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What I learned at [boot]camp: *Real* accountability works (for me)

March 14, 2016 2 comments

Thinking more and writing less is, of course, about all things content — the work we content folks do. It’s also about how we do that work. Sometimes, the “how” is content-specific; sometimes, you can apply it to anything. Productivity is one of those “hows” that you can apply to anything.

For most of the past four months, I’ve spent my “free” time focusing on productivity as a participant in Lifehack Bootcamp. For me, productivity has always been something of an obsession — new tools, methods, tips, and tricks attract me like a crow to tinfoil — and, as it turns out, almost as productively. I’ve perfected the role of “productivity scholar” — I know a LOT of stuff — without becoming much (if any) more efficient, effective, or happy… in other words, productive.

I have something of a reputation for “doing a lot of stuff” and being really “active” in a lot of things, so it was, frankly, with some amount of embarrassment that I entered the bootcamp. What attracted me? And pushed me over the edge? First, while I want to do all of the stuff I’ve been doing, I want to be better at it — more reliable, more effective, more efficient, and WAY less overwhelmed by all of it all of the time. Second, the bootcamp relies on an accountability model (a la Weight Watchers and other groups where you have to, for example, “face the scale” every week), which I suspected would work well for me.

Now that I’ve graduated, I want to share some of the things that I’ve learned –in this post, that real accountability works, at least for me. By real accountability, I mean sincere, truthful accountability. It doesn’t work if you lie to yourself and your accountability buddy or group — or whatever mechanism you choose to hold yourself accountable. But if you’re honest, and have even the smallest conscience, you’ll make progress if you find someone or something to “answer to.”

In the bootcamp, having an accountability buddy with frequent, regular check-ins made a big difference for me. This buddy was someone I didn’t know until we started our buddy calls. As it turned out, we were in a similar place in our journey toward productivity, so we could relate to one another’s struggles and (I think) be more supportive. We “met” (by phone) for ~5 minutes twice each weekday — yes, you read that right: TWICE PER DAY — to declare our intentions (in detail) for the day each morning and share a retrospective on our accomplishments (or lack thereof) each evening, including reflecting on what caused any lack and how we could overcome those the next day.

What made this work:

  • Knowing I had to face someone improved my focus substantially
  • It was a BIG commitment to make the calls, and someone (my buddy) would know if I didn’t follow through
  • I was honest with myself and my buddy about my accomplishments AND my trips, slips, and falls
  • Because my buddy was not “my friend,” he didn’t let me make excuses or “slide by”
  • The short span of time between calls meant that I couldn’t get too far off track without admitting it to someone — thus I could make smaller, easier, mid-course corrections and not get completely overwhelmed by how derailed I was

The results of being held accountable are many — big and small — but the result with the most impact for me was habit formation. In the bootcamp, buddy calls are centered on accountability for completing morning and evening routines, and these routines are the foundation of focus needed for productivity gains. By “forcing” the regular practice of these routines, several habits have begun for me that help ensure my focus on doing the right things every day, one day at a time.

Now that the bootcamp is over, my buddy and I are establishing a new routine — twice-per-week calls — both of us feeling that the accountability we have enjoyed with one another is a key to keeping us on track.

Categories: Productivity
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