How to Start an Accountability Journal

I first came up with the idea for an accountability journal when I was struggling with how to keep myself accountable for things I said/did. I realized that recording/journaling was the easiest way to help myself, so I decided to cut out sugar.

First you need a subject: diet, exercise, wake up early, quit drinking/smoking, etc. Then when you have this subject, it’s time to get S.M.A.R.T. goals — specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound.

Specific: Your journal is to help you exercise more, so write down exactly what you do (or don’t do). It’ll help keep yourself on track and look back at your progress. Be specific with how you define your goal, not just “I want to exercise more” it should be “I want to get into a habit of exercising a minimum of 3 days every week”.

You can also get even more specific with activities if you want. Biking to work doesn’t count, since the purpose isn’t exercise (it’s transportation). But biking home from work and taking the long way so you can get in a good work out for 1 hour can count.

Measurable: Remember this is key! You need to know how to measure what you’re doing. If you aren’t exercising right now, a good place to start is 3 days a week for 30 mins each session. More advanced can be 5 days a week for 1 hour each session.

Achievable: This is VERY important. Maybe you’re exercising to lose weight, but if your goal is run 10 miles in one month when you’ve never run in your life, it’s probably not going to happen. And that’s okay! If you’ve never run before, give yourself a reasonable goal — maybe just running 3 times a week. You can always change this as you become more fit and gain endurance.

Results-focused: Focus on what you’re doing this for. Is it to become more physically fit? To lose weight? To stay healthy? Adjust your goals accordingly and remember to have fun!

Time-bound: Create a timeline for yourself. It usually takes a month to form a habit, but I’d suggest you do it for longer — until you no longer dread exercise or you no longer feel the need to write in your journal. A good goal would be to workout 3 times a week for one month, then come back and reassess your goal.

Once you have your S.M.A.R.T. goals, then you need to choose how you will record your actions. Whiteboard in your living room? Note on your cellphone/computer? Written down in a physical journal/planner? Up to you! I prefer using Evernote, I was able to keep a digital record and could write in my accountability journal anywhere.