In my work with book development, authors who finish their books often differ from authors who don’t finish in just one respect: Those who don’t finish don’t feel accountable—for a variety of (sometimes complex) reasons–to completion.
Creating flow charts, using editorial calendars, adhering to timelines, tracking time, soliciting beta reader feedback: These tools help foster a willingness to take responsibility for a project. Appropriately deployed—and routinely used—they can encourage someone to feel more accountable for a project than they might otherwise feel inclined to do.
I rely on the tricky quality of these types of tools to produce posts. My editorial calendar works as an impassive disciplinarian, coldly reminding me that I’ve set out to but have yet to complete a task.
Coaches and others know that there are all kinds of ways to foster accountability. One of the simplest is to articulate your goal. Go further by writing it down. Go all the way by writing it down and regularly reporting your progress to a friend.
The efficacy of this method was tested in 2014 by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University, who wanted to test the premise of the never-conducted-though-frequently-cited 1953 “Yale Study of Goals.” The latter was used (spuriously, it turned out) as evidence that people who wrote down their goals had a much higher chance of reaching them.
When Matthews created her study, she found that among her 267 participants, 76 percent of those who had been instructed to write down their goal and send their weekly progress to a friend accomplished their goal or felt they were “at least halfway there.”
Matthews’s sample size may be too small to draw big conclusions, but I will add my anecdotal evidence in support: Authors whose work requires routine progress reports almost always progress. Those who do not make use of progress reports may progress, but who can tell? They don’t report.
Whether you manage teams or just yourself, research suggests that there are some very basic ways to foster the accountability that can lead to success. Write it down and phone a friend to get at least halfway there.