By Robert Gerrish
When you run your own small business, you’re generally only accountable to yourself for the actions you take. While this can feel liberating, it may just be holding back your growth and development.
For a lot of us, me included, work gets done more reliably and efficiently when there’s a deadline, an expectation of conclusion and delivery.
If a customer says, ‘Let me have the work any time this month’, there’s a good chance the job won't get finished until the end of the month. Whereas if it’s needed this week, well sure enough, it gets done and dusted by Friday.
Deadlines imply that someone is keeping an eye on your work. They are relying on you, and it’s this that lies at the heart of accountability.
If you keep meaning to do some exercise, imagine the impact of arranging to pick up a friend at seven in the morning and going for a run. Unless you're going to leave her standing on the corner, you'll be there.
The fear of letting someone down, someone other than yourself, is a big motivator. Just like missing a deadline. There are lots of ways to add the awesomeness of accountability into your work and clearly hiring a coach is one option.
Let’s assume though that committing to a dedicated and potentially costly external support person simply doesn’t work for you right now. Instead then, let’s look at some ways to effectively coach yourself.
1. Set up a little buddy group
Whether you call it a ‘buddy group’, ‘goals group’ or ‘advisory board’, the concept is the same. The idea is you pick out two to three friends or colleagues who ideally are on a similar trajectory to you, that is ‘working their way’ getting where they want to go.
At the outset you each articulate what you’re trying to achieve over the next three months, say, and you agree to meet or talk regularly and check in.
When you do, you repeat your goals; see how each other is doing; look at what’s getting in the way, make pledges of steps to take in the coming week and resolve to check in again.
Such groups can be incredibly helpful when it comes to keeping you on track.
2. Go public
Another option is to find an online forum, social-media group or blog where you can report your goals and progress. You can even just make a commitment to a friend or partner and ask them to hold you to it. Tell the world what you’re doing, commit to reporting back and even invite others to bug you.
I went public like this with a ‘read a book a week for twelve weeks’ personal challenge and it worked wonders. I got to read a mountain of books, cleared a pile that was weighing heavily on my mind (and desk) and learned some stuff.
3. Lock your screen
Finally, here’s another little self-coaching technique that I love. My laptop requires a password before I can get to work and it’s set up to ‘lock’ after a couple of minutes of inactivity.
Straightforward computer settings that you’re quite familiar with, right?
Last year, while writing my latest book, my password was ‘write 500 words today’. You can probably imagine why!
Anyway, I type that phrase maybe a dozen times a day. Do you think that action reminded me of a key goal for my work? You bet it did.
Pick a statement that inspires you to move ahead in the single area that is most important to you – in work or life - and make it your password.
Robert Gerrish is the founder of Flying Solo and author of The 1 - Minute Commute published by Pan Macmillan.