We usually try to keep our methods for accountability on the up-and-up, using project management tools, iPhone apps, co-workers, and the like to keep us on track. But if we’re really honest with ourselves, activating more primal feelings – guilt, fear, etc – can be highly motivational and effective, if not particularly comfortable.
Looking for new ways to encourage follow-through on big projects lately, I’ve been finding the technique of creating “accountability objects” – real, physical reminders of what you have to get done – to be particularly useful.
A few months ago, I needed to design and build a small website. The task required me to learn a lot of new programming skills, and I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. But a big conference was on the horizon, and I wanted to be able to hand out business cards and promote the site.
I had read an interview where marketing wunderkind Noah Brier (Likemind, BrandTags) said that if he got an idea for a good website, he just went ahead and bought the domain name. That way, he would feel more invested in making it happen. I decided to take this approach one step further.
To create accountability, I intentionally flipped the script on the order of production: I made the promotional materials before I completed the project I wanted to promote. After I secured the domain name I needed, I immediately had business cards displaying the site URL made up. They looked great. But I still didn’t have a website.
This put me in the uncomfortable position of having loads of business cards that I couldn’t give to anyone until I completed the site. Antsy to be able to do something with the cards I’d invested time and money in producing, I built and launched the website in a week.
Obviously, you can’t make a business card for every challenging project you need to undertake, but seeking new ways of doing things to build urgency and accountability is never a bad idea. Even if you have to guilt yourself into it.
*** This article is based on the research and writing of J.K. Glei. She regularly collaborates with Scott Belsky and the Behance Team, who run the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think thank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.