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The Power of Accountability

Hi, I’m Rich. Following a 20-year career in software development, I’m now an online fitness and mindset coach and today I want to talk about the power of accountability. Let’s dive right in, when did you last tell yourself you were going to do something, only to put it off time after time?


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Richard Donovan

a year ago | 7 min read

Hi, I’m Rich. Following a 20-year career in software development, I’m now an online fitness and mindset coach and today I want to talk about the power of accountability.

Let’s dive right in, when did you last tell yourself you were going to do something, only to put it off time after time?

  • Book that dentist appointment
  • Get yourself to the gym
  • Read that next book on your list

Putting things off is an endless cycle, and burying your head in the sand – hoping tasks will take care of themselves – is going to cost you more than you realise.

Your subconscious task list increases when you delay a task that you know needs to be done. Although not at the forefront of your mind, it’s prodding at your brain, and increasing your stress levels. Stress and anxiety are the product of this accumulation of unfinished – or even unstarted – tasks.

Your productivity suffers

This background badgering can start to hinder the tasks that you’re actively trying to complete. You can’t focus because subconsciously, your brain is distracting you; reminding you of the essential items you’re yet to complete.

It’s clear that this leads to a distinct lack of productivity. With this in mind, it’s easy to recognise why you don’t achieve those big goals that you’ve set yourself. I mean, if you put off the small things, how do you expect to make the big things happen?

If you don’t set yourself goals, I’ll be covering how to do so using the Mindspan 4x4 method in a later post.

What can you do about it?

Accountability is about making a commitment and taking responsibility for it. In the first instance, this responsibility is to yourself. You make a promise to yourself, however small, and you take responsibility for the outcome. You recognise that the result occurred because of you, you did everything you could to make it happen, or you didn’t.

Acknowledging how you affect the outcome, good or bad, is the first step to improvement. You can start with small commitments, like getting straight out of bed when your alarm sounds, rather than hitting that snooze button.

These small promises will help you build self-confidence and encourage you to recognise that your outcomes are in your hands. You can gradually apply this approach to other tasks in your life.

The next time you have a dentist appointment to make, commit to a specific time and place and make the call. As you follow through on more commitments, you free your mind from background distraction, and you finally start to focus and your productivity goes through the roof!

Still not getting it done?

Maybe just committing and promising yourself that you’ll do a task, still isn’t working. You have good intentions but somehow, you slip back into old habits.

All is not lost, you can turn up the accountability dial in several ways. The first is to enlist an accountability partner.

1. ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER

In simple terms, you tell your accountability partner which tasks you want to complete and by when. This act is powerful, suddenly you’re not only committing to yourself, but you’re committing to someone else too.

Why is telling someone else about my tasks going to make a difference to me? I hear you ask.

You don’t like to let people down; no one does. You don’t want others to think less of you. As such, when you tell someone you’re going to do something, you have that little extra motivation to get it done.

Additionally, due to your deadline, you don’t put off tasks, and you’re encouraged to plan time to execute them.

THE ROLE OF YOUR ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER

You don’t just tell your accountability partner about your tasks; they have a role to play too. They’ll agree to keep you on track with little reminders, motivation, and encouragement along the way. You should agree to a recurring time and place to meet and discuss your tasks. This meeting gives you a chance to reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and allows you to seek advice if needed.

Your accountability partner should be someone who will tell it to you straight and also be supportive.

Use your partner as a sounding board to validate your tasks and to make sure they’re moving you in the right direction: towards your goals.

It would help if you kept your accountability partner updated on your progress. Keep motivated and gain a sense of achievement by sending messages to your accountability partner: “Hey, I booked that appointment I said I was going to book”. Hopefully, you’ll receive words of encouragement in return. If you don’t, you might need to re-evaluate your choice of partner!

2. ACCOUNTABILITY GROUP

The second way to raise the accountability stakes is to join an accountability group. The same general principle is at play here, only now you are accountable to many people, not just yourself and a partner. This responsibility increases the urge not to let people down and therefore increases your chances of success.

Besides, the other members of the group are there for accountability too. So you get to help them with their accountability, just like they help you with yours. You all have a common goal which is to help each other achieve their tasks.

The accountability group also comes with added encouragement. You get to see other people posting about completing their tasks. This accomplishment gives you a timely reminder about your responsibilities and produces an urge to get your items done too.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The general idea is to post any number of tasks that you wish to get done with a self-imposed deadline. Your items are specific to you. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are, as long as you believe you can complete them in the time frame.

I would encourage you to put things on your list that you may have been putting off. Perhaps you don’t even realise it but you keep remembering that thing you need to do. Example tasks would be:

  • Book an appointment that you’ve been putting off
  • Make a call you’ve been putting off
  • Research a local gym

PROGRESS

After you’ve posted your tasks you should post evidence to the group of your progress and confirmation of completing your tasks. This evidence could be a picture of some kind or it could simply be a message informing the group that you have completed a specific task, optionally including how you did it or what you learnt from it.

After a specified time - two weeks perhaps - hopefully, you’ve completed your tasks. It’s time to think of some more. It’s a good idea to maintain a list of jobs that you can post in the future. You can move on to them just as soon as you’re ready.

REVIEW HOW YOU GOT ON

If you didn’t complete all of your tasks, there’s no need to worry. Think about why. Maybe your items were too big and needed to be broken down into smaller tasks? Perhaps you didn’t manage to plan them around your other activities? This reflection is all part of the process, work out why, make a change next time, and move on. There’s no need to dwell on it.

If you completed all of your tasks easily, can you add more next time and be even more productive?

WHAT WILL YOU GET OUT OF IT?

Hopefully, you will get stuff done!

An interesting side effect of an accountability group is that it can lead to the completion of even more tasks.

An example:

MY GARAGE GYM

I wanted to turn my garage into a gym. I’d chat about what it would be like with friends. I even started to make a list of equipment that I wanted in it. A couple of weeks later, I realised that I hadn’t made any actual progress towards having a gym.

WHAT DID I DO?

I picked an essential item from my list and decided that merely purchasing this item would be a task on my accountability list for the next two weeks.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Well, the item I selected was flooring tiles. I ordered them on the first day of my next accountability phase. Suddenly, I had the impetus to make space for my new flooring. I cleared the garage and took a load of stuff to the tip, something else I’d been putting off for weeks/months. My flooring tiles arrived and I laid them immediately. By the end of the week, I’d ordered 90% of the equipment I wanted for my gym.

With the help of a couple of friends, my gym was up and running within two weeks of me adding that single gym-related task to my accountability list.

Starting a task is often the hardest part, whether that’s a new blog post, clearing the garage, or creating your gym. Once you get started, you realise that it was never as hard as it seemed. You build momentum, and before you know it, you’ve completed your project.

3. RECIPROCAL ACCOUNTABILITY

If jumping into an accountability group sounds a little daunting, then another approach could be reciprocal accountability. This approach is a hybrid of the previous two strategies. As with an accountability partner, you have one other person to whom you’re accountable. However, in this case, you both share the same goal, and just like the group approach, they’re accountable to you too. Additionally, you both encourage and motivate each other, and you can relate to what the other is trying to achieve.

In addition, you could also find a reciprocal accountability partner, and both join an accountability group together for that added push.

Next Level

If you really want to take your accountability to the next level then you could consider getting a coach who has experience with what it is you need help with.

With a coach, you get that accountability built-in, as well as the benefit of their expertise, their ability to get the most out of you and a solid perspective for looking at things differently.

That extra push can really make all the difference to pushing your results beyond what has got you. this far.

Final thoughts

We’ve discussed the power of accountability, including 3 strategies for adding accountability to your everyday life and the ultimate method of accountability - hiring a coach.

If you have a background in software development, I’m sure the structure of accountability and the similarity to agile/scrum processes is not lost on you. This should make it that much easier to relate to and get on board with.

Accountability is a really powerful tool for anyone who recognises that they need that extra push to be better than they have been before.

Thanks for reading.

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Created by

Richard Donovan

Founder of RD Coached Ltd

I’m Richard Donovan and I formed RD Coached following a software development career spanning over 2 decades. I started at the bottom, I’m self-taught and I had no degree. I’ve worked through the ranks, I’ve led teams and my most recent position was as a Software Architect for a global FTSE 100 company. I regularly workout and I love playing squash and golf. I’m a licensed Mindspan Peak Performance Coach and Trainer and I’m a Personal Trainer and online fitness coach. As a Software Developer, I recognised early on that my mental and physical wellbeing played a huge role in my performance. The more I looked around, the more I could see developers struggling with their role, not from a technical perspective, but because of their mental and physical health. It was hard to admit, but for a large part of my career, I struggled with self-doubt, I lacked self-belief and my confidence was low. After speaking to countless developers, it seems I wasn’t the only one...


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