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.

How to Focus in a Crazy Busy World

Ask anyone how they’re doing and you’ll most likely get a response like ‘I’m crazy busy’.  In today’s fast-paced world we’re expected to do more in less time!  Not only are we expected to do more, we’re also dealing with a lot more information today, and with all that busyness going around it’s getting harder and harder to focus on the important stuff.

Last week I covered the topic of multitasking and how it’s affecting our productivity (in a negative way); this week I have some tips to help you boost your focus.

Focus is more important than intelligence


5 Tips that Boost Focus

  1. Have a Goal.  If you don’t know what your goals are, how do you know what you’re supposed to be doing?  By having a goal (big or small) it’s easier to maintain focus on accomplishing that goal.
  2. Organize Your Space.  Having a messy or even busy workspace is distracting.  By clearing your space you’ll have less distractions.  That doesn’t mean you need to have an über organized workspace, just one that you’re comfortable in – it’s all about You!  Tip:  Less is better.
  3. Brain Dump.  Stop trying to remember everything – always have a (paper or digital) notebook to jot down notes or stuff you need to remember.  By clearing your headspace, you’ll have more space to focus on the important stuff.  My favorite tool for this is my Evernoteit’s with me wherever I go!  
  4. Focus Time.  If you’re like me, once you start working on something you go non-stop and that’s not always a good thing.  Studies have shown that it’s important to take breaks throughout the day.  In his book ‘The way we’re working isn’t working‘, Tony Schwartz recommends doing three 90-minute laser focus sessions throughout the day and taking in between breaks.  Another great technique is the Pomodoro Technique where you set short focus times with intermittent breaks throughout the day:  Start your timer for a specific amount of time and get to work – focusing only on that one task at hand – once the timer goes off you get a certain amount of time to take a break – use this time to get off your chair and do something different (go for a walk, meditate, stretch, do something creative, …)  Once the timer goes off again, it’s time to get to work.  Just look up Pomodoro timers in the app store.  I’ve used the Pomodoro Timer app and like it – even though their recommended 15-minute focus sessions are too short for me – I adjust them to my workstyle, which is more like 45-minute focus time sessions.  Try it out and see what works best for you!
  5. TIO!  Turn it off!  When working on important projects make sure you turn off any distractions on your…
    • Phone:  Put it on silent for a while – you can return calls and messages later.
    • Email:  Unless your project depends on it, turn off email notifications – or better yet, shut it off completely – the emails can wait!   Remember, emails are typically other people’s priorities – get your stuff done first, then worry about the everyone else’s stuff.
    • Social Media:  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, … they’re all screen suckers!  Limit the amount of times you go into social media – go in twice or three times a day and set a limit on the amount of time you stay there.  If you’re still having a hard time getting off social media:  There are apps on the market that will only allow you to be on certain sites for so long.  Tip:  Avoid temptation and turn off notifications for your social media not disturb
    • Shut the door:  Do you work at an office or at home where others can just barge in?  Close the door and put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign.
    • Your TV.  I’ve been guilty of this – watching TV while working on a project – and this is a huge distraction!  Rather than taking 30 minutes to finish a particular task, you’ll spend 90 minutes getting that same task done – and most likely not nearly as good (see my blog on multitasking & productivity).

Still having a hard time focusing on that project?  Walk away!  Sometimes all it takes is to walk away – go do something fun or start something else and come back to this later – or better yet, tomorrow.  Sometimes all it takes is to take a break and walk away – you’ll feel refreshed and focused to get it done!

Do you have any tips that help you stay focused?  Please share!