It may come across as a little clinical, but being accountable is one of the most liberating experiences I’ve had while running my own business. I like to think of accountability like a river: the river would be but a deluge were it not for it’s banks and it’s bed. For the river to flow fluidly and effectively, it must have some boundaries.
For me accountability is about setting myself a goal or challenges and then having some mechanisms to help me stay on track– or banks to my freedom. These boundaries can be self regulated or externally regulated- either way though they are there to support my output and momentum.
Working alone from home most of the time it can be very challenging, distracting and at times isolating. To overcome this I have tried to build in accountablity into my weekly routine. When I have let this slip I notice a huge reduction not just in my creativity and productivity, but also in morale and mood.
So, here a few ways to work with accountability- both self regulated and externally, with some tips for working with an accountability partner…
Deadlines are key. Create as many small deadlines as you can by breaking down projects into smaller chunks. As much as possible communicate those deadlines to others. And when you reach a deadline, celebrate or mark it in some way. Marking it helps you to have a feeling of momentum or achievement. Depending on the milestone, the celebration can be a simple as going for a walk or stopping for a cup of tea.
Create regular communications
A weekly blog, a monthly newsletter, a regular podcast or a consistent video release date- having an editorial calendar can help to keep you externally accountable to an readership or support base. Having to produce regular content builds in rhythm and structure to your week and keeps you connected with your clients and network.
Make your goals visible and check in with them on at least a weekly basis. I have mine written up on a A3 sheet of paper which I keep close to my current workspace, and share them with my accountability buddies…
By far one of the most powerful things I have done is work with accountability buddy. This is someone- usually a friend- who agrees to check in with me on a regular basis (generally once a week) and I with them. We share our goals, check in with our momentum and help to keep each other on track. They act as a supportive, listening ear but also someone to challenge, nudge and remind me of what I am are capable of. Importantly they help me see my blindspots and some of the things that I am are overlooking. Ideally we have a good laugh too…
It is important to choose the right person tough, as not all friends will ‘get it’. For myself, a fellow creative or social entrepreneur works best for me; someone who is on a similar path and working on their own big vision.
Here are a few tips for choosing a working with an accountability buddy..
Check in at regularly time slots
Approach it professionally. Especially if you are working with a close friend, treat your accountability arrangement like you would a regular business meeting. Arrive early. Prepare. Stick to the time allocated- this means it is more likely to continue. If you are working with a friend, for instance, but each time to meet it runs on for hours and hours, you can end up regretting the arrangement as you may feel it is distracting from family time or other work time.
You can choose to meet on Skype, in person, or a mixture of both. You may find that at the beginning of your arrangement checking in weekly works best, but then it might move to every two weeks. Keep having conversations about what is working and what is not, reviewing and adapting as you go.
Have a pilot period
Again, especially if you are working with a friend, try it out for a short time first- maybe a three month timeframe. After the agreed timeframe review and see how you are both getting on. Always prioritise friendship. If you arrangement is getting in the way of that, maybe you are not right for each other as accountably buddies but perfect for each other as friends!
Work with your big vision
Let your buddy know your big dream or vision. Let then know what you really really want. Let them in on the secret desire… because they can help to remind you want it is your are working for, especially on days when you feel lost or lacking traction. Your buddy can raise the flag of your future and remind you it is there for the taking.
Agree parameters upfront
Agree with your accountability partner what you are seeking support on. Maybe you want advice on your business model- but maybe you don’t. Maybe you want their input on the design of your website, but maybe you don’t. Unsolicited feedback is some of the most unproductive kinds of feedback and can really deaden a relationship. Working with an accountability buddy doesn’t have to be license to critique everything. So be clear on the kind of support you are seeking on how you want that support to be given.
Avoid complaining (too much!)
We all have bad days. One of the advantages of working with an accountability partner is to have someone to travels the ups and downs with, but if it becomes a regular moan-fest, then it is a joy and momentum killer. Focus on solutions. One of the most powerful questions I know is; ‘what is your elegant next step’. It dilutes drama and shifts things into proactive and productive mode…
Ask proactive questions
Your accountability partner can help you see things you are not seeing. Here are a few questions which may come in handy:
- what am I not seeing?
- where are the gaps?
- what are my blindspots?
- are there additional opportunities you see?
- who/ what else should I be consulting?
- how else can my thinking be challenged on this?
So, how can you create some accountability for yourself? Think about who you may choose and what would be good parameters for your buddy arrangement…
Maybe I can help too…
If you are looking for an accountability buddy, then perhaps we are a good fit? I have a new coaching package which is designed to get you clear on your commitments and keep you on track. Check out ‘Accountability Buddy’ here, and if you are interested let me know, we can arrange a preliminary chat and take it from there…
If you are in the Dublin or Cork regions of Ireland you may also be interested in Thrive School– a 6 month training programme for creative and social entrepreneurs, freelancers, doers and trailblazers! As part off the programme we build in an accountability structure, working with two other peers over the course of the programme. Thrive School is launching again in Dublin and Cork in October. Find out more over here…
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