Do you ever promise yourself that you’ll do something, only to let it slide?
Many of us have good intentions that we don’t act upon.
One way to clarify your commitments and to take action towards your important goals is to involve other people.
Find an Accountability Partner or Community
A good accountability partner should be able to ask you clarifying questions, offer you encouragement and support, and hold you to your commitments. Depending on your personality type and the kinds of goals you want to work towards, you may want a partner who is primarily supportive or one who will be more firm with you if you start to back away from your commitments.
Several online communities exist to help motivate and track personal goals. 43 Things has been active for several years and allows you to see the goals that others have set and comment on them to provide support and advice. The iOS goal tracking app Lift helps you track your daily actions and combines that with social interaction and community features, like productivity challenges. The web-based goal-tracking tool Joe’s Goals also has some social features and badges to announce your progress with your daily or weekly habits. Many academics on Twitter share goals with each other and support each other through writing or grading “sprints.”
State Your Goal
Whether your goal is to write 5 pages this week, finish a stack of grading, or go to the gym at 6:00 am tomorrow, articulating it to someone else makes it more real. This can be as simple as emailing your accountability partner at the beginning of the week. Each partner should ask clarifying questions to help ensure the goal is specific and measurable: i.e., if you say “I want to exercise more this week,” I might say “How many days do you want to exercise, and for how long?”
Over time, your accountability partner or community can help you get a reality check on your goals. Sometimes the gap between intention and action occurs because our expectations are out of line with what we can realistically accomplish.
Having a regular check in with your accountability partner about the progress you’ve made towards your stated goal helps motivate you towards taking action, so that you’ll have something to report, and also helps increase your awareness of what you’re spending your time on. Depending on your goals, your check-ins might be weekly, daily, or even more frequent. Sending and receiving a quick email or text message that says “Wrote for 45 minutes this morning ...how about you?” can be a great boost to your morale.
Goal-setting is a process that requires frequent recalibrations. Just as the same goal won’t work for everyone, the same goal may not work for you every week of the year. Working with an accountability partner, whether that’s a friend, colleague, coach, mentor, or online community, provides a structure and feedback that facilitates making those adjustments.
One of the best things about sharing your goals with someone in a productive accountability relationship is that you can celebrate your success with someone who can really appreciate what it took for you to write those pages or get to the gym at 6:00 am three days this week. Celebrating the small and large successes makes goal setting and goal achievement much more enjoyable.
How do you keep yourself accountable for your goals? Let us know in the comments!
[Creative Commons licensed photo from flickr user donjd2.]