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Using Public Accountability to Boost Focus

Using Public Accountability to Boost Focus

Published: 
August 28, 2020
 by 
Matt Johnson
, Last updated: 
March 25, 2021

How public accountability and sharing my daily goals boosted my focus and improved my productivity, and why it works. This was originally posted on Indie Hackers and also via a Twitter thread. Update: I've switched to posting my daily goals in a Slack community to avoid annoying my Twitter followers.

I’ve recently come to understand the power of accountability fully. Being in Pioneer and sharing our weekly goals is a motivator for doing the things we say we’ll do every week. This accountability concept is also one we’ve thought a lot about for Taskable as well. Early on in our user research, many people mentioned wanting to share what their daily to-do’s and goals are with their team or in communities.

This feature idea has been on our roadmap since almost day one. Besides the user interviews, we hadn’t done much to validate or explore this idea. So, I decided to try an experiment. For the past few weeks, I take a screenshot of my ‘Today’ list of Actions from Taskable. Then I post it to Twitter with a little write-up of what I plan to get done that day.

Before my public sharing experiment, my list of daily goals and actions was hilariously long. I’d put as many as 15 items in there. I can only remember one time I got through my list. This made me less committed to completing my list. It was easy to let other items creep in because I wasn't taking my plan seriously. I’ve found this is hugely powerful for staying focused, prioritizing, and getting more stuff done daily. Below are some of my key takeaways from the experiments.

My daily planning is more realistic

The accountability of sharing my list made me much more realistic about what I can get done in a day. I do feel a need to impress with a long list in some instances. But more powerful is not wanting my post the next day to have many of the same items.

I don’t chase as many shiny objects

I stay more focused on the items I planned in the morning and get less distracted by shiny new objects. Often I would gravitate to the latest thing, but wanting to get through what I planned helps me stay focused. Usually, the latest thing isn't the most important.

Instead, I’m focused on what I planned to do in the morning because of that public accountability. Sure, sometimes something super important comes up during the day that requires my immediate attention. But, I’m more critical in what I decide needs my immediate attention versus what can wait.

Afternoons are more productive

I like to start my days super early. Generally, afternoons I begin to lag a bit, especially if my mornings were full of calls. Also, I generally try to squeeze in a bit of exercise around 3 pm. All these things conspired to make the last couple of hours of my day relatively unproductive.

However, now I have a massive burst of productivity in the afternoon. If there are a few items left on my list, I put my head down and try to get them all checked off. Sometimes I worry that I rush through things to get them done, so I've had to be careful about that. Additionally, I feel okay about knocking off a bit early on the days I check everything off.

I Marie Kondo my backlog more

Public accountability
We included Marie Kondo quotes in Taskable to encourage users to clean up their backlog more often

Before, I would keep dropping old items into my daily goals list, hoping I’d finally get around to it. With public sharing, I don’t share things I have no real intention of doing. Now, I am much more deliberate in removing items from my backlog that are no longer important. When I look at each item, I force myself to think about whether I want to commit to doing it. And often I don’t because it’s not important anymore. So, it’s easy to archive and move on to more important stuff.

To share, or not to share

Before starting my experiment, I was worried that I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing certain items publicly, which turned out to be partially true. Sometimes an item is personal or is business sensitive. When we build this feature into Taskable, we’ll need to have a way for people to hide certain things. However, I find that the vast majority of things I am happy to share. Or they are a chance for me to shout out a company whose product I am using to get something done and get those sweet retweets.

Challenge

Try this yourself! Especially if you are an early-stage founder or freelancer and you don’t have a big team to keep you accountable. Or, maybe even try it internally in your chat group. If you do, let me know your experience!

March 25, 2021
by
Matt Johnson

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