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How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Accountability

Written by: Jennifer Jank, Executive Contributor


Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

There’s a lot more to productivity than just grinding away for hours at a time. In fact, that’s not the route to productivity at all. That’s the route to bad performance and burnout. The human brain has certain limitations and requirements, and the secret to peak efficiency is to work with your brain, not against it.

Although no one can wave a magic wand to transform you (or your team) into the most productive version of yourselves, working smarter isn’t a magic trick. And it’s not another piece of software or app that you download on your phone.


Why not? What is productivity anyway?


So many of us brag about being busy, especially Americans. Multitasking (or believing that it’s possible); doing this, that, and the other thing, rushing around in the car, all seem to be pretty universal. That doesn’t mean you’re getting anything worthwhile done. It just means you’re doing “stuff.”


Productivity and efficiency aren’t defined by just doing random “stuff.” They involve activities that get you to your goals or move you forward in some way. Many people are “busy” on social media. Messing around on those platforms doesn’t get you anywhere, but it does make the company providing the service a lot of money from advertising.


There are other ways to be busy and “get things done” without actually approaching any of your goals. If you’re an entrepreneur, for example, you can be very busy with choosing the exact right shade of mauve for the header on your website or the right font styles.


You can also get busy looking up how to create a website or establish a business entity, picking graphics, asking people what they think about your title or logo. Maybe you go from networking event to networking event and collect business cards.


None of those activities are productive. It’s more important for a business owner to have a place for potential clients to find them on the web. Pick a font, a color, a style, and a URL, and go. You don’t even have to design your website, but choose a service that has templates and choose the one you like. Put in your own related pictures and content.


When that’s done, sooner rather than later, you have more time to spend on calling or getting introductions to your ideal client. That is what will get you the results you want in your business.


Yes, you probably need to network. There are lots and lots of these events, online and off, but only a few of them will actually be useful to you. Making connections at a networking event that is filled either with your ideal client or others who work with your ideal client is productive. Joining and attending every chamber of commerce within a 20-mile radius is busyness.


Why do we get so fixated on being busy?


Many cultures (and certainly corporate America) put business before pleasure and may even look at leisure time as a little bit suspect. Many corporate managers apparently don’t trust their employees and want to see them at their desks at any given second during the workday.


If you can get your work done in six hours, but your boss has to see your face for eight, you need to look or be busy for an extra two hours. Or stretch your work to cover eight hours with the help of busyness, distractions, interruptions, etc.


Busyness may also be a form of avoidance. Working for hours on end means you don’t have to head back to unhappy or unsatisfying home life. Or that you don’t really know what you want to do with your life.


Not that everyone who likes to be busy is a workaholic, but quite a few are. Addictions are rarely about the substance but about trying to avoid or distract from discomfort.


Busyness can be a sign of procrastination as well. I’m not saying that before I began writing this article that I checked out my social media profiles, emailed a couple of people just to say hi, and walked out to the mailbox… but I’m not not saying that. Just saying.


Busyness? Not something to brag about.


Productivity isn’t always easy.


When you’re doing the things that you need to do to get the results you want, you probably have to be a little uncomfortable. You don’t get results in the comfort zone. But doing things that are uncomfortable… is uncomfortable.


Some business owners, especially introverts, would rather stab themselves in the eyeballs than have a sales conversation where they directly ask for the business. But how else are they going to help people who need their product or service?


Those who are afraid of public speaking might rather play Russian roulette than get up on the stage. Yet speaking is a tremendous method for getting more business and clients, establishing oneself as an expert in the field, etc.


When you’re doing hard things in order to stretch yourself, you don’t have to make everything else difficult, too. In fact, having some comfort in a different area of your life may be what you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.


Supporting yourself and your brain is an easy way to make some of this more agreeable. Use habits that help, like getting enough sleep, nutrition, daily physical movement, and end-of-day rituals. I’ve written elsewhere about those, but another very helpful routine to get used to is accountability.


Accountability doesn’t have to be as boring as it sounds.


There are a variety of ways that people can hold each other accountable: informal arrangements, scheduled times to check-in, and mastermind groups. It doesn’t have to be a tedious exercise when you find a way that works for you.


There’s a lot of evidence that having an accountability partner increases the chances of success. Many programs devoted to helping people kick bad habits encourage accountability in one way or another.


Traditional 12-step addiction groups typically have sponsors who help guide newcomers, often by having them check in on a daily or weekly basis. Other addiction treatments encourage similar partnerships.


Weight-loss products and groups often have communities where their adherents can post about difficulties (and wins!). Most of these programs suggest a workout buddy as well.


For some reason, it’s hard to uphold our own standards and boundaries. One piece of pie easily turns into more, especially if you’re by yourself. Getting to the gym is easily avoided because you can convince yourself that you need more sleep instead. (Exercise energizes you, incidentally. Not always easy to remember at 6 am when you’re not a morning person, but still true.)


When you have to admit to what you’ve been up to, social instincts kick in. You don’t really want to admit to eating half the pie, and that aversion may be strong enough for you to put the pie down.


You know you’ll feel bad if you leave your gym pal hanging by themselves, literally or otherwise, because you didn’t show up. And your pal is probably going to be pretty unhappy with you too.


As social animals, humans need approval and a sense of belonging. Knowing that you’re letting another person down can be powerful enough to get you into your sneakers and on your way.


Accountability buddies make stepping out of your comfort zone easier. They know what you’re going through and will support you. Having a cheerleader at your side makes doing new and uncomfortable things a little less scary and a little more manageable.


It also helps you focus on what you know you need to be doing to achieve your goals. You’re signaling your brain to pay attention to those tasks.


Finding accountability buddies.


Even for introverts, this doesn’t need to be hard. Many people are perfectly aware that willpower only gets you so far, and supply is limited. If you ask someone who doesn’t already have a partner, they’ll probably be receptive to working with you.


I’m in a group coaching program, and the founder encouraged us to form accountability groups of 3-4 people. I went into the Facebook group and said I wanted to start one. Within a few hours, I had three people (whom I didn’t even know) who agreed to join.


Networking groups are a good place to find one. You can also try an online forum to start. Either way, you want a buddy who is also positive and wants personal and/or professional growth. Someone you can get along with.


An accountability partner is not (necessarily) the same as a mentor. Their job is to ask you whether you did what you said you were going to do, and if not, how to prevent it in the future. That’s it. In contrast, a mentor helps you with your career, introduces you to people you should know, etc.


Keep your meetings short and to the point. Bond over coffee or drinks after the accountability meeting, not during. Everyone should report on their progress and determine what they want to be held accountable for over the next week (or whatever period of time).


You can certainly ask a friend to be an accountability partner. But first, consider whether they’re really the right person. Will they support your efforts or crack jokes about it? The occasional joke is fine and usually welcome, but your partner should take your attempts seriously and have serious goals of their own.


Do you want what you talk about to stay between you and your accountability partner? A friend might mention it to their spouse or to another mutual friend. Would having someone outside your friend circle and who hasn’t known you for years be a better fit for you?


If your first accountability partner doesn’t work out, or they’re unable to continue on, just find another one. You’re not getting married! You might have to work with a few before you find a good one. You’ll know it when the accountability is aligned between the two of you, and you can communicate with each other clearly and honestly.


Let go of your busyness, and embrace getting results instead. Find someone else who has goals to achieve and pair up to support one another.


Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter for more info!


 

Jennifer Jank, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Jennifer “JJ” Jank works with those who want to be more productive and spend more time on the life side of the work-life balance. She trains high-growth teams so they can deploy high-performance strategies to work smarter.


JJ holds a BA in Physics from Rutgers University and an MBA in Finance from New York University. She is a Certified Financial Planner ™ professional. Currently, she’s the President for the Women Leaders Forum in Coachella Valley and the webmistress and Fundraising Chair for the Palm Springs chapter of AAUW. She is also a speaker on various topics, including productivity, personal finance, and entrepreneurship.


JJ has been published in Journal for Divorce Financial Analysts and Coachella Valley Weekly, among others. Her current books, From Zero to $avvy: A Quick Guide to Investing, Get What You De$erve: The Ultimate Guide to Divorce Finance, and Make the Leap From Employee to Entrepreneur: Your Easy and Effective Handbook to Unlock the Secrets of $avvy Business Owners are all currently available on Amazon.


She can be found at the Productivity Injection website and LinkedIn at @JenniferJank.

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