One of the most important aspects of goal achievement is the accountability system. You must be accountable to yourself, first and foremost, through your personal goal tracking. But sometimes you aren’t enough motivation for yourself. Sometimes you need an audience to get the proper kick in the pants.
Thus, accountability can move from the personal realm to the public one. After all, if you’re the only person who knows that you have a goal, you are the only person who can hound you about chasing it. If you tell the world (or more likely your friends and family) about a goal and ask them to help keep you accountable, there is suddenly a new pressure to actually follow through with the things you say you are going to do. This is why deadlines and joint pacts serve as better motivators than the self: the external world’s judgment is a powerful tool of motivation.
NaNoWriMo used to have a preparation gimmick where they would encourage participants to write a letter to their friends and families, telling them about the project they wanted to tackle and asking them to help nudge the participants along. You can do that too, of course, or just talk to some close friends personally, asking them to keep an eye on you. (And you can offer to do the same for them–more on that soon.)
There are also accountability and challenge groups for every imaginable goal. I am part of 10 Minute Novelists’ 365k Club, which requires me to update my progress on writing 1,000 words per day frequently. There’s also Book-in-a-Week. Facebook is a great place to find groups that are striving for the same goals that you are, as are the forums of websites related to the subject area. (Goodreads for bookworms, Bodybuilder.com for fitness junkies, etc.)
But I have found that blogging is an equally effective accountability tool. If you announce your goals via blog, and better yet, do periodic blog posts to report on your progress, you acquire the support of friends and family who love you enough to read your blog, as well as people in the blogging community who read your posts because for some reason they find them interesting. Even if no one reads your blog, the proof of your actions is up there, out in the world, for anybody to see if they wanted to.
Blog posts are incredibly versatile. You can use qualitative or quantitative data, progress photos, and more. You can describe or review the books you’ve read, if your goal is to read more books. You can post your word count or how much time you spent editing, if your goal is to write more. You can post WIP photos of crafts or update photos of your physical fitness alongside other descriptors.
Best of all, blogging about your goals makes you truly think about them. You have a chance to reflect on what you’ve done, what you haven’t done, and how to improve. You can figure out what’s going wrong or what’s going right. A blog can be a public journal–a place to work out your thoughts.
I use my blog as an accountability tool through my (bi)weekly updates. I usually post a screenshot of the Excel spreadsheet I use to track my writing and sum up how much I’ve written and why. I also describe books that I’ve read and highlights of my week (because it’s fun!).
Here are some guiding principles for using blogging as an accountability tool:
- Uniformity. Coming up with a standard format for your periodic updates will make them less like diary rambling and more like a data set. Later on, this will also make it easier for you to see your progress. (You will see, if you look at my update posts, that it has taken me a while to settle on a consistent format!)
- Consistency. Decide on a schedule to report your progress and stick to it.
- Community. Using tags on your blogs and sharing them on social media will help you build a community that has an interest in your achievement of your goals. So will engaging with other people who are blogging about their goals.
- Reflection. Don’t just report–reason. If you’ve done badly this week, try to figure out why. Make a resolution to fix your behavior next week.
- Growth. If you find yourself easily achieving your goals within set time periods, step it up a notch. Always be on the lookout for ways to help you achieve your goals. If you’re a writer, maybe that’s Camp NaNoWriMo. If you’re an aspiring yogi, maybe that’s a thirty-day yoga challenge. If you build a community, they will send challenges your way.
- Fun. There’s no use in any of this if you don’t enjoy it. Spruce up your update posts with photos, “highlights of the week,” or pictures of cats doing funny things. Whatever makes you happy.
Enjoy your weekend. I’ll be back on Monday with the letter C.