Highly Productive Assistants Know How to Hold Themselves Accountable

When I was in high school in the early ’90’s, my friends and I would carry around spiral-bound planners and argue who had the prettiest planner. We didn’t use stickers or washi tape to decorate our planners. We were minimalists and used them directly off the shelf as-is. We didn’t even use colored gel pens!

What we did do was record something in every box for every class for every day of the week. If there were no assignments to write down, we wrote NONE in big block letters and then shaded out the box with our ball point pens to indicate there was nothing to do. And when we finished the assignment, we shaded that box in too.

Our monthly calendars were filled with project deadlines, work hours, and after-school activity times.

In college, I graduated to the Day Timer which is your more traditional time blocking system of showing the hours from 6 AM to 10 PM on individual lines so you can block out portions of your day. In college, my class schedule dictated my “business day” for me and I marked in the evening hours which chapters to read or which problems to solve or which study group to meet.

I studied how to be an English teacher in college. I had never read a business book and hadn’t even heard of the phrase time blocking. But that’s exactly what I was doing because it was necessary. I knew there was no way I could keep everything straight in my head, nor just by writing down on a piece of paper. So I used a system.

Those planners were my life documented in one place. Thankfully I never lost any of them!

It’s only now, after years of business and mindset training, that I know I was successful in high school and college because I used those planning systems. They held me accountable to my outcome which was getting good grades and becoming an English teacher.

Holding Yourself Accountable

These days, we have SO MANY systems available to us that we can use to hold ourselves accountable. All you have to do is pick one and follow it consistently. When you do that, you are essentially reporting to yourself.

Now, some people need the help of others in order to be held accountable. My brother wasn’t such a good student in his younger days. His papers were all jammed into his backpack or stuffed between the pages of text books. And he often brought home the wrong books. My parents had to hold him accountable by meeting with him every night and reviewing his assignments with him.

When you are an accountable person, you don’t need someone else checking in on you. You know what you need to do and you have your own system in place that helps you accomplish that.

An accountable person is someone who knows what’s important to them and will let nothing stand in the way of them honoring those important things.

Growing up, my parents’ approval was extremely important to me. I have a very high need to impress authority figures and win their accolades. These days though, I don’t assign the role of “authority figure” to very many people. Instead, I’ve switched my mindset to be more self-fulfilling by having a rule for myself. If I promise to do something, I’m going to make sure it gets done.

Isn’t that what accountability is? It’s accounting for your promises and your actions. And quite simply, accounting is just checks and balances. If you borrow $10 for lunch from a teammate and then you pay it back the next day, you’ve balanced your account. When you make a promise to do something by a deadline and you deliver on or before the deadline, you’ve balanced your account.

It’s up to you to decide what system you’re going to use to keep track of those accounts.

Being Accountable to a Checklist

A checklist is the easiest thing you can use to hold yourself accountable. It’s very black and white. And it’s something you can show to your teammates or mega agent. It clearly shows what you’ve accomplished.

Being Accountable to a To Do List

You have a list of things to get done. And every day it seems like that list gets longer.

One trick I use to manage a long to-do list is to write each item on a sticky note where each item starts with a verb. Verbs are action words like read, email, plan, write, create. So if your outcome is a successful client appreciation event, what’s the one thing you need to do first? Is it “research client appreciation events on Pinterest” or “brainstorm a list of things that are needed for a successful client appreciation event”? What you DON’T want to write on your sticky note is “client appreciation event” because there is no action to take with that phrase; it’s just a thing.

Now, which of those sticky notes is the absolute most important thing you need to get done today? Set it aside and put the rest of the notes some place where you can’t see them.

Take the note you set aside and put it in a prominent place in front of you. I like to use a brightly colored note so it stands out from everything else. Then go to work on that one thing. Forget about everything else you need to do, and focus on that one thing.

When you get distracted, you’ll know exactly what thing you need to return to doing. When you are done with that thing, put it in a separate drawer and repeat the process of choosing the most important thing you need to get done today from the rest of the sticky notes.

At the end of the day, review everything you accomplished and reward yourself for getting it done. Listen to your favorite song, goof off on Facebook, watch a funny cat video. You’ve earned it.

What I like about this system is that you can share with your mega agent everything you’ve accomplished as well. Do it daily or weekly; whatever makes the most sense for you.

Being Accountable to a Person

You can always use a teammate or your mega agent to help hold you accountable. You can even use someone across the country! I have an accountability partnership with Dana Browning in Idaho while I live in Missouri. We talk once a week and if we are going to be out of the office on the Friday we usually call each other, then we’ll email instead.

I had an entire week off of work this year where I promised Dana that would visit three local wineries in my area. My husband and I went to two and was feeling kinda lazy about getting the third one in, but because I had promised Dana that I would visit three, then sure enough I felt compelled to do it. And I was glad that I did. My husband and I had a lot of fun visiting those wineries and I got the satisfaction of knowing I set a goal and accomplished it.

I’m also a big fan of hiring a coach. There’s something very powerful about being accountable to someone outside your organization. When we spend a lot of time with our teammates, they tend to become our friends instead of authority figures. A coach has a way of asking the right questions of you so that you become intrinsically motivated to accomplish your goals.

Ultimately though, being accountable to a person won’t work if you are resistant to being held accountable. The power of someone else holding you accountable can’t come from fear of punishment. Ultimately, the punishment is meaningless because we aren’t children or slaves. We have the freedom to walk away from anything we don’t like.

The power of being accountable to person lies within the person being held accountable. They have to have an internal desire to uphold promises, or a desire to meet their goals for a reason that’s bigger than them. An accountable person will find a way to accomplish the tasks set before them because they have a strong internal drive.

And that’s why on our real estate team, we don’t hold people accountable. We hire accountable people. Accountable people don’t need a 15th Protocol (where they come into the office for additional work on an evening or weekend if they haven’t met certain goals by the 15th of the month), nor do they need the threat that someone’s going to cash the $1,000 check they wrote if they don’t make their weekly calls. Accountable people set their own goals and strive to achieve them because they promised they would or because their “why” is so big that to not meet their goals would be devastating to them.


What about you? How do you go about holding yourself accountable to your mega’s expectations?

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