On Accountability

Writings and Ramblings

On Accountability

25 May 2022 - Jason Schlesinger

The desire to do things is needs based, not goals based, so as I get closer to achieving a goal it becomes harder for me to actually achieve it. Over the past few years, I have been honing techniques to accomplish tangible goals for projects both personal and professional. The key component that is the difference between accomplishing a goal vs. having an incomplete project is accountability.


When I was in grade school, and even somewhat through college, I would put off all my assignments until the day before they were due. The sudden rush of being held accountable for my inaction was a driving factor in getting my assignment done. Obviously, from a project planning standpoint, this is a bad idea. The biggest project I could accomplish was a day long, maybe two if I were willing to put in an all-nighter, but I always wished I could just do my assignments earlier so I could regulate my time better.

It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I had the realization:

I can’t regulate my own time

I haven’t looked into the cause, but no matter how I try on my on, no tactic I use I will find myself waiting until the last minute time and time again.

Accountability as a Resource

Accountability is cultivated, I am accountable to myself and others. Unfortunately, anyone can stop holding me accountable if I don’t cultivate it.

The desire is to reduce accountability. However, maximizing slack is a trap: there lies losing sight of my goals. I have to ask for accountability wherever I can especially from people who will hold my feet to the fire.

Getting an Accountability Buddy

Externalizing accountability is one key point that has helped me get back on track. I’m not looking for someone to look over my shoulder, but just someone who can ask,

“You didn’t do the thing you said you’d do. What should you do next?”

Simply making me reflect on what I should be doing vs. what I am doing has led me to become much more productive than I was prior to this. Obviously, this is a big ask of someone, but it’s a two-way street. It’s a lot easier to look at someone missing deadlines and pushing out projects than look at your own. In other words, you give yourself excuses, you give others solutions. It’s implementing the solutions are the hard part, after all.

Project Planning for the Rest of Us

I had a Scrum master who used Scrum ideology in his own life to accomplish his goals. I saw that idea and ran with it to develop NoScrum.

One of the hardest parts of maintaining accountability is transparency of what you even need to be accountable for. In project management for groups, the key to transparency is understanding where the group is toward achieving a larger goal. However, for me, I need to break down any project to its smaller components to achieve my goals.

I’ll elaborate on NoScrum in its own post, but the short version is: by breaking down goals into pieces small enough to accomplish in one-week chunks, you can better get a handle on the scope of your projects, your actual work output, and also share what your deadlines and goals are for accountability.

Through this approach to accountability, I’ve been able to accomplish more in the past year than I have in the prior five years combined. Furthermore, because I’m keeping track of my work, I can demonstrate what I’ve accomplished.