4 Ways to Improve Personal Accountability

If there is one thing we can count on, is that our post-pandemic life will look very different than it did at the beginning of 2020. From face masks to physical distancing and a heightened awareness of the ease with which viruses transmit from person to person, we’re rethinking the way we live and work. In my opinion, the traditional way of working will evolve in favor of the virtual office.


The traditional way of working will evolve in favor of the virtual office.

For years, employers have dismissed the thought of employees working from home because, among other reasons, they didn't trust them, in general, to have the personal accountability necessary to perform their duties from home with the efficiency they did in an office environment. Now that the pandemic has allowed workers to gain their employer’s trust, employers are rethinking flexible working as a viable option.

By now, many of us have discovered the challenges of working from home and figured out fixes to overcome them. But what if the virtual office is no longer a short-term experiment and turns into our new normal? Would you be ready to make the jump? In my last post, I referred to three reasons why it’s challenging for some people to work from home -lack of an appropriate workspace, lack of personal accountability, and lack of structure- and I went over seven simple solutions for the first reason. Now, let’s tackle the second reason: lack of personal accountability and why it is problematic for some, plus a few ideas to overcome it.

Personal accountability is the idea that we’re responsible for our actions and their outcomes -good or not. Authority figures teach us personal responsibility from an early age by showing us the consequences (positive and negative) of our doings. So, why do some adults struggle with personal accountability?

Let's start by saying that accountability comes from internal or external sources. An external source of accountability may be your peer checking on you and making sure you haven’t forgotten an impending deadline. Internal accountability, on the other hand, is only on you; it’s you being responsible for your actions. Since I don’t study the workings of the human mind, I’ll share my perspective from the viewpoint of time management.

In her article Personal Accountability And The Pursuit of Workplace Happiness, Cy Wakeman mentions four factors that influence personal accountability:

  • Commitment. When you're ready to undertake a project, understand its purpose, and set clear goals, you'll more willing and better prepared to invest your time and energy. Commitment is doing something because you recognize and appreciate its value.

  • Resilience. Personal accountability is not the pursuit of perfection. You'll make mistakes and have setbacks along the way, yet you need to keep going anyway. Don’t be afraid of blunders; they happen to everybody. Get over it and move on.

  • Ownership. When you're in charge of a project, you're responsible for your actions and the ensuing outcome. You answer to yourself and others for whatever positive or negative consequences result from your actions.

  • Continuous learning. When you practice personal accountability, you should celebrate your successes, but also learn from your mistakes. Identify what needs improvement, and act on it. Emotional outbursts are unnecessary.

Personal commitment is closely linked to setting clear and achievable goals. If you over-commit, others will see you as unreliable. Practical time management skills help those working from home to put in place systems geared to facilitate personal commitment. Any effort you invest in your work will fall short without personal engagement and an efficient time management system that works for you.


Will distance office work be the new normal?

There are tools available to keep you in check and make sure you stay on track. Analysis, assessments, and data will provide a snapshot of your progress -or lack thereof. Here a few practical ideas you can implement now:

  • Make sure your goals are clear and that all involved are on the same page. Clarity is critical to generating positive outcomes.

  • Create a time budget and align your expectations with that of our peers.

  • Make a checklist specifying all the tasks necessary to accomplish your goals. Break projects in the smallest possible steps, so you have a precise understanding of the requirements and an estimation of the time needed.

  • Create ways to measure your progress. If you need external accountability, then set reminders and alarms in your smartphone or ask someone to check on you from time to time to make sure you're on track. Find trusted ways to course-correct when you notice that you’re falling behind.

It’s not that you're not committed or reliable. Sometimes you don't know where to start or are afraid of failure, which leads to procrastination and undesired results. Find the reason that’s keeping you from achieving the results want and tackle the root cause. Lack of personal commitment is the symptom, not the illness. Check your time management systems and your goal-setting strategies, and maybe you'll solve the mystery that's getting in the way to great success.

I would love to learn about your experience on this topic. Share your tips and thoughts below. If you liked this post, please like, share, and leave a comment so others can find it too. Thank you for stopping by and have a productive week!