Five ways to harness the productivity-enhancing power of accountability


Eight months ago I had an idea. I thought it would be great to create an online quiz that helps people figure out their biggest block to productivity. Eight months ago!

So why did it take until last month to actually make that happen?

One word: Accountability.

When the idea existed only in my head, I had no reason to do it (beyond it being a great idea). There was always something more important or urgent to be done, so the quiz never made it to the top of my list.

Yet when I got some accountability, creating a quiz shifted from being a ‘good idea’ to something I’d committed to in front of another human being. If I didn’t follow through, someone else would know about it. And being viewed as the sort of person who doesn’t do what they say they’ll do? For me, not an option!

How do you know if accountability could help you?

Accountability doesn’t work for everyone, but for those of us who are great at meeting external expectations but not so great if we have nobody to answer to, it can work a treat.  

Do you recognise yourself in any of the following statements?

  • I don’t like letting people down.
  • It bothers me if someone else sees that I haven’t followed through with a commitment.
  • I work better under pressure.
  • I sometimes find it hard to get motivated.
  • I need a deadline, otherwise it won’t get done.

If so, and you’re fed up of not making the progress you’d like, maybe it’s time you introduced some accountability into your life!

There are many ways to go about this, so it’s worth experimenting to find what works for you.

Here are my top five ways of harnessing the productivity-enhancing power of accountability:

  1. Get an accountability buddy
    Find someone else who’s looking for accountability and agree to keep tabs on each other. Perhaps a weekly call is enough for you to keep each other on track, or maybe you’d prefer to keep in touch via email or WhatsApp at the end of every day. Agree on a format that works for you, and then start sharing your intentions and watch your productivity soar.
  2. Forfeits
    Have some fun finding a forfeit that would motivate you to get things done! For instance, you could commit to cleaning your partner’s car or allowing your best friend to set you up with a blind date if you don’t do the thing you said you would do. Or how’s this for a genius idea, taken from Gretchen Rubin’s books? A mother told her son that if he didn’t see her exercising every day he didn’t have to do his homework! You could use forfeits with your accountability buddy, or enlist a friend or family member to keep you honest.
  3. Make a public declaration
    Take to the ‘airwaves’ and tell everyone what you’re going to achieve today/this week/this month. One example of this is the ‘Accountability Corner’ in my Facebook group. Each week I invite the group to tell us what they’d like to achieve that week. Then I check in with them to see how they got on. Knowing you’ll have to explain yourself if you don’t do it can be a great motivator!
  4. Work with a coach or mentor
    This is a really powerful way of getting accountability (as well as expert advice and guidance) for developing your business or tackling an area of personal/professional development. This one comes with an added driver: usually you’ll have invested money in your coach/mentor so will want to get as much value as you can from your time working together. Financial motivation plus accountability to another human being who has your best interests at heart? A double whammy! (Accountability from my own coach is what drove me to complete my quiz.)
  5. Tell your audience what you’re working on
    This one is genius! If you’ve been wanting to create something in your business but never seem to get around to it, tell your audience you’re working on it. As well as giving you the accountability you need to get it done, this can also create a buzz amongst your followers and help you see if there’s an appetite for what you’re doing. If you’re feeling really brave, you could even start selling the thing you want to develop before it exists! I’ve seen a few highly respected business owners do that lately and it’s worked beautifully. You’d need to be clear from the outset about what you’re selling and how it would benefit people, but that’s a good place to start when you’re creating something new, right?

When you run your own business there’s often nobody to answer to but yourself (and your clients…but I’m guessing you have no problem meeting their expectations!). Getting some external accountability, whether from a friend, business buddy, mentor or the wider community really can light a fire under you!

So, do you need some accountability to make the progress you’d like in your business? Which of my five suggestions appeals to you the most? Do you have any great ideas for forfeits that might work for you?

I’d love to hear whether you have your own ways of seeking accountability, so do let me know in the comments below.

(And if you have a friend who’d make a great accountability buddy, please do pass this on!)

Do you know YOUR biggest productivity block?

Take the quiz to find out!