Private accountability

In my ongoing battle for productivity, let me tell you about my latest weapon.

A few months ago, I told you about Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret about not breaking the chain. After that I began publicly tracking how long my “chains” were, but I stopped doing that a while ago. Why?

Because even though I’m not published yet, and am therefore not a professional, I prefer to act like I’m one, and I feel that constantly talking about how much I am (or am not) getting done is unprofessional. You just want to know a release date, right? So I stopped doing it. Or rather, I stopped telling you about it – I still write every single day, and my current chain is pretty long.

Back before that I tried another method of public accountability, giving myself public challenges and then updating you on how I did. Those were more effective because there was a clear win/lose result, but it still felt unprofessional to me. Professionals shouldn’t air their dirty laundry, they should just get it done.

So here’s what I’m doing now. I’ve think that the best accountability systems involve two different kinds of accountability: 1) social and 2) monetary or public. Since I feel like public accountability is unprofessional, I’m tapping into the other two.

I talked to my editor, and in exchange for keeping him accountable for his own business, I’m setting goals every week and having him take me to task if I miss them. That’s the social accountability, because if I screw up I now have to explain to him why I suck. It also gives me a specific goal, which is more effective than the nebulous “write every day”. As for monetary, right now I’m using the possibility of a monetary punishment being added to motivate me, but if I fail two or three times, I’ll start actually paying my editor every time I screw up.

So far the results have been great. I feel the whip at my back, but not in a bad way – I have a deadline, which is great for my personality, but the setup feels more professional to me since you all would have never heard about if I hadn’t gone out of my way to tell you. I’m getting a lot done, and having more fun too! If I can keep this up, I’ll get this book finished far faster than my recent (and frankly deplorable) pace would have allowed.

Do you know why some people think they “need” a job? Because bosses keep you accountable. And they do, but they’re not the only way. You can throw off the mandatory accountability system and replace it with one of your own choosing, so you can get just as much done (or more!) when it suits you best. I much prefer that, provided I can find one that works for me.

Hopefully this is it. If not, I’ll update you when I find it. It’s an ongoing battle.