Often when we set goals for ourselves, the missing link between setting the goal and achieving it is accountability. We have a plan we intend to execute, but we haven't set up ways to hold ourselves accountable for following through. As a result, we later return to our goals, wondering what happened.
So how do we build accountability into our plans? Here are four ideas to try out.
1. Connect to Your Emotions
Chip and Dan Heath in their book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, argue that for any change to happen, we need to connect to the emotional component of our brains. We assume that all action and decisions are logical, when in reality, most of our behavior is being driven by the more hidden emotional part of our brains.
When you are setting your goal, you need to dive into the emotional component of why achieving this goal is really important to you. Find ways to visualize your goal (this is where inspiration boards can be helpful) or write about why it's important to you to achieve this goal.
The more you can connect to your deepest emotional desires, the more likely you are to achieve the goal and to follow through.
And if you can't connect to the emotions, then you might want to ask why this is a goal for you. If you can't FEEL its importance, maybe it's not a goal worth having.
2. Email Prompts and Reminders to Yourself
The next time you set a goal, figure out what actions you want to take and set deadline dates for yourself to accomplish these things. Then fire up Future Me and set up a series of email prompts to be sent out on appropriate dates.
Use the prompts to motivate and inspire your future self. You can include images with your email, so maybe include some pictures that will inspire you or maybe some quotes. If you have videos that might be helpful (I have some videos that get me pumped up when I need to take certain actions), include those as links in your email too.
Experiment with asking yourself questions, like "Hey--did you call those 3 people you were planning to contact yet?"
Or try positive reinforcement--"I know you've already made those calls--you should be feeling really good about yourself right now."
The nice thing about using Future.me as an accountability partner is that you can also use the emails as a way to plan ahead for the actions you want to take to achieve your goal.
By planning out your email campaign with yourself, you're also creating a concrete plan for getting to your goal.
3. Get an Accountability Partner
Last week I started facilitating the Business Leadership Academy I run for a local Chamber of Commerce. In the first session I have participants identify their leadership goals for the year and then what they want to achieve between now and our session next month. Then I have them partner with someone else to talk about how they can be accountability partners for each other. You can do this, too.
Find someone who is also working on some personal/professional goals and spend some time talking with each other about what those goals are, your timeline for completion and actions you want to take.
Then work out how you can each hold the other accountable for achieving your goals.
Maybe you will schedule a weekly or bi-weekly check-in phone call with each other to talk about progress. Or you can set up a system for emailing and checking in.
It can be easy to blow off our accountability to ourselves when we are the only people aware of progress, or the lack thereof. But if we have to report in to another person, that takes accountability to another level.
I'm working with an intern right now who is also building up her business. She told me that she's gotten more done in the past month to move her business forward than in the 6 months prior simply because she doesn't want to have to tell me that she didn't do anything to work on her business when we have our bi-weekly calls.
Having a partner can provide not only inspiration and motivation, but also a sense of responsibility to another person that can make the difference between action and letting things fall through the cracks.
4. Start a Mastermind Group
If you want to take accountability to a whole other level, especially on an ongoing basis, consider starting a Mastermind Group.
This is a group of 3-5 people who share a desire to work on achieving personal/professional goals together.
Using a group to achieve goals expands both your network of potential supports and connections, as well as your access to resources and information. And if you think disappointing one person feels bad, try reporting to a group that you made no progress on your goals!
If you want to use a Mastermind group, this tends to be a longer sort of commitment to working together, so you would only want to go this route if you really want to participate in this level of accountability and support. If you are serious about achieving your goals, though, this can be one of your most potent sources of support and accountability.
Building in intentional accountability strategies is key to achieving any goal. These are just a few suggestions for making yourself more accountable to yourself.