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When you have multiple projects or multiple clients, it’s too easy to disguise slacker behaviour by telling each of them that you’ve been busy working on the others.  How can you keep yourself accountable?  When you have an open-ended project like a job search, it’s too easy to slack off all day and then say “no luck yet.”  Who’s to know any different?  How can you keep yourself accountable?

The concept of a “life coach” sounds promising: pay someone to kick your ass on a daily or weekly basis.  But I think it would be too easy to BS someone who (unlike a boss) really has no stake in your performance.  Besides, who has money for their own personal coach?  Not me.

One could ask one’s spouse to fill the role, to keep one honest.  But believe me I’ve tried this and no marriage is that strong!  If you’re married, I think you too can see the flaw in inviting your wife/husband to nag you about something else.

For a while I had regular weekly meetings with my boss in which we reviewed my progress on projects and set tasks and deliverables for the week to come.  That worked pretty well — I mean it wasn’t good for my career, but at least making weekly commitments to an authority figure kept me scared enough to keep working.  Most weeks.  But I don’t have a boss anymore.

The key to keeping yourself accountable, I think, is to make promises that YOU really don’t want to break.  As a project management teacher of mine is fond of saying, “on the first day of the project, book the launch party.  Invite everybody: your boss, the clients, the press, everybody.”  Then the team is properly motivated to deliver that project on time!

Here’s a suggestion from a psychologist I know: plan your work for the week, and then plan a reward that involves your family or a good friend.  For example: you’re going to take them to the movies on Friday night.  The catch is: if you don’t finish your work for the week, then you’ll have to cancel the reward.  It’s the carrot and the stick: you want to take your kids/friend to the movies, and you DON’T want to disappoint them by cancelling.  The key, of course, is having the honesty not to go to the movies if you blew off the work.

Since I lost my job in January and went into business for myself, we have really pulled back on the spending.  The kids felt the difference immediately.  Unfortunately, “we don’t have money for that until daddy gets a new job” has become something of a mantra in our house.  Consequently, every time one of the kids wants something, they start off with “daddy, did you get a job today??”

I think the little munchkins are prime candidates to be my life coaches.  All it will cost me is a few movie nights and dinners out.  They’ll keep me accountable.

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