How To Hold Yourself Accountable With A Simple Tool
Batman’s Using It. Why Not You?
Alfred Pennyworth is one of the most important supporting characters of all time. You might not even recognize him by his last name, because usually, he’s just referred to as Alfred.
Long-time butler to the Wayne family and surrogate parent to Bruce Wayne aka Batman, his wit and wisdom shine only in brief flashes throughout the comics and movies, but ever so brightly when they do.
One of my favorite moments in the entire franchise is sad, but powerful: Alfred leaves Wayne Manor, as he sees no other way to make Bruce realize he’s on the wrong path.
Alfred: I’ll get this to Mr. Fox, but no more. I’ve sewn you up, I’ve set your bones, but I won’t bury you. I’ve buried enough members of the Wayne family.
Bruce Wayne: You’ll leave me?
Alfred: You see only one end to your journey. Leaving is all I have to make you understand, you’re not Batman anymore.
Here’s a secret neither Alfred nor Batman know: What Alfred does here, is deploy a powerful tool of behavior change:
Leaving the most important person in his life is an extreme move on Alfred’s end, but it’s his last resort of holding Bruce accountable to his actions.
A similar thing happens when a coach leaves, because her student graduates, or a mentor parts ways with his disciple. It’s the metaphorical line in the sand saying: until here, and no further.
From this point on, your actions will have severe consequences.
Most of us don’t have an Alfred. There’s no one to tell us: Enough mucking about! And if there is, they’re the kind of people we least take the advice from: parents, close friends and family.
- Maybe you’re a grad student, who really wants to do well, but struggles with focus on school work.
- Maybe you’re a creative, who loves graphic design, but keeps scrambling every time a deadline looms.
- Or maybe you just want to get all your work done, so you can clock out early.
In either case, without an Alfred, you could use some accountability too. So here I am, rolling up on you with some.
Okay, I think I can do more than raise my finger. What I really want to do is equip you with a tool so you can hold yourself accountable, every day, forever.
You, Yourself & A Piece of Paper
This is an accountability chart.
It’s a very simple breakdown of what you’ve done during which hour of the day. Think of it as an empty schedule you fill out in hindsight.
Let’s create one together for yesterday!
Step 1: Write down the hours of the day you normally work.
I’m crazy, I was at school from 9 AM to 9:30 PM yesterday, so I’ll just put down a more regular schedule. Let’s say you want your work day to go from 8 AM to 6 PM.
Step 2: Write down what you did during each hour.
Think back how you spent each hour and then write down what you did.
Step 3: Tear the page off the notepad and take a good, hard look at it.
Hold it. Feel it. Look at it. You’re literally holding yourself accountable right now.
Step 4: Mark all the slots where you wasted time.
I did extremely well yesterday. But let’s just say I would’ve watched an hour of Youtube videos at 10 AM. Then I would mark that.
Step 5: Ask yourself: “Why did I waste time there?”
This is the most important one. Why? Why? Why?
The most powerful person you can hold yourself accountable to is yourself.
We are our own biggest fan and our own worst enemy. Force yourself to face your mistakes. Look at the time you wasted. The things you didn’t do. Be your own Alfred.
Do you feel it? That’s regret. And it’s the worst. Now you still have time. You can still fix it.
Do this exercise for a week. Even after 7 days, you’ll see that giving the same, lame excuses when you ask “Why?” is tiring.
But you can change them. Eliminate them. Become so tired of them that eventually, you’ll let them go.
- When the pain of not doing something becomes bigger than the pain of doing it…
- When sleep becomes an almost annoying necessity instead of a welcome distraction…
- When you forget to eat and breeze right by lunch time to only emerge from focus 3 hours later…
…that’s when you know you’re finally living up to the highest expectations in the world: your own.