I suck at accountability

by emily on May 7, 2012

You would think that as a career consultant and coach, I’d be really great with my own time management, structure and accountability.  But you want in on a dirty little secret of mine?  When it’s just up to me, I actually suck at it.

This weekend I had all kinds of plans about how much work I was going to get done.  Oh yeah, baby, I piled that to-do list high!  And you want to know what I got done this weekend?  Absolutely nothing.  Not one thing on my to do list was accomplished.

I did a great job of procrastinating (thanks to a handy dandy bottle of wine, social media, and catching up on tons of tv).  I only left the house on Saturday to get a latte.  Other than that I was lying around.  On the couch, on the bed, on the bench.  Everytime I thought about sitting down to do my work, I had a sudden and desperate urge to do the dishes, or some similar, mundane life chore that could’ve been accomplished at any other time besides the present moment.

I imagine that you are like this too.  In fact, it is one of the top reasons that the coaching industry is thriving: people suck at accountability.

I suck at it (when it comes to my own life).  And you know what I’ve learned through my experience as both a coach and a human being?  The more you want something, the harder it is to take action.  The closer we get to what we want, the more we procrastinate and avoid it.  The harder we fight and struggle against taking action.

You would think that the more we want something, the harder we work to get it, but that would be far too logical.  And when there is something I want in my life, I guarantee you I am not thinking about it from a logical perspective.  Fear, anxiety and doubt are powerful forces.  They show up as resistance and procrastination.  And while it may feel more comfortable to slip into, “I don’t feel like it, ” “This is too hard,” “I’ll do it tomorrow,” I can assure you, it is a devious and manipulative trap that keeps you (and me, all of us) stuck.

If you haven’t already read it, there is an amazing book called “The War Of Art” by Steven Pressfield.  And if you have already read it, I’d suggest you make re-reading it a habit.  Either way, here’s a great quote from the book about the power of procrastination:

“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit.  We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.

Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives.  There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny.  This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance.

This second, we can sit down and do our work.”

So here’s the thing.  When I am left to my own devices, I know I never work as hard or as efficiently as I could.  I put things off, make excuses, and am an artful procrastinator.  (Years I go I coined the term “procrasturbation,” which, I’m sure you can figure out what it means).

That’s why it is so important that I don’t leave myself to my own devices. I don’t want to, in Pressfield’s words, put my life off until my death bed.  It’s imperative to break free of procrastination.

Here are a few steps to doing it:

First is to create publicly known deadlines.  For example – I publish a new blog once a week (sometimes it’s Sunday, sometimes it’s Monday).  But the main reason I keep to that schedule is because I’ve declared it publicly.  I want to get it done because I know other people are expecting me to deliver.

Second is surrounding myself with other people who get shit done.  If you want to break out of bad habits, connect with people who have the kind of good habits you want.  My highly productive, happy, fit friends inspire me to get my shit together.  If they can do it, so can I.

Third is to work with a coach.  For the first 2 years of running my business I had high level personal mentors.  By high level I mean motherfucking expensive.  It pushed me to get results that I never would’ve demanded of myself if it were just up to me.  It would have been easy for me to give up when things were hard.  But because I was already committed to working with my coach, I HAD to find ways to keep going.  And I’m so glad I was on the hook not only with accountability, but the high price tag pushed me to hustle like I had never hustled before.  I never could’ve done it so quickly, creatively or efficiently on my own.

Fourth is to take time off.  This weekend I didn’t make time to just chillax.  And so I rebelled against my full to do list by doing lots and lots of nothing.  If I had just scheduled one day this weekend as a designated non-work day, I could’ve recharged without feeling bad about it, and been a lot more productive when I came back to work.

Fifth is awareness.  Bad habits have a way of sneaking back in when we stop paying attention.  I used to think one day I’d get to the point where I was just productive and happy, and it would be easy.  The truth is, choosing to be accountable and productive is an ongoing struggle, and that’s ok.  Just do what you need to do to put yourself on the hook.

Leave a comment.  I want to know how you overcome procrastination.  Resistance is pretty sneaky. What motivates you to stay accountable?  How do you keep yourself on the hook when your resistance creeps up?  Discuss below!


LA Actors – Spend The Night With Me!

One Night Intensive THIS WEDNESDAY May 9

I’m hosting an intimate, one-night-only workshop in LA.  If you know you need to be doing something for your acting career, but you’re not exactly WHAT, then jump on this rare chance to work with me in person!

Join me and award-winning producer Jenna Edwards for an intimate, informative, and fun workshop.  Walk away with clarity on your acting goals and a step by step plan to make it happen.  Seats are incredibly limited, so don’t procrastinate! 

Plus, you get a crazy-good amazing price when you bring friends.

Get the details here.



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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Lucinda Carr May 7, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I overcome procrastination by telling people what I am going to do. When I want to slack off I remember that they are waiting and watching to see what happens. I also create a commitment to someone else where the commitment requires that I complete my task. Like my second book of poetry. I predilection a copy in Feb. I finished the first draft on April 30.


emily May 7, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Nice work, Lucinda! The only way to get it done…is to get it done!


Lenka May 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Can’t but agree! I’ve been doing most of the points and found it working very well. Consistency is so important. It may be difficult at first, but as with everything, once you get in the loop of doing it, it becomes a habit and you get used to get things done. I aim to write at least 3 blog posts per month, plus guest posts. If I find myself writing each week, I get on with it, it works well. Once I get out of it, I suddenly lose it.
I find that if you promise things on Twitter – tell what you are doing, you make yourself really go and do it, as you feel like you promised that to your followers.
I’ve been following your blog for a while now, I just wanted to thank you for all the advice you give, it’s very helpful and inspirational.


emily May 7, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Hey Lenka, consistency is so important – thanks for the reminder. I am a twitter-phile myself, and yes, the public declaration is a powerful motivator!


phillip May 8, 2012 at 1:37 am

We don’t always get to choose when we are ready for what life demands of us but making things work out with what we have to work with can be the most liberating way of getting to where we want to go in spite of our fears and hesitations.

I too am a proponent of Lucinda’s method. In show business, dependability is probably the most important quality. For me, the secret of success is that first you have show up.


Stephanie May 8, 2012 at 2:32 am

I have a hard-core procrastination habit, made worse by a very awful year in my personal life. I can feel myself coming out of it now, and I think the War of Art sounds like just the right thing to read right now- off to the library!


phillip May 8, 2012 at 3:38 am

I have come to think that procrastination has little to do with time management skills or the ability to prioritize. Rather, it is a dire psychological consequence of the inability to make a decision and then go with it. Many people I know who live in this predicament are always wait for something to happen, like the phone to ring that would some how save them and offer them a temporary sojourn from what has become lifestyle. It becomes a very circular kind of existence. In terms of life’s journey, a bus you can’t get off of. These to-do-lists can often be very self defeating and unmanageable in their scale. Doing the dishes might actually be the best thing to accomplish that day. We needn’t beat ourselves up with ideas of which tasks are unworthy of our time and which ones serve our egos better. There must be a time for everything and all work is worthy.


RICH PARRISH May 8, 2012 at 10:01 am

I really should be someone other than myself, for it seems like when I am trying to help or assist a friend I am non stop with him and keep on him or her til it is completely done. I work best and fastest when helping others and not myself. I really need to find a clone of myself so I can inspire him and he can inspire me to work faster and get these goals taken care of. Just what they are I can’t even name. I mean I know what I want or where I want to be, BUT the DOOR is missing for the Key. I can’t find the Staircase that leads to that Door. Find the staircase, and At the Top is the Magical Door to OZ. My OZ and we all should know what that IS. AnyWay, How or WHO, That’s the answer – DR. WHO, Where are you, I need you now. Out there in the Distance, I see a Mysterious Rider. Why, It’s Doctor WHO, That’s Who. “Come young Man, let me help you.” Are you really Dr. WHO? “Come, Come, You know WHO I Really Am.” Why, Yes, It’s all very clear to me now RICH.


Mary Riitano May 8, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Tee hee hee, I am in the same boat, suck at being accountable about things for myself. Oh, I’m GREAT at it for other people…Thanks for the transparency and knowing you struggle with it too and it sounds like it’s an epidemic with other people as well. It’s great reading what works and doesn’t work for peeps. Best thing I do is: to be sure I am talking nice…to MYSELF. Not excusing the lackluster effort = but understanding it’s coming from fear and making up my mind to do ONE thing come hell or high water when I get that sticky pulling down feeling from procrastination just to get to the other side of that fear.


Wayne May 9, 2012 at 1:39 am

Emily, as always you offer great advice!


shantala May 13, 2012 at 4:51 pm

oh what a lovely post…absolutely agree with scheduling time off…if you know you have a full day to lounge, watch tv go shopping hang with people…it’s easier to work. also you had written about a reward system…now if i get my 3 action agenda revenue items finished within the time span i set, i treat myself to a tv show…Scandal, Touch, Vampire Diaries, Once upon a time…there are some fantastic ones 😛

I’ve paid 2 coaches, you and my healing business coach so i’m pushed for accountability…and i have a buddy who i check in with at 8pm every night via email…we post celebrations and whether we accomplished our 3 action items of the day.

I’ve also been visualizing every morning using danielle laporte’s fire starter technique…it’s an amazing way to connect to true desires and know where the shifts are. sometimes procrastination comes up because the dream we’ve been following has shifted and a tweak is needed, a different step. I like this state of being rather than just doing…i’m happier 😉


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