How To Get Things Done That You Just Don’t Do


Among the most common complaint of people in business is that it feels like there’s never enough time. There are battles between good intentions and procrastination (or prioritization if you think you’re not procrastinating). We know we need to be accountable but few people have a structure for Accountability, only consequences.

            For good intentions, most of us know things we could do and have some stronger feelings about what we should do. Generally, we get done what we must do though sometimes our “musts” are often left to the last minute.

For procrastination, you may be lazy, unmotivated or a charter member of the “too many distractions” club! You may avoid doing certain things for any untold number of reasons, rational or subconscious, there are myriad reasons our intentions and actions don’t end up in alignment.

In Time Management training we go deeper into the causes and defenses for distractions and prioritization strategy but even with all that knowledge success comes down to one thing: You have to do the things that need to be done! The strategy for that can be summed up in one word: Accountability. We appreciate taking responsibility for our responsibility but most of us find rationalizations, excuses or reasons why things don’t get done. The curse of self is that no matter how strong or independent we are in thought and action almost all of us benefit from a team structure of some kind. Like herd animals we evolved into communities for a reason. Think of how many social, professional and informal groups you belong to.

The success saving marriage of community and the task of doing is an Accountability Group or having an Accountability Partnership. This is a commitment of 2 or more people to share what they know they need to do for success, declare their commitment then account for their actions.


How It Works

Whether you have one Accountability Partner or a group (3-5 ideal) the structure is the same. The participants make it clear to each other what their definition of success is. That is accompanied by “why” it matters to both identify the motivations and show the stakes. The goal is to lift everyone by feeling compelled to their own commitments, it can’t be a group bitch session with sympathizers enabling procrastination, maybe to commiserate their own yet it is not judgment, so unlike talking to your boss (even if that’s you), you don’t have to lie.

Once there is clarity on success and motivation there needs to be required actions identified and shared that are critical components of that success. These actions should be identified in quantity and be put on a calendar. They are not results, they are activities that drive results. It may be one kind of action that needs to be done 10 times in a week, or a day, or it may be 10 activities that need to be done once a week. Makes little difference other than you identify them and then share that commitment to the partner/group.

For tracking I give clients a simple Excel model that lists the actions vertically and horizontally shows the days of the week with a box for planned and a tally of done next to it. By keeping this journal daily it helps you structure your week. If you were supposed to do something twice each on Monday and Tuesday and did none then you have to find four opportunities the rest of the week to reach your tally goal.

Sharing plans and results regularly, weekly is usually the preferred timing, builds a culture of accomplishment. The better partnerships assist each other by questioning first why it is believed those actions work and what might prevent them from occurring, giving a reality check. The questions help give confidence in the objective and in this philosophy it matters less how well you do something, it is that you do it. A person with great skill may accomplish with three actions what a novice may take ten, but this is personal to you, improvement comes but what matters is you commit to yourself and to others what you will do in a measured short span of time, track it and account for your activity results. You alter your actions as you measure success.

The dynamic of the weekly gathering where each person accounts for their intended actions and their actual results should be accompanied by sharing “lessons learned.” When there are shortcomings excuses are often preloaded to expound but the partner/group helps most when they question, without judgment, why the number of actions was missed, what did they try to get back on schedule, how will they make up for this next week? etc. When you know your b.s. is going to get called you self-edit it. A supporting question that yields results, “Is there anything I/we can do to help?”  This sharing of support gets reciprocated so everyone gets value.

The psychology of community is strong. When you respect your partner/group you’ll prefer to come to the next gathering with accomplishments not excuses. That simplification works because we usually worry more about disappointing others compared to excusing ourselves.

Try to find an Accountability Partner or create an Accountability Group with these simple principles. Keep the weekly meeting short and sweet but fill it with congratulations and support and always looking forward to see how you can improve your performance against your own commitment you chart every day (especially the commitment to meet!). You will both improve what you get done and better face reality to find the marriage of your desire for your definition of success and what you do to get it and removes the notion of “hope” being a strategy.


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