Accountability systems: A few fresh ideas

You got this

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

This is the last post in a 5-part series on goal setting just in time for the new year.

So far we’ve talked about your goal-setting personality, how to find goals to cover all aspects of your life, and how to reverse engineer those goals so that you know what it takes to get them done. Today, we talk about some accountability systems that you can use to keep you on track with your goals and hopefully some of them are new to you.

1 – Hire accountability

Since I’ve left college I’ve tried to have accountability partners in my workout escapades and it hasn’t worked out. Not once.

I’m not saying it won’t work for you, but it just hasn’t worked for me. Reasons? Nobody wants to workout when I do (at the crack of freaking dawn for some damn reason?), I can’t keep up with them and feel like an out-of-shape lardy around them, or we don’t want to do the same workouts.

I’ve tried using my hubs for this and that doesn’t work either because I just get mad at him for pointing out that I missed my workout. (I am THE BEST spouse ever, BTW.)

According to Gretchen Rubin, in her book The Four Tendencies, she says that having a family member be your accountability partner often doesn’t work because you don’t see them as “external”. You see them as a part of you. Which is probably why I got mad at hubs for calling me on my shit. I knew I missed a workout and I didn’t need my “other self” pointing it out. (Like I said. BEST spouse EVER.)

And, even when I do find an accountability partner, as soon as they quit working out, I’m done. I might hang in there and give the ole college try for a few more workouts, but without somebody expecting me to do my stuff, it doesn’t happen. Cough. Obliger. Cough.

So, if you want a solid accountability partner and you haven’t had much luck finding one, I suggest hiring somebody to do it.

Craigslist: I read Onward The Absolute No B.S. Raw Ridiculous Sour-Stirring Truth About Training for Your First Marathon by Brook Kreder a 5 years ago and in there she talks about how when she was training, she put an ad out on Craigslist for somebody to be her trail aid: somebody to have water for her at various stops and take care of her on these long runs. She was amazed at how easy it was to find somebody to do this job for her and how cheap it was. (You can checkout my super short review of that book on Goodreads.)

So, you could go on Craigslist and hire an accountability partner. Just lay out what you expect from them and how much you’ll pay. Probably run a background check on them before you hire them, just in case.

Go Pro: Craigslist creep you out? Another option: Hire a personal trainer or accountability coach. This is not necessarily a cheap investment, so make sure they know that you need them to check in on you. Get a plan in place. Don’t assume that by hiring them they will automatically keep you in check. If this seems like something you’re interested in, you might like I haven’t tried it yet, but seems like a viable place to start.

2 – Find a group

A group of people to hold you accountable is far more likely to succeed than a single person – no single-point of failure! If a group doesn’t already exist that meets your needs, create one.

I have done this in my past and it has worked well for me and most other members of the group. Unfortunately, I had set the group up in such a way that it was more overhead for me than what I had bargained for and I grew tired. But, now I’ve discovered an easier way to do it:

Create a Facebook group: You’re already on Facebook, so why not use it for something useful rather than just scrolling through your feed? You can create a private group in Facebook where you and your remote pals get together for the sole purpose of keeping each other on track. No more annoying all your friends with your workout posts. Do it in your group and be guilt free.

Here are the instructions on how to do it.

Put some ground rules down though. If your friends join the group, make sure they know that they are supposed to comment on at least n updates a day (where n depends on the size of your group and how active you want it to be). Don’t let folks hide in the shadows. Help them be active members and help move themselves and everybody else forward. Afterall, how will your accountability group work if you’re the only one cheering folks on?

Join my Facebook group: If you prefer to just join a group, you can join my group. We don’t need to be Facebook friends, but you do need to be a subscriber of this blog to get in. You can also join at any time. Just go the the group page and request to join.

Incidentally, when I created that group this morning, I also created a Facebook page for this blog, so be sure to check that out if you’re interested.

Disclaimer: I just set this group up this morning, so don’t be shocked if it’s just you and I in there for now. O_o

Check Meetup: Check for local meetups about a goal you’re working on. For example, if your goal is to write more, check to see if there is a writing meetup in your area. These are free to join.

Join Better: If you dig Gretchen Rubin and buy into the idea of her four tendencies (we talked about these here), be sure to check out her new app Better.

In Better there are many groups for you to join for your particular tendency so that you can have the most success. I’ve been using it for about a week now and it seems to be a truly supportive group. Keep in mind that you get what you put into it. If you join and just lurk, you’re not going to be impressed. So, if you go this route, be an active member. Post comments and suggestions and check in with your groups that you join. Own it.

You can also create a private group on Better. I haven’t done this yet, but I know it’s an option.

3 – Use a habit tracker

Homemade habit tracker: I’m a bullet journaler and am very familiar with the idea of a habit tracker in a notebook. Here are a bunch of images of this.

I’ve used habit trackers in my bujo before and they can be effective as long as you check in everyday. It can be very satisfying to check those boxes or fill them in. However, if you only access that tracker on weekdays or just weekends, that habit tracker may not be so effective. So, if you decide to go this route, be sure to keep it handy.

You can also use a wall calendar for this and use Seinfeld’s streak method. Not only is this a very visual way to see where you’re showing up, but if you hang it in a spot you see every day, you can’t avoid it. #winning

Use a habit tracker app: There are many habit tracker apps and some apps have habit trackers built into them. For example, if you use Headspace or Calm for meditation, they have a “streak” measurement built in for you so that you can see those days tick up or that calendar get marked each time you meditate.

But, there are also apps for tracking any habit you’re working on. Lifehacker has pulled together a nice list of options.

4 – Play a game

Try Mindbloom: Mindbloom is an online app that kind of works like those Giga Pets from about 2 decades ago. But instead of having a “pet” die when you didn’t press buttons on the keyfob, in Mindbloom you do the thing you said you were going to do and your plant flourishes. You don’t, your plant gets sad and dies.

If you’re an Obliger and are motivated by other things depending on you to complete your habits, this may be a fun way to do it.

Join Nerd Fitness: Nerd Fitness is an online game geared towards nerds that want to get fit. It’s quite brilliant: you workout, level up, and progress through the fitness adventure. Check it out if you resonate with that crowd. It costs money, but once you sign up, you’re in for life.

It looks like they have a newer program now called Rising Heroes in addition to the standard Nerd Fitness that looks interesting.

Try Fitocracy: Fitocracy is another free gaming system you can use to help you stay consistent. You earn points, level up, get badges, do challenges, and go on quests when you workout. There’s an online community and groups you can join to stay accountable. I am a Fitocrat so we can connect up if you want (my Fitocrat name is PattyM, just send me a message to let me know you found me via my blog so I know who you are). If you join up, use my promo code and get $20 towards their coaching program. (Full disclosure, I also get $20 towards coaching when you use my link).


Those are my favorite ways to stay accountable right now. Let me know in the comments if you have other ways. I’m always looking for more tools to add to my toolbelt.

This sums up the goal setting series. You can catch earlier posts on my new Recent posts page that you’ll find in the left nav or you can use this handy list right here:

Subscribe and share widely!

If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe! I appreciate every subscriber I get. It helps me stay motivated to keep putting content like this out into the world.

Also, if you have a friend that you want to invite to be your accountability partner or a friend that enjoys content like this, please share it with them! Every share helps.

Picking goals to set yourself up for success

dream catcher2018 is almost here! Did you get done in 2017 what you had hoped? If not, will you get it done in 2018?

I am one of those people. Those damn resolution goal setters. And, I, like most of my New Year’s junkies, also have the problem of getting those goals done, but I digress.

Man, do I love setting goals! Dreaming of the future is my sweet spot. I set goals almost every week of the year because they’re fun and invigorating, but New Year’s makes this hobby a little more special. 🙂

Let’s get to it!

Areas of life to consider

When you’re goal setting, there are many facets of your life you can focus on. In The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod talks about having a “Level 10 Life” where you work to achieve a high score of 10 in 10 different facets of your life.

Although his tool involves more than just goal setting, I think these 10 areas of life are handy to consider when you’re brainstorming what you want to accomplish. The 10 areas are:

  1. Family and friends
  2. Personal development
  3. Spirituality
  4. Finances
  5. Career and business
  6. Marriage
  7. Fun and recreation
  8. Giving and contribution
  9. Physical environment
  10. Health and fitness

5 Steps for goal planning

  1. Take each of those areas of life listed above and start thinking about how you could improve each of them in the next year.   
    • Maybe you’ve got 5, 8, and 10 good to go, but really need to work on the others. If that’s the case, then focus in on those areas that need work and brainstorm what you would like to get done in the next year to improve those areas.
    • For those areas that you are doing well in, you can still create goals for those areas (they still need love), but just don’t prioritize them as high as these other areas you want to work on.
  2. Take those big goals and break them down into 4 smaller milestones.
    • This will get you to 4 90-day chunks that you can use to gauge how attainable your goals are.
  3. Do a gut check.
    • How are those 90-day milestones looking? Are they doable?
    • Do they strike a little jolt of excitement in you or do you feel completely overwhelmed?
    • If you’re feeling a little scared, perfect! You nailed it!
    • If you’re feeling downright panicky about it and you know there’s no way that this will be fun, then look again at your milestones. Is one of your milestones a more attainable goal for the next year than the one you originally picked? Then make that milestone your goal for 2018, and repeat steps 2 & 3 until you feel excited and not freaked out.
  4. Look for the domino. (This is a concoction I’m blending up from Chalene Johnson’s idea of a “push goal” and Charles Duhigg’s idea of a “keystone habit”).
    • Now that you have your goals and milestones all figured out, take a look and see if you can find a goal that will make 2 or more of your goals easier to achieve. (This is Chalene’s idea of a “push” goal.)
    • For example, say I have a goal to write 80 blog posts next year, read 45 books, and meditate for 10 minutes a day, but I’m a mom and work full time, so I’m going to do this…when? Then my push goal may be to get up earlier in the morning to make sure that I set aside time each day for these goals.
    • But, I’m not a morning person. Getting up early is a great goal and all, but now I need a keystone habit to pull me through. So what keystone habit can I use to help me get out of bed in the morning? Perhaps my new keystone habit is to set my alarm on my phone and put my phone in my bathroom before bed each night so that I have to get up to get that alarm before my husband hates me.
    • If that’s the case, then my domino is to instill that keystone habit into my nightly routine so that I can get up early and crush my goals before my regular day starts.
  5. Include the systems you need to meet these goals based on your tendency in your goal setting. If you don’t know what I mean by that, check out my last post on your goal-setting personality. For example:
    • Upholders – you probably don’t need much for this other than to know what you expect yourself to get done and what the “rules” are. Look for ways to add your goals to your daily routines.
    • Questioners – make sure you have your data on your goals and know why it’s important for you to get these goals done. Create systems to help you get these things done. Be aware of analysis-paralysis; maybe try time-boxing your research time.
    • Obligers – you HAVE to create an external accountability system for your goals. If possible, find a human to hold you accountable and probably not a family member since you can view them as “yourself” instead of external people. Look for groups, gadgets, trackers, and coaches to check in on you so that you get your stuff done. If that won’t work, try to couch your goals in such a way that they’re necessary for you to do so that you can help another person.
    • Rebels – If you get motivated by somebody telling you you can’t get something done, then maybe have somebody do that. Give yourself some options so that you still have freedom of choice. Know the information about your goals, the consequences of what will happen if you don’t do them, and that you always have a choice to make. Want to work out daily? Make it your choice of when to work out each day and what activity you will do as long as you get it done. Identify with the person you want to become: be that person. Remember that you don’t have to do any of your goals – it’s always your choice.

Prioritizing goals

Now that you have your goals, milestones, and domino figured out, you might have 11 (or more) goals for the year. For some of you, that will make you feel excited to get started. For others, it might be freaking you the hell out to see that long list of things to do.

Time to prioritize.

Why? Because regardless of how much of an Upholder you are (or aren’t), there are going to be days when you can’t or don’t want to get it all done, but you still want to feel like you worked toward your goals and accomplished something on your agenda that mattered to you. Or, if you’re kind of bugging about the long list of things to do, then you may feel some relief if you know which goals take priority over others.

If you were able to identify your domino, you may want to make that your top priority out of all your other goals because with that one, you’ll make progress towards getting 2 or more of your goals closer to the finish line.

However, if that domino doesn’t have big impact on those areas of your life that you may need the most work, then maybe you want to prioritize those goals instead.

Next time

That’s all for this time. Next time we’ll talk about how to distill the actions out of those big goals. Reverse engineering…always a blast. 😉

Talk to me!

Let me know in the comments how this part goes for you. Also, let me know…does that domino idea work for you or am I really making a stretch? Speak to me!

Also, if you haven’t yet, be sure to subscribe to get an email notification when the next post comes out.

Subscribe now

* indicates required

What’s your goal-setting personality?


I don’t think it’s too big of an assumption to think that goal setting is a very personal and unique thing. I’m not talking about how your goals themselves are personal (that’s a given), but that the goal format and how it will work for you is very personal.

For example, some people do best when they have big goals to work towards, some do better when they’re making small changes they barely notice that add up to big changes. Some people like working on their goals in private, others like the accountability of posting every meal on Instagram.

Who you are plays a role in this goal setting game, so you need to account for it when you pick them.

Gretchen’s Four Tendencies

One of the tools you can use to help nail this down a bit comes from the work of Gretchen Rubin and her idea of “the four tendencies“. Her argument is basically that there are generally four types of people in the world:

  • Obligers – Really good at doing things expected of them by others, but kind of suck at doing things they expect of themselves.
  • Questioners – Question EVERYTHING and only do things if they know why they should do it and if it makes sense to them to do it.
  • Upholders – Will do things when anybody expects them to, even when that person is them.
  • Rebels – Won’t do or struggles to do what is expected of them, even if they expect it of themselves.

How do these tendencies play out with goal setting?

If you are an obliger, you probably want to have an accountability system in place. Get somebody or a group that will hold you to what you said you were going to do. Join an online group where you have to check in.

If you’re a questioner, do your research. Figure out why you want to achieve your goal and know it cold.

Upholders, know “the rules” so that you can follow them. Other than that, you’re pretty well set, lucky!

If you’re a rebel, well, you’re pretty much screwed. Ha! Just kidding. You just need to focus on what makes you want to do the action so that you can then make the choice to do it.

What tendency do you have?

If you haven’t played around with Gretchen’s tendencies yet and want to know what tendency you have, you can take her quiz. However…


Keep in mind that all of these personality theories are NOT hard science, even the ones that claim to be, so don’t hang too much weight on them.

Turns out people are complicated and you can’t put them in a box, no matter how nicely you label those boxes or how much money you spend to define those boxes.

Just because the quiz says you are “x” doesn’t mean you really are “x” or that you are “x” all of the time. Don’t create any self-fulfilling prophecies with this stuff, just use it if you find it helpful.

Also, personalities are not black and white like these categories and quizzes like to pretend. In most cases, you are a blend of the personalities or you are more dominantly one way in one situation and another way in a different situation.

People are complicated. Preach!

Go big or not?

Another personality bit that I think comes into play is if you feel like you need to go big or not with your goals. Can you make a goal to run 30 minutes a day and that will motivate you enough or do you need to plan for running a marathon to get excited for your goal?

I don’t have quiz to figure this one out, but you’ll know what type of goal you need when you start thinking about what you want to accomplish. If the goal gets you jazzed, then that’s the goal you need.

That’s it?

Umm…no, there’s a hell of a lot more that comes into play when you are deciding on goals, but I feel like these are the two heavy hitters and a good place to start.

Up next

My next post is the fun one…the one where we get to do some goal brainstorming!

(Yes, I am truly excited about this and, yes, I know I’m a dork. Back off.)

Be sure to subscribe so you get that post delivered right to your inbox. Just enter your email in that cute little box down there and you’ll be all set!

Subscribe now

* indicates required