After finishing graduate school and starting to work in the proverbial “real world”, one thing I was struck by was how serious people took not only $1M projects but even $300K projects. To ensure things were on track, managers would insist on at least a meeting a week. If the project was in trouble or high stakes, the number of meetings per week picked up. As an individual contributor, you were expected to indicate what was completed since the last meeting, what was in progress, what issues you encountered, and what your game plan would be going forward.
What I Was Struck By
In a vacuum, it isn’t terribly striking that people take a $300K project seriously. Alas, the real world isn’t a vacuum. In light of this fact, what was so striking about people taking $300K projects so seriously?
Virtually no one took their own lives as serious as a $300K project.
And it was this observation that led me to develop what I’m coining Lifestyle Accountability.
Defining Lifestyle Accountability
Let’s actually put words to this important term.
Lifestyle Accountability: a system for holding yourself accountable for the lifestyle you’ve designed.
When the manager attempts to increase the frequency of meetings, he/she is trying to keep a tighter grasp of what’s going on. When colleagues know that they have a meeting where they need to discuss what they’ve done, that meeting serves as a forcing function for teammates to get things done. Where does this forcing function’s power come from? Accountability. Nobody wants to be the bozo that didn’t do anything since the last meeting. It’s embarrassing.
So, what am I proposing with Lifestyle Accountability? I’m proposing that you have a meeting with yourself. Hold yourself accountable. The centerpiece to having this meeting with yourself is having an appropriate template to work from. What follows is the result of many months of iterations and experimenting. I’m confident that I’ll continue to make tweaks, but I think it can add value as is.
Before digging into the template, I want to share my design goals:
- I want to be able to brain dump my goals for the week without having to organize them;
- I want to have the weeks for same month appear next to each other for easy comparison;
- I want the ability to easily map accomplishments to areas of my life that I care about.
Alright, with the design goals out of the way, let’s check out the template!
Let’s go through the main headings.
Week corresponds to the week of interest.
Goals corresponds to all the things I want to do that week.
Connection to Mission is where all the areas of life I care about are listed.
Issues corresponds to the problems I encountered that week.
Next Week Adjustments correspond to adjustments I should be making given the issues encountered.
Lessons are the list of lessons I’ve encountered that week.
Feedback is the monthly review section. At the end of the month, I do a month-level retrospective. This review includes the following subsections:
- Last Month Recommendation Results. What were the outcomes from the recommendations I made the previous month?
- Trends. What are the trends over the 4–5 weeks of this month?
- Wins. What were my biggest accomplishments this month?
- Most Profound Lessons. What lessons created the biggest paradigm shifts for me?
- Areas of Improvement/Recommendations. What recommendations/suggestions do I have for the following month?
Using the Lifestyle Accountability Template
Because I’ve been experimenting with this template for some time, I have multiple ideas on how to get the most from this template.
- At a minimum you need to look at this template once a week. But you’ll likely need to look at it multiple times a week, like you would for a project from your employer. I like to do my planning and reviewing on Sunday.
- At your end of the month review, expect your retrospective to take longer than the other weeks. Chances are though, that you won’t mind. The insights you’ll have about yourself will keep you engaged.
- In the Goals section, number all your goals. The numbers are useful because it allows you to map them to the areas in the Connection to Mission section.
- In the Goals section make all your goals bold to start of with. When you complete task items, unbold them.
- If there are new items that come up, give those new items a different numbering/identification scheme. In my case, I just list them with letters. That helps me know that these were items that I didn’t plan for initially but “popped up” during the week.
- When uncompleted goals don’t appear on next week’s goal list, then you should indicate why in the Next Week Adjustments section. This information will explain to you at the end of the month why some goals seem to have “fallen off” your radar.
To give a sense of what a week might look like, below is a sample week that’s being looked at on Sunday 8/7/16. In reality, your Goals section is likely to be much more. The same goes for your Lessons section.
I Want To Hear From You
If you actually end up using this or something like it after reading this article, I’d love to hear about your experience! After all, our lives are at least as important as a $300K project :-).