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The Science of Increasing Productivity: The Power of Accountability

Today we'll be discussing the importance of maintaining motivation, and the value of being accountable to someone for your goals. When you're highly motivated to do something, your level of productivity goes up dramatically. If you want to stay motivated long term to do something difficult, sometimes you need a little help. Case in point: I could never get myself to exercise in the morning, but then I hired a personal trainer to come to my bedroom every morning and wake me up—by licking my face. No matter what the weather, my Golden Retriever personal trainer insists, we go for a walk. She is my secret weapon for helping me get daily morning exercise. Without her help, I'd be a sleepy blob each morning, but with her help, I've been turned into a morning jogger. Considering how much I hate exercise, my Golden Retriever has managed to pull off a minor miracle. Such is the power of accountability.

You know, if you want to move consistently towards your goals, it's a tremendous help to become_ accountable_ to someone each day or each week. Think about it. Programs such as Weight Watchers or Alcoholics Anonymous testify to the power of accountability. When you know someone is going to check in on your progress, it somehow stimulates you towards action. I have a regular accountability partner, and we check in with each other once a week to see if we actually completed the commitments we said we'd do by the end of the week. Our weekly meetings only take five minutes or less, yet those meetings and the accountability that comes from them has led to a bigger increase in productivity than anything else I've ever done.

No one likes to be seen as a failure, so when you tell people what your commitments are, you instantly become more motivated to complete those tasks. Knowing that you're accountable to this person can make a world of difference. If you find this weekly accountability works well for you, consider continuing it with the same person each week. Perhaps they will also give you a list of things they plan to complete by the end of the week.

I've done this process for over two decades with the same friend, and it has changed both of our lives. Every Tuesday morning at 8 am, we have a three-minute phone call. It goes something like this, "Hey bob, how'd you do on your list? 100%? Great job. I actually missed one item. I promised I'd make 10 sales calls, and I only made eight. As we agreed, because I broke a promise, I'm going to send you $5 via PayPal for my missed agreement. I just emailed you my new list of things I'll complete by the end of next week before our call. I'll talk to you next Tuesday. Have a great week…”

As you can see from this sample phone conversation, if either of us breaks an agreement, we have to pay the other person $5 for each broken promise. Nowadays, because I'm cheap, I almost never break an agreement. You can choose to add a penalty for missed agreements or not. It's up to you, but it does add a little more motivation into the mix.

So right now, sit up, take a deep breath, and let it out with a slow sigh. Great.

Okay, to make use of the value of accountability, I want you to write down a list of two to four items you promise to complete by exactly one week from today. It might be a project at work, an amount of exercise you plan to do, an amount of sales calls you plan to make; it's fully up to you. On my list this week is a promise to make ten sales calls, meditate for half an hour minimum each day, and clean my office and desk for at least one hour.

Once you make your list, make a copy of this list and give one copy to a friend, mate, or co-worker, and put the other list on your desk. Finally, ask your accountability partner to ask you how you did with your list of items a week from today.

This simple format takes only a few minutes to do and yet can lead to amazing results over time. So, right now, think of someone you can give a list of promises to for the week, make up your list of 2 to 4 things you want to accomplish that you normally wouldn't get to, and give your accountability partner your list. I even suggest you set a time on your calendar next week to go over how you did. If your friend, mate, or co-worker wants you to help them be accountable for a list of items to complete in a week, so much the better. You can even enlist them with the idea by having them listen to this recording. By having this structure in place, you may find you can consistently achieve your promises week after week. Make your list now…and when that's done, make sure you give your list to someone who will hold you accountable exactly one week from now.

In our next session, I'll discuss the problem of procrastination and offer you a great technique for easily overcoming this common affliction.

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Written by

Jonathan Robinson