Are you one of those people who gets excited by the concept of a new book? You buy the book, but don’t have time to read it, so it ends up on the shelf with all of those other great books.
Or, perhaps you’ve read an inspiring book, but there’s so much in there it’s hard to know how to apply it, or what to apply first.
Enter Actionable Books. Actionable Books provides summaries of business books, with key tips on how to put the concepts into action. I’m a big fan of Actionable Books and a guest writer too.
Most recently, I summarized Breakthrough! 90 Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination. What I loved about this book is that though it’s written for so-called “creatives” the strategies can be applied to anyone who wants to overcome blocks when thinking creatively in their work. Want to know more? Click on this link and read my summary!
Now that I’ve been working with an accountability buddy for a while, I want to share what I’m loving about this structure: 1) I’m focused 2) I’m getting more done, and 3) I’m learning what I can achieve in a day.
Much like the power of written goals, it’s extremely helpful to write down what I intend to accomplish in a day. This is distinct from a “to-do list”, which can contain many things that may or may not get done. When I share what I intend to accomplish, it’s a commitment. Making a daily note of my commitments means I take the time each day to ask myself “What are some of the most important things I need to do today?” Also, as I email my accountability buddy, I have a record and I can’t kid myself about what I intended to complete.
Getting More Done
What I used to get done was anything relating to a client deadline and things I’d promised people that I’d do. The things that are harder to do are the things that are useful and beneficial for me and my business, that don’t have deadlines. For example, it’s helpful for me to do a Weekly Review but I often don’t do it. Now, I’ve done it each week, for three weeks in a row. And it’s because I committed to my buddy that I’d do it.
How Much Can I Achieve Today?
Writing down my commitments of what I’ll do forces me to look at my calendar and consider what I can achieve in the time that I have available. Also, when I report back on what I actually achieved it gives me a moment to reflect on how accurate I was in predicting what I could get done. I’m getting pretty good at knowing how long things take!
Design Thinking is a fresh way to look at innovation. It’s about creating the opportunity for something really new that meets the needs of the end user in a desirable way. Design Thinking involves analytical thinking AND intuitive thinking – it requires both logic and creativity. Are you looking for a way to delight your clients and customers? Are you interested in creating new and exciting products and services in your market? Cindy Stradling of Athena Training and Consulting interviewed me about Design Thinking on her BlogTalk radio show – check it out here: http://bit.ly/JmEWZ7
What is an accountability buddy system or partnership? Working with someone else to stay on track with completing tasks that move each of you toward your goals. Tell your partner what you intend to do and by when, then report back if you did it. You can add more to it if you want, such as asking your buddy to encourage you or enforce consequences if you don’t complete your actions. You can be in touch daily, weekly or some other time-frame.
As I’m an independent consultant, I often spend time with others who have their own businesses or work independently. For a while now, I’ve heard people around me talk about “accountability partnerships” but until recently I’ve resisted. Here’s why:
- Priorities change – if I said yesterday I was going to do something, then get an important call from a client, the other action can go out the window
- I don’t like being told what to do and this feels a bit like reporting to a manager
- I like to keep things simple – the fewer emails I have to send or calls I have to make, the better
Despite all of that, I have realized that having an accountability buddy can work for me. When I’m working on a client project, the deadline keeps me focused. However, I have some tasks that I’ve set for myself, that don’t have deadlines (and just writing a date on it doesn’t help). Here’s why I like having a buddy:
- Choosing a task to tell my buddy I’ll commit to helps me to focus on what’s important
- Knowing I’ll have to report back to my buddy creates a deadline that feels real
- I get my tasks done (like writing this blog!)
How to set up your own accountability buddy system:
- Choose someone who wants to report back on the same time frame as you
- Agree to the format: will you email or call each other? When? What will you include? Keep it brief so it doesn’t become a burden!
- Agree to be flexible – you can drop tasks if there’s a real reason (not an excuse!) to do so
- Ask the other person what support they want or need from you, for example, encouragement, reminders, or consequences!
- Agree a timeframe to try it out
Once you’ve worked with your buddy for a while, notice and discuss what’s working and what isn’t, then agree to any changes if you decide to continue. I think many people can benefit from the focus and commitment that will lead to increased productivity.
Have you ever made a quick decision and then regretted it? Have you ever left a meeting and thought after of a great comment or insight that you could have shared?
When do you come up with your best ideas? Have you ever had a great idea when:
- You’re about to fall asleep
- Driving (and it’s relaxing!)
- Going for a run
- Chatting with a friend about an unrelated topic
- In the shower
Our unconscious minds need time to incubate to respond to challenges and opportunities and to make good decisions. David Allen (of “Getting Things Done” fame) wrote in his newsletter about two psychologists in Amsterdam (Dijksterhuis and Nordgren, 2006) who published research that indicated decisions made after the unconscious has had time to process the inputs are always better. I also wrote in an earlier blog entry about how going for a walk is part of my creative process.
Here’s how to let your unconscious mind do the work:
- Present, read or discuss information relating to the situation.
- Brainstorm either alone or in a group. Get your ideas flowing. What ideas may be useful? DON’T ask for a decision or agreement to a solution.
- Take a break. Do something completely unrelated to the topic at hand, particularly any activity that will help you relax. Don’t even TRY to think about the situation. However, if ideas come up, let it flow. Make notes of any solutions.
- Bring your ideas back to your client, team or office. You’ll probably find your ideas flow more easily and you are more confident in your decisions.
This is most useful when there’s an important decision to be made, or an opportunity or challenge to respond to. Decisions about what to have for dinner can probably still be made in the moment!