It’s not a deal with the devil, per say. More like a deal with myself—but the most demanding and hard-to-satisfy part of myself. The deal is that I will write one blog post per day, and spend an hour writing my novel each day. Non-negotiable. The first thing I do in the morning, before I answer an email, a text, or check client accounts.
It’s all about accountability, and that’s the theme of this blog post. My goals are about improving my writing (both fiction and non-fiction) and providing my clients with the best advice and support possible. Everyone’s goals are different: my clients’ goals are primarily to build their brands online and on social media. Regardless of our personal and professional goals, the bottom line is that if we don’t have accountability, we can’t succeed.
When you’re your own boss, and your goals are “prosonal” — a combination of professional and personal that every writer and entrepreneur experiences, you don’t have a boss guiding you and giving you deadlines. Actually, more accurately, you are the boss who is guiding and giving deadlines. Your gut is the President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board. It’s a big job, but somebody’s got to do it.
How do we hold ourselves accountable, especially when we’re creating something new and there are no milestones or checklists or best practices documents to keep us on track?
Through some research and some soul-searching, I’ve found a few really effective ways that really work to create accountability.
- Take your goals seriously. This seems obvious, but when your goals are in that gray area of “prosonal” instead of clearly professional, it is easier to put them on the back burner. Create a business plan, if it helps. Write down your vision goals, and the steps you have to do to make them happen.
- One thing at a time. If your business plan requires you to have a very different structure to your days, then make sure to give yourself plenty of time to reach those goals. Tackling one thing at a time will let you master each step of the plan so you don’t get overwhelmed with new efforts.
- Every damn day. You will not see physical results if you do yoga once a month. Believe me, I’ve tried. You need to do something, even a smaller thing, every damn day. If your goal is to create a thriving online and social media presence, you need to do a little something every single day. That could mean spending a few minutes brainstorming posts for the week, or creating a list of people with whom you’d like to connect and share posts. It could be just looking at other people’s social media channels and seeing what you like and don’t like, or going for a walk and taking beautiful pictures you’d like to share. Just make time for it every day, and like a runner who goes from a weekend warrior to a daily trainer, you will see huge results.
- Forget perfection. You are learning how to do something new, training yourself to do it regularly. The actual doing of the thing is much more important than the quality of the finished product. Don’t think about the end results or the congruity with your other efforts, just do the thing. The doing will eventually solve the other problems.
- Private practice. Don’t make your practice public until you feel you are approaching mastery, and are proud of what you’re creating. The quality of your content really is what makes people trust you and come back for more, so make sure that the quality of your work represents your business goals. Of course mastery is an evolving goal, so don’t use that as excuse to keep it private forever!
- Small rewards. No, you’re not a dog or other small, trainable animal, but chances are that you still like getting treats. Give yourself a serotonin high after you finish whatever daily tasks. A few ideas for treats: a walk around the block, a call with a friend, make yourself a nice breakfast, a browse on social media, a stretch, a nap, a podcast, a favorite song, a mini-solo-dance-party. Whatever floats your boat—reward yourself with that after you’ve accomplished your daily “prosonal” tasks.
- Be nice to yourself. If you miss a day, or you get overwhelmed, treat yourself with kindness and compassion. The old phrase, “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar,” goes for pursuing your own goals too—it should be safe and fun to try new things and to pursue your goals, so be gentle with your own lovely imperfection. You are in process and still learning! You are like your own intern who is being trained by your future self. Which is just too trippy, so I’ll end this blog post on that note!