Create accountability to achieve your goals


We often set goals that involve only ourselves. There’s no line manager watching and waiting for you to submit your task. You don’t need to report to anyone on your progress. These goals are also referred to by Stephen Covey as the "important, but not urgent" tasks. They are important because they often have a long-term impact on your own life as well as those around you (even though they may not realise it). But they are not urgent; you can move the deadline out indefinitely. In fact, the deadline is completely up to you.

Think about tasks such as writing a book. It is important because it will boost your profile within a certain topic area, and the added credibility may create other opportunities. It may also affect your family because the royalties from the book will give them a better life (even though they may not know it yet). But there is often no deadline. You can write it this year, next year or in 10 years. It is up to you to decide.

Depending on your situation, writing up your dissertation can also be classified as an important but not urgent task. Especially if you have a full year ahead of you to write up, there are no interim external deadlines that you need to adhere to, and your supervisor trusts you to take responsibility for the management of your timelines.

Other examples of important but not urgent tasks may be writing a blog post for a blog host in your area of speciality on an interesting case you dealt with, or maybe you want to update your CV and start sending it out to companies now that your doctoral degree is coming to an end.

These are the type of tasks that can do with a bit of accountability and creating accountability can help you move forward towards your goals and dreams. They are all important tasks, but they are not necessarily urgent, or not yet. Often, by the time these tasks become urgent, the consequences of not having given attention to them earlier start to show, and we feel that awful feeling of regret.

If you are good at adhering to your own internal accountability measures, keep going. Create a timeline. Block time out in your schedule to work on your goal. Decide how you’ll reward yourself, and take time out to celebrate each milestone. Being accountable to ourselves should be our primary source of accountability.

If you are not good at complying with your own plans, create external accountability. Tell a friend or colleague of your plan. Appoint them as an accountability partner. Get a mentor or coach. Schedule a meeting with a role player.

For example, schedule a meeting with a potential publisher. Schedule it in advance so you have enough time to refine the book proposal before the meeting. This meeting date will create accountability for you to put together the book proposal.

Set milestones with dates for your dissertation and agree with your supervisor that you’ll send your work for review at each of these time points. Often, just knowing that someone is waiting for something you committed to deliver is enough to motivate you to push through.

Email the blog host and commit to writing that blog post by a certain date.

Tell a friend or someone who cares deeply about you that you will email your CV to five companies by the end of the next month. State that you will report back to them once this has been done. Add this commitment to your calendar. Of course, you can also consider appointing a career coach, as that will also create accountability.

Use accountability to move your goals closer to the goalpost.

Photo by Monstera Production.

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