Holding Yourself Accountable: Definition and Strategies

Updated February 24, 2023

Holding yourself accountable can help you complete your goals, support your colleagues and develop vital self-management skills. Regardless of the type of work you do, accountability can be a powerful strategy for career development. It may be useful to learn and practice certain strategies to maximize your opportunities for success. 

In this article, we define what holding yourself accountable means, discuss why it's important and provide a list of helpful strategies for practicing it at work.

What does holding yourself accountable mean?

Holding yourself accountable means you manage your work and life tasks responsibly, fulfill your obligations to colleagues and reflect on your work conduct consistently. You also accept the outcomes of your decision-making processes and assess any changes you want to make in the future. People who hold themselves accountable can complete tasks more effectively and predict outcomes with more accuracy. For instance, if you're considering whether you want to help a colleague with an assignment, you can use accountability strategies to ensure you have time available to assist them.

Related: 10 Simple Ways To Become More Productive at Work

Why is holding yourself accountable important?

Holding yourself accountable is important because it allows you to prioritize your goals and work toward them. You can use accountability strategies to motivate yourself and learn more about your work process.

Consider the following additional reasons:

  • You can evaluate the quality of your work. Keeping yourself accountable can help you learn how to manage your time and produce better results.

  • You can support the efforts of other people. This can include helping your work colleagues, family and members of your community.

  • You can increase your self-confidence. By learning the best ways to complete your goals and fulfill your obligations, you may feel more confident throughout the day.

  • You can learn more important knowledge. Through honing your self-management skills, you can learn more vital information about your work that can help prepare you for future projects.

How to hold yourself accountable

There are many systems for maintaining accountability. Consider the following methods as you plan a strategy to suit your needs:

1. Adjust your mindset

Focus on the positive aspects of your life and career so you can empower yourself to make any necessary adjustments. To do so, try writing journal entries or engaging in another preferred mode of self-assessment. Reflect on how past decisions currently impact your life and note favorable experiences to remember them with more clarity in the future. You can also begin every day with an uplifting affirmation, such as listening to a favorite song or expressing your thoughts on social media.

Read more: 9 Effective Ways To Keep a Positive Attitude

2. Establish a long-term goal

Your long-term goal is the reason you want to hold yourself accountable. It can describe a broad objective, like increasing your work assignment efficiency, or something more specific, like graduating from a master's program. Make an agreement with yourself to take action and think about how you're going to accomplish the goal. You may want to research all the important aspects of your goal so you can strategize effectively. For instance, you can start researching what graduate programs appeal to you and note their application requirements.

Related: Setting Goals To Improve Your Career

3. Set short-term goals

Short-term goals are tasks you can accomplish every week to help you achieve your long-term goal. Determine a few tasks to schedule throughout the week and decide which day you review your progress. It may be helpful to create short-term goals that have a narrow scope and very few steps. For instance, if your long-term goal is increasing your clientele, a short-term goal could involve contacting a new potential client or writing a self-advertisement to publish in the future.

Related: The Key Differences Between Short- and Long-Term Planning

4. Define your values

Reflect on your value system and what motivates you to succeed. This process can help you understand the reason you set a particular long-term goal, which may increase your enthusiasm for the goal and new accountability strategies. Write one or two memorable, actionable statements that define one aspect of your value system that you want to focus on. This statement can be broad or more specific, and you may want to adjust it in the future to suit another purpose.

Here are some examples of value statements you can use:

  • Remain generous and loving.

  • Work hard every day in every circumstance.

  • Save your money when you can.

Related: 6 Steps To Discover Your Core Values

5. Set a timeline for yourself

Devise a schedule to manage your short-term goals and your other responsibilities. Be mindful of what you can accomplish in a certain time frame so you can maintain your schedule and produce high-quality results. It may be helpful to first enter all your responsibilities in one timeline document. Next, prioritize two short-term goals you feel especially motivated to work on and two additional tasks that have upcoming deadlines. This practice can help build your time management skills and accurate estimation ability.

Related: 6 Ways To Optimize Your Daily Schedule

6. Create lists

Use a spreadsheet application or a paper list to keep track of information and help plan your day. You can have multiple spreadsheets or lists to separate different categories, such as monitoring your physical activity or maintaining a monthly budget. Lists can help you stay organized and increase your efficiency at accomplishing your goals. It may be helpful to place a note on objects that remind you of different tasks, like a grocery list on your refrigerator.

7. Finish one task before you start another

When you start a task, try to devote all your time and attention to finishing that task before you address another. This strategy can increase your understanding of a task, which can illuminate how long it might take to complete. For instance, if you want to learn a new software program, plan to stay focused on only the software until you finish reading the directional guide and tutorial. At that point, you can understand the difficulty level and how long it may take for you to install, practice and adapt to the program.

8. Track your progress

Act as your own supervisor by reviewing your work conduct and performance every month. You can model your process after a supervisor or develop a unique strategy that suits your needs. Determine if you're accomplishing your goals in the timeframe you set and if the work reflects your expectations. Depending on your preferences and skill set, you can also use a journal to track your progress or gather statistical information relevant to your long-term goal.

Here are some examples of questions to consider when reflecting on your accountability:

  • What key metrics have you achieved this month?

  • What is one of your long-term goals?

  • What is a short-term goal for this week and how are you accomplishing it?

  • How much time do you spend on each task or activity?

Related: How To Set Personal Development Goals for Work

9. Create a reward system

To help motivate yourself to succeed, devise a reward system for accomplishing short-term and long-term goals. You can match the size of the reward to the type of goal. For instance, you can reward a short-term goal of three business-related emails a day by purchasing a favorite snack or watching a television program. For a long-term goal, you could plan a vacation to celebrate your achievement and restore your energy for accountability efforts in the future.

Related: Reasons Why You May Have No Motivation To Work (With Solutions)

10. Ask trusted colleagues or contacts for feedback

Contact someone you trust and ask if they could offer their perspective on your work conduct, strengths and skills. Having a separate point of view from your own can help you identify new areas to improve in the future. It's also a way you can stay accountable to other people. For example, if you collaborate on a project with a colleague, you can ask them for informal feedback about how your work performance affected their own.

Related: How To Respond to Constructive Feedback in 7 Steps

11. Hold someone else accountable

Meet with a colleague, work contact or friend to set mutual accountability goals and days you want to check in with each other. It may be helpful to find someone who has a similar long-term goal so you can offer each other specialized feedback. You can also exchange accountability strategies and provide a source of motivation throughout the week. For instance, if you and a work contact are both writers, you can establish a weekly word count goal and meet or talk to discuss your progress.

12. Prepare yourself for a successful day

Anticipate any items you may want during the day to fulfill your short-term goals and any additional obligations. Having them ready before you begin reduces the time and energy it can take to begin a task, which may help motivate you to start. For instance, if you have a work meeting the following day, you can open relevant documents on a digital device or place certain materials in your workspace. When you return to your workplace for the meeting, you can spend your time organizing your thoughts for the meeting instead of finding items and preparing your workplace.

13. Use an accountability application

There are many computer or mobile applications that can aid you in staying accountable. Some can monitor your health status during the day, while others track your goals, time management and budgeting habits in user-friendly formats. You can use an accountability application to streamline your goal-making process, allowing the application to create an organizational system that works best for you.

Related: 11 Apps for Tracking My Time (With Time Management Benefits)

14. Design a vision board

A vision board is a poster with photos and phrases that help motivate you to succeed. Having a visual representation of your long-term or short-term goals can reinforce your enthusiasm about your chosen path in a creative way. This strategy may be especially helpful if you already have an interest in artistic expression. To create your own vision board, you can apply magazine clippings, resources from the internet or personal photos to any large poster board or paper.

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