I have to be honest. When I was first asked to write an article on accountability, the world was still spinning as normal. Now that life as we know it has ceased to exist for the time being, I have a feeling this article is going to take a different turn than originally anticipated.
Being a self-employed business owner for the past nine years has forced me to become deeply connected to not only the idea of accountability, but what that looks like in its real, tangible, action-oriented form.
According to Merriam-Webster, accountability is "an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions." For me, accountability is not only the acceptance of responsibility of my own actions, but also for my own thoughts and mindfulness.
Accountability isn’t just holding yourself responsible to finish that work project you have due in the next week or making sure you drink your 64 oz. of H2O. It’s also having those high-courage conversations — you know, the one you’ve been dreading to have with that friend, employee or partner. It’s finally making a tough decision you hoped you wouldn’t have to make. It’s choosing to give yourself a few minutes to get your mindset in an optimal place before throwing yourself into a tumultuous situation. It’s showing up when you absolutely, positively want to be anywhere else.
At the end of the day, true accountability, friends, is about courage. Courage to follow up and follow through. Courage to parent yourself, even when it feels hard. Courage to do the damn work.
During this time of uncertainty, and a lot of working from home, I have created some core accountability principles for myself. I hope they’re as helpful for you as they have been for me as of late.
1. Do the hard stuff first.
The old adage says "first things first." My new motto is "hard stuff first." I’ve always run my business using the "most important tasks" (MITs) tactic, meaning that I make my general to-do list for the day and then pick out my three most important tasks.
Nothing stops me from getting work done like procrastination of the tasks I’m dreading the most. If I get those out of the way first thing in the a.m., it gives me not only a sense of accomplishment for the rest of the day, but I feel lighter and more at ease accomplishing the easier tasks.
2. Parent yourself.
We are in the middle of a literal global disaster, y’all. Things can seem super scary and totally out of control at many points throughout the day. It’s more important than ever that we force ourselves to parent ourselves.
What do I mean by "parent yourself?" I mean taking care of yourself. Taking care of yourself isn’t just about hot baths and eating an entire box of Cocoa Belle Chocolates. (I mean, it can mean that, too!)
Really taking care of yourself means forcing yourself to go to bed at a reasonable hour instead of watching one more episode of "Love is Blind." It means taking charge of your finances and figuring out what your realistic cash flow looks like over the next few months. It means cooking yourself a healthy meal and keeping your typical workout routine, even if your favorite Pilates studio is closed. It’s making sure that you keep yourself mentally nimble by booking that virtual therapy appointment and getting your butt on the dang meditation pillow.
While we presently have to yell at our parents to stay inside their homes, we will have to resort to parenting ourselves and our children right now.
3. Find your "yes" and "no" people.
I always say there is power in proximity. Over the years, I have increasingly grown more sensitive to who I choose to spend time around. I firmly believe that the people you spend the most time around rub off on you. It has been proven that sharing your goals with accountability partners greatly increases your likelihood of achieving said goals.
Last year, I became a part of a small accountability group of five women. We would get together monthly over coffee and talk about the happy things and the hard things in our lives. One of our mainstays of the group was that we would always share a goal to accomplish for our next meeting. It was so refreshing to have a group of friends where you not only trusted their opinions, but that was there to cheer you on and hold you accountable.
I believe that having a community of people who will serve as your "yes," and compassionately "no," people is vital for your overall general wellbeing.
One of the biggest questions we get at PowHer Players (a women’s community group I co- founded in 2018 to help women connect with other like-minded women) is, "How do I find friends who will inspire me and hold me accountable?" We always suggest starting by attending events focused on just this subject. Local events like PowHer Players’ PowHer Hour, Christina Lecuyer’s Decide It’s Your Turn or the Soirée Women’s Leadership Symposium. There are tons of amazing women showing up at these events, many of whom are on a similar journey as you.
I believe the way a person holds herself accountable tells us more about who she wants to be tomorrow than who she wants to be today. I frequently ask myself, "Would my future self be proud of how I handled my day today?" If the answer is "yes," then it has been a good day.
Above all else, when it comes to accountability, we have to have general wellbeing at the heart of all action. In all situations, someone is counting on you, and most of the time that person is you.
Erin Leigh Hohnbaum is the owner and CEO of E.Leigh’s Contemporary Boutiques, a seven-figure boutique chain that presently has stores in Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas. She is also the co-founder of PowHer Players, a community group focused on inspiring and connecting like-minded women.