The 5 Ws of Accountability

Once a week I meet with Whitney Ryan for our accountability session and I better have my sh*t together for that call or else!  Há, in all seriousness, we get together to discuss last week’s goals, if we reached them (if we didn’t – why) and we then go over next week’s goals.  By having these calls, not only do you set serious goals, you also make sure you get them done.  Sure, there are times when things fall through the crack, but by having someone there, you make sure this does not become a continuous habit.  And it’s not just to have someone there to ‘reprimand‘ you when you screw up, but more so to have that support to figure out your challenges and ways to overcome them.  And when your strengths & weaknesses compliment each other you have a great fit!  Whitney, thank you for kicking my butt every Friday!

Having goals, a plan, and setting up time to focus on them is key.  Having an accountability partner or group is really the icing on the cake!  Some people hire a business or life coach, others find an accountability partner or group to hold each other accountable.  It can be done to reach a personal goal, fitness goal, business goal, a project, or just make sure you’re getting stuff done every day – the important stuff.

Over the years I’ve been in several of these partnerships and I’ve hired coaches – some with amazing results, some were OK, and some just ended up being a fiasco.  The key to having the right partnership is to think and plan ahead of time.  To help you look into starting or joining one, I’ve broken it down into the 5 Ws:

  1. Why – Why do you want to start or join a partnership?  First and foremost, be clear to yourself why you want/need to do this.  Once you start looking for partner(s), have that discussion.  You don’t all have the have the same goal, as long as it’s something you can support each other in.  It’s also a good idea to discuss your strengths and weaknesses.  Be open – be able to ask for help – and be willing to support and help others.
  2. WhatWhat are the goals of your sessions?  Be clear on what your goals are for your sessions together.  What are you going to cover during your sessions?  Are you going to track these sessions with notes or recordings?  Are you going to have accountability forms that you fill out and possibly track?  Decide and set up a structure for your sessions, because without one you can easily get sidetracked and you’ll leave the meeting feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything.
  3. WhoWho will be your partner in crime?  This is the most important ‘W’ of them all!  Make sure you find the right fit for you and the specific goal(s) you’re trying to accomplish – they don’t have to be in the same industry as you or have the exact same goals, as long as they understand what you’re trying
    to accomplish.  Some things to look for:

    • Say ‘Yes’ to people who are typically:
      • Positive & motivated
      • Take responsibility seriouslyaccountability-right-fit
      • Challenge you to do better
      • Are consistent
    • Say ‘No’ to people who are typically:
      • Late or no shows
      • Always have an excuse
      • Complain or are typically negative
      • Just not motivated
      • Or just don’t ‘get’ what it is you do or want to accomplish.
  4. WhereWhere do you do these sessions?  If you work in the same office or area you can meet for coffee of course, but in today’s digital world, you can practically meet anywhere.  For example:
    • By phone, FaceTime, Skype, …
    • By screenshare or webinar if you need to share something (Zoom, GoToMeeting, …)
    • Via email
    • In an online forum (a private group in LinkedIn or Facebook)
  5. WhenWhen do you do all this accountability?    This depends on the type of goals you have and the availability of everyone.  Sessions can be daily, weekly, monthly, or even quarterly.  Whatever you decide do them consistently.  And remember, you can mix it up – for example do weekly calls and quarterly in-person meetings or daily online check-ins and weekly calls.  I personally like doing my sessions on Friday, it’s perfect timing to close my week and plan for the following week.

All this prepping may seem like a lot, but it’s better to prepare and have the right set up, because if you don’t you may end up wasting everyone’s time and not accomplish what you started – which obviously is counterproductive.

What has your experience been in accountability partnerships?  Did you like the set up?  Were the sessions too structured, too flexible, or kinda perfect?  How did you meet?  I’d love to hear from you.

Are You a Digital or Paper Planner?

‘Is it OK to use a Paper Planner?’  I get this question a lot, especially from the ‘paper planners’.  Some either feel they’re ‘old fashioned‘ or they get comments from others that they’re ‘out of date’.  My response?  Do what works for YOU!

Over the years I’ve seen many people go back to their paper planner after years of trying to use their digital planner – it just wasn’t doing it for them.  Find out what works for YOU, that’s all that matters.

Remember, we have options.  With today’s high tech world there are a lot of neat apps available at our finger tips and there are a lot of great paper planners out there as well.  You just have to figure out what works best for your professional needs and your personal style.

My personal preference is the digital planner, because of all its advantages, but I do still love my pen & paper so I use a combination.

Let’s look at some of the pros, cons, and options out there.


The Paper Planner

The Paper Planner

Finding the right one might take some time and money, but it’s worth every minute and penny if you find the right one.  I personally like the customizable ones, where you can add your own pages to it – but not everyone has that same need.

Some of the pros for having a paper planner:

  • Keep your pen & paper – yes, some of us really love using pen & paper;
  • A huge plus is that we memorize things better as we write – it stimulates the cells at the base of our brain (called the reticular system);
  • No devices or internet needed;
  • No need to freak when your phone plunges in the toilet or if you lose your data (even though a simple backup would be the solution for that of course – but that’s a whole other story);
  • No tiny keyboards or screens – yay!


Here are some great Paper planners:

  • The Planner Pad, recommended by Barbara Hemphill, is a great weekly planner that has an area for your events and appointments as well as your personal and professional tasks;
  • Erin Condren’s LifePlanner is super sexy (yeah I know – it’s a planner)  Not cheap, but she has a great selection of planners that you can customize the design;
  • M by Staples as shown in pictures above has a more professional & modern look to it.  You can purchase their calendar & add-ons to customize it to your needs… but the best part?  You can add your own pages to it – love it!
  • Franklin Covey has some great customizable planners as well;
  • Brendon Burchard’s 1-Page Productivity Planner is a great tool to add to your planner – it helps you stay on track of your goals and tasks (hint: this is where customizable planners come in play);Evernote Moleskine Planner
  • For Evernote users there’s the Moleskin Weekly Planner – a great way to combine your paper and digital versions.  With a quick shot you have all your notes in Evernote.  In a future blog I’ll post how to use Evernote as your Project Management tool!


Some things you want to look for when you’re thinking of getting a paper planner:

  • Size matters!  If you’re like me you’ll need a lot of space to write, so you’ll need to look for the bigger planners with more writing space inside your planner.  But if you don’t need all that space then small is the way to go;
  • What type of calendar do you need?  Monthly, weekly, daily, or a combination?
    • Monthly is great for getting a quick glance at your entire month, but you really can’t enter a lot of information in the small boxes;
    • Weekly is the way to go for managing your week and it gives you a bit more space to add appointments and notes;
    • Daily is great to manage your entire day and enter every detail in your time slots.  It does use up a lot of paper, so if you don’t need it – why waste paper?
  • Do you need an area for goals and tasks?  (My answer here is YES!)
  • What about an area for notes?  Do you just want to jot a few notes on your planner page, next to your calendar and tasks, or do you want a separate section for all of your notes?
  • Do you need dividers?  Or are colored sticky notes enough?
  • Do you need to have an area for contact information or business cards?
  • Do you need it to be customizable?  Meaning do you want to add your own sheets to the planner?  This is a must for me!


Nozbe tasks

The Digital Planner

Typically a digital planner will come in two parts:  Calendar & Project Management.  Some digital planners will have both in one, but most of the time you’ll have to manage these separately.

Having everything digital does have a huge advantage when you have a busy schedule, especially when you have to collaborate with others.  Some of the pros for using a digital planner:

  • All you need is your phone – no need to bring anything else along;
  • Simply edit/delete one or more events at the same time without needing an eraser or having that nasty white-out mess all over your page;
  • Quickly create recurring events with a click of a button (as opposed to have to write it over and over again in your paper planner);
  • Sync your events and to do’s with all your digital devices;
  • Quickly search for past and/or future events;
  • Attach important files that you’ll need for that appointment or task;
  • Instantly invite others to an appointment or meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page about the time and place of the event;
  • Integrate with your online map for quick & easy directions to your meeting;
  • Sync with an online scheduling system so that clients can make make an appointment with you online without having to call or email you (more on that in a future blog).


The most commonly used digital calendars are Outlook, Calendar, and Google.  As for your projects and tasks I prefer other systems that are created specifically for this.  Some great digital solutions:

  • Nozbe is based from the Getting Things Done system by David Allen.  You can quickly create Tasks, send your email into Nozbe, and add Tags (AKA contexts) to your Tasks.  For example, if one of your Tasks inside a Project involves going to the store you can add the tag ‘Errands’ to your Task. When you’re out and about you can pull up all ‘Errands’ to give you a quick rundown of what you need to do while on the road.
  • Asana is great if you work in teams – it’s a great collaboration and project management tool where you can organize all your projects, tasks and conversations in one place.  It’s also a great way to eliminate a lot of your emails within your team.
  • Evernote is also a great option for managing your projects and tasks.  I personally use Nozbe in collaboration with Evernote, but you can definitely use Evernote on its own as well.
  • Some other popular to do apps include:


Calendar ViewThe Combo Solution:

Want to have the best of both worlds?  Combine them!  Manage your appointments, events, and tasks in your digital solution and print out a weekly or daily calendar with your tasks for the day or week.

Just be careful when making changes for the day or week – you’ll have to make those changes in both planners (yep, you’re doing double work here).

How do I do it?  I manage everything digitally, but on busy days where I’m on the road a lot, I print out my schedule & tasks, so I can quickly jot down notes and check things off my list.  When back in the office I’ll just sync what’s needed and toss the rest.

This way I have the best of both worlds,  I can write notes and check tasks off my lists, but yet have everything synced and stored in my cloud.


Work The System!

So much for having this cool smart app or planner if it’s just sitting there looking ‘cool’, right?  Remember it’s not just about the tool – it’s the system you have in place AND the consistency that you use this system.  You really have to work it on a daily basis!

Do you have a favorite way of managing your calendar and tasks?  Please share, I’d love to hear from you.   Or do you have a questions?  Please post – together we can find a solution to these never-ending to do lists!