Here’s How to Keep Yourself Accountable

UPDATED: August 28, 2017
PUBLISHED: August 28, 2017

Many of us talk about the same problems for years. We deliberate about the best workout plan but don’t actually follow through. We complain about our boss and, years later, look back and say, “I should have left earlier.

How do we hold ourselves accountable and stop procrastinating? One answer is to get an accountability buddy.

Think back to school. What motivated you to finally finish a paper? Was it a love of learning? Knowing how valuable this skill was going to be in the future? No. It was probably a looming deadline and the threat of a failing grade for turning it in late.

During school, we have built-in accountability. For grown-up goals like starting a business, losing weight or writing a book, there’s typically no accountability for us to get it done.

Related: 11 Powerful Mantras for Those Who’ve Lost Motivation

The solution for finishing things: Create accountability through a buddy.

Accountability buddies can help us make meaningful progress. Surrounding ourselves with people invested in our success is the best way to make progress on our goals. Follow these steps to set up an accountability buddy.

1. Create a schedule and commit.

Decide how frequently you’ll meet. Once a week is a good starting point. You’ll have time to get things done in between your meetups (either in person or on the phone), but not so long that you start procrastinating or forgetting what you agreed to.

Then set a time and commit. Put it on your calendar and don’t let anything get in the way.

2. Help your buddy (and yourself) set better goals.

When we have a broad goal like “get healthy,” the failure comes in not knowing where to start. What do we do this month, this week, today, to make that happen?

If we can’t answer that simply, how are we supposed to act on it? Create SMART objectives that follow these guidelines:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-oriented

Related: Master the Art of Setting Goals in 4 Steps

3. Be honest with each other.

My friend recently told me about an event he attended. A group of women were brought in to give direct feedback about how they perceived a group of men’s clothing and demeanor.

Try to imagine what happened.

“The guys were crying,” my friend said. “Nobody had ever given us this kind of brutal feedback.” My friend realized he’d never before received brutally honest feedback on how he interacted with women.

We should subject ourselves to uncomfortable situations where we take on the “beginner’s mind” and force ourselves to grow. An accountability buddy gives us the rare opportunity for brutal honesty.

4. Ask great questions.

Smart people ask questions because they know it’s the best way to get to the true heart of a matter.

When you say you were too busy to work out this week, what are you really saying?

Chances are you had time to watch Netflix or go out for drinks, so what really held you back? Maybe you were nervous about walking into a new gym.

By asking great questions, you and your accountability buddy can break through invisible barriers.

5. Gamify accountability with your friends.

I love bets. There are myriad psychological studies about public commitment, which is highly persuasive. If you tell a group of people you’re going to stop smoking, you’re highly motivated to hit that goal.

You can do this with your accountability buddy, too. If you each set a goal, bet who will hit it first. Or you can keep score of who completes more of their weekly tasks. Make it fun!

Related: Do These 5 Things to (Actually) Stick to Your Goals


This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

Ramit Sethi is the author of the New York Times best-seller I Will Teach You to Be Rich and writes for more than 1 million readers on his websites, and Ramit and his team build premium digital products about personal finance, entrepreneurship, psychology, careers and personal development for top performers.