on one of your goals. This should be the number one thing you put in place.
This is anything that you will see daily/weekly that helps you chart your progress.
Visual markers give positive reinforcement (especially if you are a visual learners). It could be something simple like crossing off a day on a wall calendar or putting tally marks or stickers on a chart on your bathroom mirror. Kids love sticker charts for a reason. I just completed a 30-day workout challenge and everyday I crossed off the day on the calendar. It felt so good!
Make sure the chart is somewhere you will walk by and see it multiple times a day – the back of your main entry door is a prime location.
You can use technology-based reminders or sticky-notes.
Put sticky-notes strategically wherever you need them (“don’t eat the snickers on your cube-mates desk” in your lunch bag or “wash face, prime face, moisturize face, eye cream, floss, mouthwash” on your bathroom mirror). Or mark off when you complete each task directly on the mirror with an expo marker. Bam! New hygiene routine with a reminder and visual marker rolled into one!
Technology-based reminders are excellent for timed or scheduled things. There are wonderful FREE apps that remind you to get out of your seat every 45 minutes if you have a desk job or drink water every 60 minutes if you need to work on hydration. You can set your own alarms for workouts, quiet time, or coffee dates.
There are also some awesome financial tracking apps like YNAB and Mint if you need to be better at budgeting or saving.
We. Love. Rewards. … tangible ones. This accountability mechanism requires self-control (you can’t give it to yourself early!). It works best if someone else gives you the reward when you reach a goal or certain milestone. If someone else is holding the carrot, we are more likely to work honestly.
Be sure your reward is in proportion to your goal, and stay away from food based or “free for all” rewards.
Here are some ideas: a new workout top, a pedicure, a new planner, a book, or a break from your routine (Netflix binge night). You can build rewards in as you go to help give incentive for long-term goals. For instance, if you have a fitness goal, reward yourself with a massage if you complete every workouts for the whole month.
We are more likely to stick with something and keep to it if it is fun along the way! So infuse your goal with fun! Use colored pens to write down your progress or use a calendar of beautiful beach scenes. Write down one positive thing you did toward your goal each day in a journal. Chronicle ironically funny stories along the way.
Granted not all work toward your goal will be fun, but I firmly believe there is fun and joy to be had even in the hardest days. If you are not gaining some joy out of your progress then you won’t keep moving forward. So, make a silver lining and record it.
Hopefully, one of these ideas works for you or sparks an idea that keeps you on track. Feel free to use them separately or in tandem. Don’t freak out if your first try at an accountability system does not work. Ask yourself why it isn’t working and then try a different system. Different seasons of life require different types of accountability.
I leave you with this quote from life coach Kris Cavenaugh: “By the yard, it’s hard. But inch by inch, anything’s a cinch!”
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