When you hold yourself accountable, there aren't external enforcement mechanisms—so you'll have to invent your own. This could include public pledges or forced commitments—like agreeing to give a talk or present a paper at a conference. It could also mean setting clear boundaries, such as, "I always do X and never do Y."
- We've been talking about holding yourself accountable. And the critical word here, is yourself. There aren't external enforcement mechanisms, or someone peering over your shoulder. This is about you taking charge of your professional life. So you'll need to create your own structures to make accountability possible. Here are a few possibilities for you to consider. One particularly effective strategy is to leverage a forcing mechanism. Let's say your boss has told you that in order to advance, you really need to step up your public speaking skills.
You've decided to take this on and conquer it. You are going to be accountable! So how do you do it? One way is to make yourself do a challenging activity by agreeing to something you really can't back out of. For instance, that you'll speak at a conference, or lead your team's presentation next month, or be interviewed on the company podcast. Having that commitment on the calendar is a forcing mechanism, and because you'd feel bad, or look bad canceling, you're driven to prepare and do well. Another possibility, as I describe in my book Reinventing You, is to make a public commitment.
You can pledge to your friends that you'll have gone through the Toastmasters program before the end of the year, and risk embarrassment if you don't do it. If you want to ramp up the stakes, you can make your commitment very public, like on social media or your blog, or you could even put down financial stakes. There's a website developed by behavioral economists called stickk.com, that's S-T-I-C-K-K, .com, where you make a pledge and put money on the line. If you fail, the money goes to your least favorite charity, a cause you vehemently disagree with.
So that's quite an incentive. Another way to introduce success systems into your life, is to make sure that you're always on the same page with your colleagues. For instance, it's very simple to close your meetings or conversations with a recap of the action items you've both committed to. Okay, Jennifer's going to email me the client's contact information, and I'm going to send Deeter the new promotional brochure. It takes two minutes, but it ensures the to-do list hasn't gotten buried or muddled throughout the course of the conversation. It keeps both of you accountable.
I'm a big fan of general boundary setting, as well. Take a moment to think about the activities in your life that help you be the most successful, and then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the ones that hold you back or hinder you. What if you could simplify your decision-making process and turn those into a list of, I always, and, I never? For instance, I always work out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It doesn't matter if you're on a business trip, you find a way to do it because the decision has already been made.
Similarly, if you've wasted a lot of time on social media in the past, you might decide to create a policy that says, I never check social media during work hours. Period! Done! Boundary setting helps you create rules that keep you on track. Finally, this will probably take some time and some experimentation, but it's worth it for you to get your technology right, when it comes to implementing systems. When I say technology, it doesn't have to mean something computerized, though certainly some people thrive when they have automated reminders chirping on their phones and online note-taking systems.
Your system though might be old school, with binders and planners and notebooks, it's all fine. The key is that you experiment with different apps and tools and products until you find the combination that helps you achieve your optimal productivity. You want a system that enables you to keep track of all the tasks you need to do, have the ability to prioritize them, and monitor them over time. And that could be a paid system, and it could be as something as cheap as a legal pad. The key is that it works for you. Better systems mean better results.
So taking the time to get this right, will pay big dividends for you in the future.
- Tapping into your motivation
- Prioritizing correctly
- Setting realistic expectations
- How to stop procrastinating
- Overcoming excuses
- Creating systems for success
- Picking yourself up after failure
- Choosing rewards that help support other healthy goals