How to Build an Accountability System

You’re sitting by yourself.

There’s no one around.

And you know there is something that you should be doing.

You even wrote it down to remind yourself.

But you still can’t force yourself to do it.

What is wrong with you?

Now, now.

That’s the wrong way to think about it.

You don’t need willpower.

You need an accountability system.

My Writing Accountability System

I love to write. I really do.

Still, I found it a struggle to write every day, even thought I knew that I loved it.

So what did I do? I forced myself to write every day. But not in the way you think. This newsletter is the result of my accountability system.

You see, I knew that willpower couldn’t make me write every day with absolute certainty. So I created a daily newsletter about something that I’m absolutely passionate. I love writing, and I love mental health. Put the two together, and you have an accountability system.

I knew that if I created a daily newsletter and started to get subscribers, I would have to write every day. I wouldn’t want to let them down.

You might be thinking, but isn’t that a lot of pressure?

It is. But it’s a good kind of pressure. I like connecting with others in this way. It warms my heart. So it’s something that I’ve made time for. No excuses. I’ve convinced myself with my accountability system that there is just no way I would miss an email.

And sure, things happen. Life becomes chaotic. But my accountability system doesn’t dictate that I have to write at the same time every day. I just need to structure my days — or the nights before — in a way that allows me to get the writing done.

If you have a child, isn’t it the same way? You need to do whatever it takes to provide for that child, day in and day out. Now, I’m not trying to equate the value of this newsletter to the value of a child! What I’m saying is that it’s possible to increase the level of importance for anything that you do.

You just need the right accountability system.

So how do you go about creating one?

How to Create an Accountability System

To start, think about something that you actually want to do.

Accountability systems don’t work if you don’t really have an interest in the activity you’re trying to force yourself to do.

Make a list of three options you could potentially focus on for your brand-spanking-new accountability system. Got them? Ok, good?

Now you need your accountability mechanism.

You don’t need to make whatever you do public, but it certainly does help. Public accountability is the best kind of accountability. But if that’s simply not going to work for you, there are other options.

You could ask a friend or family member to hold you accountable. You could partner up with someone at work to make sure you’re doing what you need to do. A good accountability system is flexible.

Next, determine the cadence of your accountability system.

In other words, what’s your goal? How many times a week do you need to do this activity? Pick your ideal measure, and do whatever you can to make it happen. You’ll be surprised by how much you’re capable of when you have a solid system in place. Systems always trump willpower — remember that!

Then, take action!

Do not get stuck in planning mode. Give yourself a planning time limit. Maybe it’s one day. Maybe it’s a week, at the most. You will have no idea if this is what you want to do with your time if you don’t take action. And the earlier you take action the better. Action is where the learning comes from. Action is life’s greatest teacher.

So, let’s break it down one more time.

Here are the steps.

  1. Make a list of three options for your accountability system
  2. Decide on your accountability mechanism
  3. Determine the cadence of your accountability system
  4. Take action!

Easy right?

Now go ahead and try it.

Your mental health will improve if you use systems to simplify your life.