Since COVID has wound down a little — would you say that it’s easier or harder to keep yourself accountable? When I ask myself this — one time, I say “it’s easier” and another time, “it’s harder.” Are we just burned out?
For example, we all know that losing weight and quitting bad habits like smoking are a must. But, what do you really want to do? We rarely answer that question before diving in headfirst with our goals.
Guess what happens, now? You don’t follow through. Maybe because you’re not motivated or stuck in a rut, other times, you get thrown off course because of external forces, such as a global pandemic completely turning your schedule upside down.
Here’s the thing, though. Those are just excuses. That may sound harsh, but the only way you’re going to achieve your goals is to hold yourself accountable.
Look, I know that this commitment isn’t a walk in the park. But, it’s possible to stick with it if you utilize the following 10 techniques.
1. Get in the right mindset.
“You have to know your why,” states Alicia T. Glenn is the founder of Astounding Pursuits. You can determine this by asking two important questions. The first is “why is accomplishing this goal important to you?”
The second? “How will it ultimately improve your life?”
“If you don’t have a compelling enough answer for yourself, then you probably won’t stick to it since it’s not that important to you,” adds Glenn. “You have to want to change bad enough because when the going gets tough, you’ll quit. Nobody wants to sacrifice for something that they don’t see a lot of value in.”
How can you get into the right mindset? Surround yourself with inspiration. Examples are books, TED Talks, and surrounding yourself with those who have similar interests. “If you do that, you’ll never need another reminder because it has now become a part of your life,” says Glenn.
2. Identify your personal mission statement.
“Your personal mission statement is a short statement, usually a sentence or two, that points to the direction you intend your life to move in,” clarifies Melody Wilding for Forbes. “It’s like a compass that helps you stay on track, heading in the direction you want to go.”
If you’ve never written a personal mission statement before, it’s rather elementary.
- Brainstorm your “why” — you probably did this already when getting into the right mindset.
- The statement doesn’t need to be long-winded. Ideally, it should be clear and brief.
- Use positive language. “Instead of saying what you don’t want to do anymore,” adds Wilding. Instead, “focus on what type of person you do want to become.”
- Use templates. Wilding has graciously listed several examples in the article. One example is, “To… [what you want to achieve, do or become] … so that … [reasons why it is important]. I will do this by … [specific behaviors or actions you will use to get there]”
3. Focus on micro-goals.
Desmond Tutu once famously said that “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” Obviously, you shouldn’t take this literally. Rather, it’s all about breaking those large and overwhelming goals into more manageable chunks.
These are known as micro-goals. And, because they’re attainable, they can help you build momentum and stay motivated. Mainly this is because that feeling of accomplishment releases dopamine — which makes you want to repeat the behavior.
What’s more, it’s been found that making small strides can even make us happier.
The process is also straightforward. Take a good, hard look at a large goal and work backward. It’s like when you open up a 1,000 piece puzzle. It’s daunting at first, but just start with one piece and keep putting it together until it begins to resemble the picture.
Bonus tip: Nothing against SMART goals. But, an excellent starting point is open goals. These are nothing more than to “see how well I can do” and building upon them.
4. Commit plans to paper.
Did you know that writing down your goals will make you 1.4 times more likely to succeed? One reason for this is because writing lets your brain know what to focus on. As a result, it’s easier to recall.
Additionally, writing helps clarify your goals and doesn’t leave wiggle room for exceptions. Also, written goals serve as constant reminders, lets you review your progress, and gives you the satisfaction of crossing items off your to-do list.
5. Get a goal, buddy.
Back in college, I had a study partner. Whenever one of us didn’t feel like doing homework or preparing for finals, we pushed each other. We could also ask each other questions, develop game plans, or even celebrate when we aced a test.
I can admit that without this classmate, I would have done poorly in biology. After all, science was never my forte. And, he, without question, kept me focused and motivated throughout the semester.
Ideally, your accountability partner should be someone whom you trust. They should also have similar goals. And, you both need to put in equal effort.
To make this a successful partnership, you should decide when and how often to meet. The easiest solution would be to share your calendar so that you aren’t playing a game of cat and mouse. They can see when you’re available and pick a slot that also works for them.
After that, set SMART objectives. Moreover, deliver and receive honest feedback. Even if it’s not what you always want to hear, it is vital to help you learn and grow.
And, to keep things exciting and inspiring, gamify accountability by making bets with each other. For example, if you completed a task before they did, then they have to buy you dinner at the end of the month.
6. Make a Ulysses Pact.
Do you remember Homer’s Odyssey? If not, no worries. For most of us, that was probably something we read back in high school. But, the main takeaway from this classic piece of Greek mythology is the Ulysses Pact.
The term refers to how our hero Ulysses was able to resist the captivating songs of the Sirens. He was able to do so by plugging his ears with wax and being tied to the ship’s mast. And, it worked.
Ulysses and his crew were able to navigate their way successfully past the Sirens. Because they were proactive, they didn’t succumb to a tragic and watery grave.
How does this relate to accountability? In short, it’s about having a plan to overcome setbacks that cause you to procrastinate or not follow through?
An example of this would be blocking out your calendar for your most important work during your peak productivity hours. Since working from home may not be possible, you could schedule this work when you have the house. Because you have a shorter timeframe, this might encourage you to get more done in less time.
Another example? Booking a non-refundable vacation or ticket to a professional workshop. Not only does this give you ample time to add this to your calendar, but you’ll also be more inclined to follow through since you don’t want to waste your hard-earned money.
7. Cultivate conscientiousness.
“Conscientiousness is a personality trait that implies diligence and a desire to complete tasks,” writes Emily Gorsky at Thrive Global. “Conscientious people tend to be efficient and organized as opposed to easy-going and disorderly.” Moreover, they have a “tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement.”
What “if you do not naturally gravitate toward exhibiting this personality type?” I’ve got some good news for you. You “can still cultivate it and use it to help you achieve your goals.”
As noted in Harvard Health, despite personality being ingrained, “that doesn’t mean that we can’t tinker with the tendencies in our beliefs and behaviors. The first step could be — just being a little more aware of personality and its possible effects.”
The Harvard Health piece also recommends that you focus “on specifics, making daily plans, using reminders and staying social can all help us be more conscientious in practice.”
8. Break the walls down.
Make no mistake about it. Holding yourself accountable can be difficult. But, you can make it easier on yourself by removing as many barriers as you can.
Let’s say that you want to work out in order to improve your health and boost your energy. During your evening routine, you could lay your workout clothes out so that you can throw them on first thing in the morning. It’s a simple trick to nudge you into working out before the workday starts.
9. Reward (and reprimand) yourself.
By all means. Whenever you reach a milestone, treat yourself to a reward. Let’s say you’ve met your goal to lose 10 pounds or complete a project ahead of schedule. Grab your favorite latte, go for a hike, or just Netflix and chill with your significant other.
At the same time, don’t be afraid of reprimanding yourself. Don’t go too hard on yourself. But, if you didn’t meet a goal, then cancel your trip to Starbucks, the cool hike, and your streaming plans.
However, don’t dwell on any of this — just get back to work. Reflect on why you didn’t reach your objective. Then, brainstorm ways that you won’t let this happen in the future.
10. Reflect on your progress.
Finally, make time to reflect on your journey. Preferably, this should be when you’re alone, like in-between meetings or going for an afternoon walk. Use the solitude to think about where you failed, succeeded, and how you can keep moving forward.
Image Credit: polina zimmerman; pexels; thank you!