Today I want to share with you the most effective strategy I’ve ever come across for getting things done.
It’s very simple, it takes less than five minutes a day, and you can start doing it yourself right away and see immediate results.
In short, this strategy will help you achieve whatever goal(s) you might have.
There are two parts to it:
Find And Utilize An Accountability Partner (AP)
Penalties For Failure
Before we dive deeper, let me give you a couple of examples of how it works.
Going To The Gym
Say your goal is to go to the gym 3 times per week but you struggle to get your ass down there.
To make it happen, you do these two things:
- The Push: Tell your AP that you’re going to go the gym 3 times per week. You agree to message them at the end of every week and let them know how many times you actually went.
- The Shove: Any time you miss going to the gym, you agree to pay a $500 penalty.
Forming The Writing Habit
Say you want to develop your writing skills but you find it hard to sit down and write every day.
To make it happen, you do these two things:
- The Push: Tell your AP that you’ll write for at least 30 minutes each morning and produce at least 500 words. You agree to email them a screenshot of your writing plus a word count before 9am each day.
- The Shove: Every time you fall short of the 30-minute/500-word mark, or neglect to email your AP before 9am, you agree to pay a $500 penalty.
Weaning Yourself Off Netflix
Say you’re very prone to frequent Netflix binges and you want to drastically reduce the time you spend on there.
To make it happen, you do these two things:
- The Push: Tell your AP that you’ll watch no more than 1 hour of Netflix per day during the week. You agree to message them at the end of every day and tell them what show you watched and for how long.
- The Shove: Each day you go over the 1 hour mark, you agree to pay a $500 penalty.
Now let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of all this.
First we’re going to talk about how to find and utilize an Accountability Partner, and then we’ll talk about how to use penalties effectively.
How To Find & Utilize An Accountability Partner
- Note: this section is pulled from my course called 3M1K, which teaches you how to build your first online business.
I’m always coming up with ideas for great new projects I could work on.
It’s a gift and a curse, because if I’m not careful, I end up with too many chainsaws in the air and not enough hands to catch them.
And when that happens, inevitably, they all come crashing down.
I fell into this trap while building this very course.
For some reason I thought it would be perfectly fine to work on some client projects and try write a series of books at the same time.
Of course, this was a recipe for disaster.
But I couldn’t see it.
Or maybe I should say: I wouldn’t let myself see it.
Then I had a call with my friend Mark, a very savvy online entrepreneur. We jump on Skype once a month, talk about our wins and sticking points, try offer each other advice and hold each other accountable.
On this particular call I was describing all the projects I had going when Mark stopped me mid-sentence.
There never had been.
But until Mark asked that question, I was unable to see my own madness and self-sabotage.
He shone a light on it and made it impossible to ignore.
On that very call I resolved to drop everything else I had going on and focus one hundred percent on building this course.
And that’s what I did.
The #1 Reason You Need An Accountability Partner
Richard Feynman tells us...
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.
That’s why you need an Accountability Partner.
It’s too easy to bullshit yourself and make excuses as to why you’re not doing what needs to be done. But a good AP won’t let you get away with that.
They’re going to ask you the tough questions that you’ve been afraid to ask yourself.
And you need that.
It sucks. But you need it.
How To Be A Great Accountability Partner
How does James Bond get all the hot chicks?
By being amazing himself.
Same goes for finding a great AP: you first need to become one yourself.
This requires you to develop and practice three primary habits.
But it’s important not to gloss over this.
Being a great AP means holding the other person accountable. You must ensure that they follow through on their commitments, that they do what they said they were going to do.
For example, a big part of your accountability system will be frequent check-ins with your partner. If she’s supposed to check in with you each morning before 9am but you haven’t heard from her by 9:30, you need to be shooting her a text/email/phone call to see what’s going on.
You NEVER want your AP to feel like they can get away with skipping a check-in, or failing to honor some other commitment they made.
Being a good AP means calling the other person on their bullshit.
If they’re frequently making excuses or shooting themselves in the foot, you need to speak up and deliver a little tough love.
It’s easier not to do this. It’s tempting to just pat them on the back and avoid rocking the boat. But if you want them to do it for you, you have to do it for them.
Whenever you have a question you’re afraid to ask, or an observation you’re afraid to make, that’s when you most need to speak up.
Keep this quote in mind:
A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.
You also need to be courageous in owning up to your own failures and setbacks. Strive to be brutally honest about your progress or lack thereof. Your partner will help you figure out why you got stuck and how to move forward, but they can only do that if you’re straight with them.
This is to balance out the courage.
Anyone can be courageous. But to be courageous and kind at the same time is rare and valuable.
In practice, this means recognizing what your partner needs most from you at a given moment. Sometimes they’ll need a push, and sometimes they’ll need a hug.
You should be ready and able to offer either.
How To Find A Great Accountability Partner
Maybe you already have someone in mind for this. But a word of warning from 3M1K member Hazel:
Two places you can try find an AP:
Especially events related to personal development. You’ll find lots of growth-oriented people there.
Work the room, find someone who seems to have their shit together, and ask them if they’d be interested in becoming your accountabil-a-buddy.
Same as the previous but online. You can afford to go more niche here. For example, if business-building is your focus, then join one of the many free Facebook groups for entrepreneurs. Choose an active one and post in there that you’re looking for someone to be your AP. You can link to this article for context.
For #2, include the following details in your post:
- Some quick info about you (age/sex/location/etc).
- What you can offer as an AP.
- What you’d like an AP to help you with.
- Call to action.
Here's an example:
I’m a 34-year-old guy from Ireland, currently living in Amsterdam and I’m looking for an online Accountability Partner.If you don’t know what I mean by “Accountability Partner,” it’s basically someone who who helps ensure I follow through on my goals, and I help do the same for them.
(See here for a deeper explanation: http://ndoherty.com/ps/)
I can be a great accountability partner by helping you stick to a schedule, by holding you accountable to your goals, and by helping you brainstorm ideas and talk through sticking points.
If I see you slacking off I promise to crack the whip 🙂
I’d like you to hold me accountable to my daily goals and point out any limiting beliefs or blind spots that you see holding me back. Ideally I’d like to find someone based in Europe so our schedules aren’t too different.
If you’re interested, PM me and drop a comment to let me know you did (so your message doesn’t get lost in my spam folder).
Once you get some replies, I recommend you organize a Skype or phone call with each person you like the sound of. A quick chat will give you a good feel for how they operate and if they’ll be a good match for you.
Some things to check for on the call:
- What are their goals?
- What exactly do they need help with?
- How frequently do they want to be in touch?
Answers to these questions should determine whether or not you can be a good AP for them, and vice versa.
Don’t worry about finding a 100% perfect match here, because there is no such thing. And most likely you’ll need to try someone out for a couple of weeks before you know if they’re right for you.
Which brings us to an important point:
- When selecting a partner, agree to start off with a two-week trial period.
During those two weeks you can really get a feel for how they operate and if they’re a good match for you.
If they are, keep going.
If not, simply tell them you’d like to try partnering up with someone else and wish them well.
Setting Up A Solid Accountability System
Okay, so at this point you should have found someone to be your AP.
Now you want to agree on a system so you both know what to expect and can best support one another.
I recommend you commit to doing two things regularly with your partner: check-ins and mastermind calls.
Check-ins are frequent communications with your partner to let them know what you’re doing and what you’ve done.
For effective check-ins, answer the following four questions with your partner.
1. When and how often do you check in?
Your check-in schedule doesn’t have to be the same as your partner’s. The important thing is that they hold you accountable and vice versa.
For example, you might want to check in every morning and evening, whereas your partner might want to check in only in the evening.
Just be explicit about it. Actually set a cut-off time.
- Every morning before 9am and every evening before 9pm (Amsterdam), excluding weekends.
- Every day before midnight (London), excluding weekends.
- Every Monday-Friday before 10pm (NYC).
- Every Saturday before 10am and every Sunday before 8pm (Sydney).
2. What does a check-in consist of?
Keep this simple.
When I check in with Mark in the morning I tell him the following:
- My most important task(s) for today.
And then in the evening I check in to let him know how I fared. If I failed to complete a task, I explain why.
Mark prefers to check in once per day, and he does that at night. He’ll tell me how he fared with his task list that day, and detail his most important task(s) for the next.
3. How do you check in?
By text? By email? Facebook? Something else?
Anything can work. Pick one method of communication and stick to it so check-ins can’t be missed.
4. What happens when someone misses a check-in?
At the very least I recommend that you agree to chase each other up if a check-in is missed.
So if your partner hasn’t checked in by the time they were supposed to, you contact them asking what’s going on. Just something simple like this:
- I don’t see a check-in from you this morning. Everything okay?
Don’t underestimate how valuable this can be.
We all have days where we feel like being lazy and ditching our responsibilities, but when you have someone asking that you explain your absence, it becomes a lot harder to slack off.
Or, at the very least, you have to own up to slacking off.
As well as frequent check-ins, I recommend you have occasional mastermind calls with your AP. This means getting together via phone or Skype (or even in person) to discuss your progress.
Here’s a sample format for a one-hour mastermind call:
- Check-ins: 5 minutes each, discussing what each of you has been working on since the last call.
- Brainstorm: 40 minutes total, discussing different ideas for overcoming challenges and speeding up progress.
- Wrap-up: 5 minutes each, setting goals to be completed by the next call.
Try scheduling a mastermind call once per month or every two weeks. Use a tool like Google Calendar so you can both sync up and receive reminders.
How To Set
Having an AP is great on its own and will help you get a lot more done, but sometimes it’s not enough.
For those times, a well-set penalty will get your ass in gear.
Last week, for example, I told Mark that I’d pay a $1,000 penalty if I didn’t finish updating the info page for 3M1K by the end of the week.
I’d been putting off that chunk of work for weeks.
But with the penalty in place, I finally knuckled down and got it done.
3 Tips For Effective Penalties
Attach Them To Goals You Control
Here are two goals:
- Find a new job by the end of the month.
- Submit 10 job proposals by the end of the month.
It’s no use attaching a penalty to the first goal, because you might fail to find a new job no matter how hard you try. Ultimately, it’s going to be up to someone else to hire you, and your “by the end of the month” deadline might not fit with their timeline.
Attaching a penalty to the second goal is much more effective, because it’s fully within your control to submit 10 job proposals by the end of the month. You don’t need permission from anyone else to do that.
In other words, your penalty should be set up to punish lack of effort and/or focus, not lack of outcome.
Make Them Sting
Make your penalties scary and intimidating.
The idea is to make doing what you said you’d do a much more attractive proposition than having to take the penalty.
Consider these two penalties:
- Do 500 push ups today or pay a $5 penalty.
- Do 500 push ups today or pay a $500 penalty.
Which is more likely to get you busting out 500 push ups today?
The latter, of course.
Same deal with my $1,000 penalty last week. Essentially, I was left with this choice:
- Do the work by the end of the week or lose $1,000 that you really can’t afford to lose right now.
With that big penalty hanging over me, there was no way I was going to fail.
And that’s the whole point.
All that said, your penalties don’t have to be monetary. A friend of mine once agreed to shave half of his head if he failed to reach a goal, and to leave his hair that way for a week.
The threat of embarrassment and ridicule proved a very effective motivator for him.
Pay Your Enemies
Say you set a penalty of $500 for every day you miss going to the gym.
Who does that $500 go to?
It shouldn’t go to your AP, because then they could easily end up rooting for you to fail. (And possibly sabotaging your efforts, too.)
Instead, agree to donate the money to a cause you hate. Like some neo-Nazi group or Kitten Killers International or Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Let me know how this strategy works for you.