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8 Ways to Stay Accountable With Your Goals

Holding yourself accountable is how you make your dreams come real.
8 Ways to Stay Accountable With Your Goals
Image credit: Hero Images | Getty Images
VIP Contributor
Serial Entrepreneur
9 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Most of us talk endlessly about our hopes and dreams, and our desire to achieve our goals. Yet, day after day, month after month, we put our ambitions on hold. We fail to take steps toward our objectives. We procrastinate.

You can have the greatest idea in the world and be brimming with talent and ambition, but unless you actually take steps to put those concepts to the test, you’ll never know if you’ll succeed or not. That’s why it’s so important to find ways to hold yourself accountable. Accountability keeps you striving toward your goals and reaching for your dreams. Accountability accelerates your performance by helping you make consistent, steady progress.

Stop dreaming and start doing by using these eight methods to hold yourself accountable to your goals.

1. Be brutally honest with yourself.

We’re all naturally talented in some areas but struggle in others. For example, some of us excel at communicating through writing but struggle with face-to-face conversations. In order to hold yourself accountable to your goals, it’s important to set goals that make sense -- ones that emphasize and develop your strengths while also seeking to improve or minimize areas you’re weakest in.

It’s important that you make a brutally honest and thorough assessment of yourself -- you need to see your talents and shortcomings as clearly as possible and understand what works best for you in reaching your goals.

What type of environment do you thrive in, and when are you most likely to fall short? Consider how you can improve your focus and efficiency in areas where you’re shaky. Identify the factors that motivate you to stay on track.

2. Commit to a schedule.

One of the biggest missteps with accountability is setting deadlines for reaching your goals, but failing to set a schedule that will actually get you there. Often, we’re so focused on the end goal (losing 20 pounds, writing a book, launching a business) that we forget that any goal can only be accomplished through a step-by-step process. We may hope, wish and desire with all our heart, but it will never magically happen if we don’t actually commit to making steady progress.

It’s paramount that you set a schedule you can commit to. This will give you a game plan you can follow and a way to evaluate if you’re consistently and persistently working toward your goals. Your schedule should set specific and time-oriented objectives, but they should be within reason. This will help you translate big goals into concrete, actionable steps.

For instance, let’s say your goal is to increase followers and grow your base. Try setting a schedule to release fresh, quality content at least once a week. You commit to writing or producing an article, blog or video every Friday, and come what may, you follow through. Once you start producing quality content, you’ll start gaining followers and increasing your brand recognition -- thus taking concrete strides toward achieving your goal.

Related: 10 Things You Didn't Realize Were Invented in the 1980s

3. Create micro-goals.

You already know what your big dream is. You have an overarching plan and you’ve decided on a schedule. But chipping away at this mound of work can feel overwhelming -- like a mountain that’s too high to climb. This is where many people falter and get sucked into procrastination. Fight this urge and hold yourself accountable by making it as easy as possible to take baby steps in the right direction.

You can do this by breaking down each segment of your goal into a tiny “micro-goal.” Divide each larger task into the smallest possible unit of progress, and include each of these baby steps in your schedule. Keep breaking down your goals until they’re sliced up into tiny, easily achievable micro-goals. And make sure you take a moment to celebrate each small achievement.

Progress and accountability go hand in hand. If you make it easy to keep taking step after step, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed and more apt to keep chipping away, holding yourself accountable to making progress.

In fact, a Harvard Business Review article found that, though we often focus on how good it will feel to achieve long-term goals, it’s the power of small wins or achieving minor milestones that most dramatically increases people’s engagement in work and has the most potent effect on creativity and productivity.

4. Get an accountability partner.

An accountability partner is someone who is committed to helping you reach your goals (and in turn, you’ll do the same for them). If you’re in a situation where you’re working on goals independently, or you don’t have a manager or a boss looming over you, having an accountability buddy will make you answerable to someone if you fail to follow through.

For instance, if you’re trying to launch a new business or write a book, you’re only accountable to yourself, and it may be easy to let your commitment slide. There’s no one cracking the whip and making sure you’re reaching your micro-goals and major milestones.

Having an accountability buddy works best if he or she is reliable and truly committed. It also works best when you both agree to use SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-oriented). Your accountability partner may be able to give you unbiased feedback. If you can’t find an accountability buddy, tell a friend or your family about your plans and ask them to help you stick to them.

Related: Reading One Book a Week Won't Make You Successful

5. Overcoming self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage is our subconscious way of limiting our success. It often springs from a fear of being pushed outside of your comfort zone. Self-sabotage is a self-destructive loop that smashes goals and kills dreams. If you have ever set goals and objectives for yourself, and then failed miserably to follow through, you’ve probably fallen into a pattern of self-sabotage.

In order to hold yourself accountable, you also have to understand what you’re doing to impede your progress. Work to overcome self-sabotage by identifying your negative patterns. What are your triggers? How do you allow your fears to hold you back? Be on the lookout for ways in which you may be undermining yourself.

6. Know your why.

Holding yourself accountable means having a crystal-clear reason why this goal is so important to you. How will accomplishing this goal improve your life or the lives of others? What is the value and purpose of this objective? Your accountability to your goal will be improved if you understand your motivations. That will help you build a positive mindset that reinforces why accomplishing this goal is important to you.

Keep your “why” top of mind when striving to reach your goals. Continue to educate yourself on your objectives -- feed your mind knowledge and information that will build your “why” and help keep you focused.

Anytime you set an objective, you have to make a conscious effort to take the steps to see that goal through. Holding yourself accountable to your dreams means deeply embracing the reasons why those dreams matter and why you need to keep striving to reach them.

7. Celebrate each little win.

Taking time to celebrate each success you have -- whether it be big or small -- is an important part of holding yourself accountable because it helps you build momentum and stay focused. Each win builds your confidence -- it reinforces your “I can do this” mentality.

Celebrating doesn’t have to involve throwing a party or some other grand gesture. Everyday wins can be celebrated in small but meaningful ways that help you mark that moment in your mind.

Write down your daily or weekly successes. Put the list where you can see it every day, and keep adding to it so you can see how far you’ve come. Keep a master list of your goals and micro-goals, and cross off each one as you accomplish it. Take a moment to post it on social media (if it’s something you feel like sharing). This will give your friends and family a chance to support and encourage you.

Related: When Is the Best Time to Make the Leap From Your Day Job to Entrepreneur?

8. Review how you're doing.

Last but not least, take time to regularly review the goals you’re holding yourself accountable for. This is a chance to check in on your overall progress. A quick review of how far you’ve come can kick your motivation up a notch and get you back on track when you start to slide.

Take a look at how you’re doing in keeping up with your schedule and accomplishing both your macro- and micro-goals. You should also ensure your accountability buddy is helping you stay on task. Are you pleased with your quality of work? Are you feeling good about your progress?

Look for areas where you can improve. Is your motivation slipping, and if so, what can you do to bolster it? The more empowered and excited you feel about your achievements, the easier it will be for you to hold yourself accountable to keep accomplishing those tasks and reaching your goals.

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