Unlike other workers, sole traders don’t have accountability from anyone else for their time spent in a day.
Working for yourself is excellent for those that want to live with a bit more freedom, spend more time with their kids for essential events, go shopping when it’s quiet and avoid clock-watching, desperate for the day (or even week) to end.
While this type of freedom has its upsides, as with everything, it has its downsides too. And the number one issue that sole traders and freelancers have (especially when they are just starting out) is procrastination. It can only be too easy to put off the complicated or tedious jobs in favour of something more fun – like the latest movie. There’s no ‘big bad boss’ to ‘spur you on’.
An Accountability Partner
If you are self-employed and are finding yourself with a tendency to procrastinate, a simple fix is to have an accountability partner. Choose ing someone who is also a solopreneur means that they will be sympathetic to your style of working and its pitfalls. You can work together to keep each other on track.
But make sure you don’t just pick anybody. It is wise to look for certain critical qualities in someone to be your accountability buddy:
- Make sure you like them.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you end up with someone you are not keen on, you could end up feeling like you have a lousy boss after all. Except for this one you can choose to ignore it without losing your job. The irony is you’ll end up procrastinating talking to them – the exact opposite of what you want to achieve. Paradoxically though, they shouldn’t be your best friend or someone that will be too forgiving of you either. The idea here is that you spur each other to do the things you avoid. And a really close mate might just let you get away with too much – and vice-versa.
- Choose someone with a growth mindset.
Attitude is everything, especially in your business! So someone who has a positive mental attitude can be really motivating. If you have someone who focuses too much on negative things, you may find yourself feeling bluer about the tasks that you did before you had a partner. A chat with your accountability partner should leave you feeling good, energised and ready to tackle the task ahead. Of course, nobody can feel great all the time, but an accountability partner with an optimistic tendency is more likely to have their good stuff rubbing off on you, and your business.
- You gotta be able to trust them!
This person is someone who you are likely to share important information with about your hopes and dreams. And someone likely to gossip behind your back about you or your business is, of course, not something you want to foster. They should be non-judgemental and open-minded to your ideas and thoughts. They should not be an intimate partner. They just will not be able to make you accountable. Their interests in you are from a different place. Remember, this accountability partnership is likely to be a two-way street. You get back in return what you give here.
- Have a process.
Before each call or session together, you should have a pre-agreed structure for the talk. Make sure that both you and your accountability partner know in advance, what you may be talking about together. Have goals written down and ideas for how you will both know whether the other person has achieved the target, or not. Agree at the end on how and when you will check in with each other and what progress you intend to have made by then. You must talk about things achieved between sessions and the results of your goals. Make sure that you both agree on a balanced goal(s) too. They should include family time and self-care. The idea here is not to run each other into the ground. If you are a workaholic – don’t pick a fellow workaholic to be your buddy in this. Your combined energies could spell trouble for you both!
Starting off for the first time?
Have a chat with each other to agree on your needs and what your process should be. Make sure nothing is left unsaid.
You have covered all the ‘what ifs’ you can think of.
Good things to take into consideration here are if you both disagree, what’s the plan? If someone cannot make the call or needs to change the time?
Are they confidential talks and to what degree?
Decide how often you will be in touch and by what means. Look at your schedules and get to know the best times for talking when you will be able to give it your full focus. Make sure that the process remains consistent. A routine is ideal.
If you have someone that is always late or reschedules a lot, then it might be time for a new buddy!
Sometimes just getting things out of your head is a beautiful way to get ‘in flow’. Perhaps you could both agree that even if the other person is unavailable, you can email what’s on your mind anyway? And save the messages to discuss when you do get together for your talk.
Make sure you are both 100% honest, with yourselves especially or the process won’t work, and you will end up leaving it.
Taking accountability on your own
Write things down
Writing down tasks achieve two things.
It makes it ‘real’ and no longer just a thought in your head.
It is visible and will nag at you until you finally get it done.
Give this some extra juice by sharing the task you intend to do with someone. Telling someone you are going to do something means you are even more likely to do it.
Schedule time for the task
Blocking off time on your schedule for the job makes it even more tangible, and you are then even more likely to get it done. Treat the appointment the same as you would with a client. These appointments are just as crucial for your business as your clients.
This can also help you to achieve focus. As you will only have a specific time to get the work done then you are more likely to get your head down and plough through. Using the ‘Pomodoro technique’ with a timer that ticks helps even more.
The psychology of working against a ticking clock can be really motivating. Just make sure you don’t rush things as you may be more likely to make big mistakes (little ones are fine by the way). Schedule time to check over your work and proofread it before sending/finalising.
Make sure the group is in the same industry or niche as you as you will also then be able to help each other out with your problems and bring new ideas to the table. Groups like these encourage a higher level of accountability since they usually meet up regularly, and there are more people to report to.
Remember not to rely too heavily on these groups though as they also have busy lives and a lot going on. Follow the rules and only post or join in about once a week. Don’t become a pest.
Hiring a Coach
Hiring a coach is by far the best way as it elicits the most accountability compared to the others for several reasons:
- Most obviously is that coaching can be a significant investment. The fact that you will want your money’s worth from these sessions will be a tremendous motivating factor behind achieving the goals you have agreed with your coach. Time, as they say, is money.
- A good coach will be familiar with procrastination and the struggles you may have as a business owner. They will be able to recognise it sooner than perhaps you do, and have models and strategies in place to help you overcome it.
- These are professionals. It is in their best interests for you to succeed as their client.
- Coaches often set higher expectations. Their main job is to help you take action and unlock your full potential so procrastinating, unjustified excuses, and simply being lazy are out of the question (to be clear, these are different from limiting beliefs and mental roadblocks).
It’s not uncommon for coaches to ask you to first apply to work with them as they are looking for clients that will take the work seriously. If they feel you cannot become committed, they may turn you down.
Depending on your situation and what you’re working on, there are many methods to help you overcome procrastination.
In terms of external accountability, you could try writing it down, scheduling it, getting an accountability partner, joining a mastermind group, and hiring a coach.
All suitable methods for very different reasons.
Have you ever procrastinated? Have you ever put things off repeatedly and not known why?
Have you tried accountability yourself, or with a partner and it has still not worked?
Please let me know your experiences with this in the comments below.
You might find that coaching is your next best step. I could save you time and money in the long run by spotting your problem areas first and helping you achieve your goals sooner (and with fewer mistakes).
Why not give me a call and I will schedule a whole hour for us to talk deeply? My number is (+44) 07816161274.
I will give you a whole of coaching for us to decide whether this is the right step for you and whether you are the right client for me.
Together we will go deeper than you have ever gone before.