What is Accountability? And How to do it.

Accountability is the obligation of an individual to account for their activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.

It’s this idea that we should hold people (or ourselves) to an expectation.

The term accountability gets used a lot in a business setting, often by managers who want to crack the whip and make their employees work harder. But it’s also critically important in following through on your own goals.

Sometimes, I set a goal for myself. I think to myself, “Self. We are going to do the dishes tonight." Unfortunately, I also know myself. I don’t follow through on my goals alllllll the time. Why should this time be any different?

Sometimes the motivation isn’t there. And sometimes our discipline reserves are just empty, and we can’t make ourselves take action.

This is where we can weaponize accountability against the forces of laziness in ourselves. We have to set that expectation and responsibility for ourselves, and accept the consequences if that expectation is not met.

How do we be accountable for ourselves?

Here are some ways that have worked for me:

Create Micro Goals

Also known as: a ToDo List

Our brains have trouble dealing with big huge projects. We can’t hold all the work in our heads all at once, so it starts to leak out in the form of todo lists. Most people have trouble making lists that are helpful, because those lists aren’t really broken down from the bigger items. Try and systematically go through your huge goals and break them down into smaller ones.

Public Commitment

This used to be the nuclear option. Back in the day, standing in the town square and shouting I WILL DO X BY FRIDAY would have put you under serious pressure.

The modern version is sharing on social media. Since the social distance between you and the people on social media might be way higher or way lower than that town square, your results may vary.

Personal Commitment

A.K.A telling your family and friends.

Again, for some people this works really well. The two main issues are:

  1. How well will your family/friends actually hold you accountable, or will they just let you off the hook because they like you so much.
  2. For some people, telling others about your goals has the same effect on the brain as actually accomplishing the goal. The brain is a fickle thing.

Put Money on the Line

Take some cash, and set it aside. If you don’t complete this goal, that money goes to a charity. There are some tools out there that can kick this up a notch and actually lock that money up and verify if you actually met your goal.

Actually Reward your Accomplishments

Some people (myself included) love to blow past wins and spend all our energy bemoaning the things that still aren’t done yet. Take some time to look back and actually appreciate how far you’ve come.

Do One Thing at a Time

Are you one of those people who can do a whole bunch of things all at once?

Trick question. Those people don’t exist

Actually take a second, close out of things that aren’t related to your goal, and focus. This is another muscle that needs to be built up over time, but it’ll come.

Find an Accountability-buddy

Go out and find someone that is trying to do the same thing that you are. Partner up and make sure the other person is following through.

//Self promote

I run a club called the Weekly Project Club. It’s basically an accountability group for people learning programming who also solve real problems.

//End self promote


The nice thing is, over time, you can build trust with yourself. If you get into the habit of setting expectations, and actually following through on them, then you actually follow through more often. If you become the person that does follow because in the past you have been the person who follows through, then it’ll all get easier.

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