How to Maintain Accountability When Working for Yourself

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“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” – Moliere

Running your own VA business has its challenges.

When the work’s coming in, it’s all fine and dandy. You crack through each task as per the deadline you or your client has set.

But when it comes to a slow period, or moving in a new direction, or expanding, or whatever goal you may have for your business, you falter.

Why?

Making any change to your business means stepping out of an ‘employee / worker’ mindset and switching to an ‘employer / owner’ mentality.

You need to set objectives, put processes in place and hold yourself accountable for the outcome.

And this is where many of us fail.

Let’s say, you’re trying to learn a new skill to offer clients. Perhaps you buy a course to follow and set aside 1 hour a day to learning and practising. This goes well for the first few weeks, but then the 1 hour turns into 30 minutes, which turns into every other day, until eventually a week has gone by without any studying at all.

Then of course you beat yourself up.

You know you could make the time, but you don’t. So you come up with loads of excuses why that is, just to make yourself feel better.

Until … the cycle starts all over again.

But it’s the same cycle. So chances are, it’ll end in the same result.

Which begs the question – how do you successfully make a change to your business?

By being held accountable.

But when working for yourself, it can be tricky. How can you hold yourself accountable?

Here are a few tried and tested strategies that should help you focus and stick to whatever you’re striving toward in your business:

1. Be clear in your main objective

An obvious point, but one that when you spend time thinking about, you may discover it’s not as clear as you originally thought.

So take some time to truly nail what your Number One objective is.

Now write it down – this is crucial, so I’ll say it again. Write. It. Down. And place it somewhere you will see regularly.

2. Break that objective down into mini goals

(Remember, if you have more than one objective you will have to repeat this process for each objective …)

Take your objective and break it down.

Clearly, you’re not going to jump from Day One to Objective Met in a matter of hours. Or even days, weeks or possibly months.

To succeed, take some time working out how you can get from where you are now, to your end goal.

This process in itself may take days for you to figure out because you need it to be realistic. The reason you’ve not succeeded in the past, is most likely because you didn’t break your main objective down enough.

Avoid repeating this pattern by ensuring each mini-goal is indeed that – a mini (achievable) goal.

3. Create a daily to do list

“Lists not only provide great structure for getting things done, but they also help us to set goals and achieve our dreams,” – Richard Branson

Need I say more?

For each mini-goal you will have required tasks to help you achieve it. Creating a daily to-do list holds you accountable to that mini-goal. Which does what? Yep, you guessed it – holds you accountable to that main objective.

One tip that comes out on top when creating your daily to-do list, is that it contains no more than five tasks per day.

Many more and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to tick all of them off, meaning some push over to the next day. Each time that happens, psychologically, you’ll feel deflated.

So take the advice, at least at first, and keep your daily to-do list to five tasks or less.

4. Track progress … daily

At the end of every day, look at your list and evaluate how you did.

If you didn’t achieve all your tasks for the day, ask yourself why. What could you have done to complete them?

Perhaps you spent too much time on social media. Answering the phone. Running personal errands.

If you know why you didn’t achieve the day’s tasks, you’ll be able to change the way you work the following day to meet them.

5. Reward yourself

Rewarding yourself plays an important role in maintaining momentum and enthusiasm in meeting your main objective.

Perhaps you’ve always struggled to tick off every task on your daily to-do list, but since setting this process in place, you’ve consistently ticked each one off.

Reward yourself!

Take the afternoon off. Head to the beach. Go shopping. Chill out with a good book.

Whatever you feel is a fair and just reward, take it, then continue with renewed energy and pride.

6. Buddy-up

It’s all very well and good putting these processes in place, ticking off your tasks and reaping the rewards, but there will come a time when you will wane.

And this is when having an accountability buddy will help.

Perhaps there’s another VA in a similar situation you could buddy up with to hold each other accountable. There are plenty of VA groups you could send a message out on to ask. Just remember, have a chat first to make sure you’re both on the same page.

You need a reliable and committed buddy for the shared accountability scheme to succeed.

7. Make it a habit

Health psychology researcher Philippa Lally published a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology on how long it takes to form a habit.

Well, as you’d imagine, there’s no set period for every situation.

Her research showed that it can take anywhere from 2 months to 8 months to form a habit. Maybe more, depending on what it is you’re trying to achieve.

But trying to form a habit for something you want to achieve in business, will make it much more likely to succeed than not.

Put these processes in place and stick with them.

Simply start at Day One and keep going.

Stay accountable to that, and you’re bound to succeed.

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