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I know what you’re thinking: “Oh please, not another article about New Year’s resolutions.” This season can feel so overwhelming with the number of personal development and goal-setting content that appears all over our favorite publications. I’ll make you one promise: this won’t be another generalized guide to SMART goals.
Instead, I want to dive deeply into what is perhaps the single most important factor correlated with the achievement of SMART goals: accountability. Akin to responsibility, accountability is not a fancy new trend—it’s been clear for a long time that accountability is one of the greatest secrets to entrepreneurial success.
The main purpose of accountability is to keep your work and progress towards a goal at the forefront of your mind. Many people fail to reach their goals because they simply forget to work towards them. Here are three effective ways to hold yourself accountable for your progress.
Find the right accountability partner
The average employee is often accountable to a single person (i.e., a manager or boss). Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, have an expansive web of people whom they answer to: namely, their employees and clients/customers. So, if entrepreneurs already have so many people holding them accountable for their work, why do you need an accountability partner?
Here’s why: clients, customers and employees aren’t going to hold you to your standards—they are going to hold you to their standards. If you’re a good boss, your employee won’t have to hold you accountable. If you’re providing a good product at a good price, your customers will be content, too. True accountability will only come from someone who intimately understands your goals and isn’t afraid to be honest with you.
Different goals might require different partners. Peers, friends, family members—each category of accountability partner offers something different for an entrepreneur. Certain people will be best suited as accountability partners for certain goals.
A word of warning: don’t choose an accountability partner who has a personal investment in keeping you on track with your goal, because their check-ins might start to feel more about them than you. For example, a spouse keeping you accountable for family time might seem like nagging and a business partner keeping you accountable for sales responsibilities might seem like pressure.
Related: SMART Goal Setting for Your Business
It might seem simple, but reminders are one of the greatest accountability tools we have at our disposal. The smartphone in your pocket is one of the best accountability partners available to you.
Now, this isn’t to say that you can just set a daily reminder to work on a goal and forget about it. Instead, set specific reminders that break down your goals into careful milestones. Essentially, create due dates for yourself and stick to them. For example, say your goal was to hire two new customer service reps by the end of the year. Set a reminder for smaller items, like writing and posting the job description, reviewing applicants and inviting them for interviews, and making your final selections.
Don’t remove a reminder from your phone’s notifications until you have completed the related task.
AM and PM check-ins
Reminders are an effective accountability tool because they take you out of your routine and prevent your goals from being lost in the monotony of daily life, but consistent check-ins should be a part of your routine, too. Accountability becomes a habit when you do it every day. Morning and evening (during your daily preparation and decompression) provide a natural opportunity to reflect and review your goal progress.
If you can only check in once per day, I suggest doing it in the morning. That way, if you find yourself behind on your goal progress, you can carve out time to catch up that same day. Plus, most of us are far more likely to follow through with a morning task than an evening one.
Accountability is the key to success
Accountability is about being honest with yourself about your progress and how you can improve. That level of inner honesty can be challenging, which is why external forces—like the ever-objective smartphone and a good accountability partner—are so useful. Set yourself up for success with these tools and you’re far more likely to achieve your goals this year and every year.