The magic power of external accountability

Let’s talk about external accountability and how it can help in achieving your goals.

External accountability is the secret sauce behind so many services.

Personal trainer and coaches

external accountability

When you hire a personal trainer, it’s not necessarily their knowledge that gives your results. The main reason why personal trainers can be so effectives is that they serve as external accountability. When you have an appointment with your personal trainer, you show up. If you don’t, you get charged. And the main benefit your personal trainer delivers to you is consistency. You show up when you said you would show up.

The same applies to working with life coaches, therapists, counsellors, physio therapists, etc. When you have an appointment with them, you show up and you do the things they tell you to do. You can probably find all of these things on the internet and do them yourself. But would you be as consistent? I doubt so.

Formal education

How many times have we heard that universities and schools will become absolete with the advances of the internet. You can educate yourself on any topic these days. Combine Google, YouTube, and books from Amazon and you got yourself a solid degree. However, universities and schools are not going anywhere anytime soon. Why? They have numerous systems in place to make you study. Professors that are checking attendance, participation grades, assignments with deadlines, and exams. You can’t procrastinate forever on studying.

Filing taxes

None of us would voluntarily want to file taxes every year. Yet we do. It’s an incredibly frustrating, time-consuming, and boring activity. WIthout having a strict deadline and the government enforcing it, we would find a million reasons not to file taxes each year. That’s a perfect example where external accountability actually makes you do difficult things that you don’t want to do.

Working for someone vs. working for yourself

Many of us find working for someone else much easier than working for ourselves. It’s easier to get work done when we have external deadlines and someone that keeps us accountable.

When you work for yourself, you don’t have that. All the deadlines are self-imposed. Noone is checking if you are on track with your work. You probably agree that we procrastinate on our personal goals much more than we procrastinate on our work goals.


How I am going to embrace the benefits of external accountability within the Monthly Method sprints


Going forward, I decided to impose deadlines for when sprint members need to submit their homework. This is the main reason why one-on-one clients usually get better results that group clietns – they have deadlines and someone reviewing their work. Group membership or online courses lack that external accountability.


  • Deadline for deciding on the sprint goals.
  • Deadline for doing daily asynchronous standups.
  • Deadline for submitting weekly plans.
  • Deadline for submitting sprint review.

Most importantly, I will be personally reviewing the homework you submitted and giving you feedback. 

Why online courses suck most of the time

Let me guess, you bought an online course. Maybe two. Maybe ten. Aren’t they good at selling these courses? But have you actually done the work? Yeah… Me neither.

It seems like online courses became this weird kind of entertainment. You can passively consume it. Watch the videos, get the good feelings, dream about your dream future, and…. do nothing with this information.

There is no external accountability built into the course. You are left on your own. There is no deadline, no one is checking your homework.

I decided that I will not sign up for an online course that doesn’t have external accountability components. Yes, it means I will have to pay more. But at least I’ll get the results from actually doing the work than passively watching it.

online courses

How you can use external accountability in your life

  1. If you want to clean the house, invite the company over.
  2. If you want to organize a memorable get together with your friends, send out Save the date invitation. You don’t have to have a plan in place. Having the date and people coming will make you come up with a great plan. 
  3. If you want to plan a wedding, set the date and send out the invitations.
  4. If you want to create or finish a product, make the first sale.
  5. If you want to plan a vacation, buy the flight tickets.
  6. If you want to get the work task finished, send out an email to the person requesting it clearly stating when it will be completed.
  7. If you want to start running consistently, sign up for a difficult race.
  8. If you want to save for a downpayment on a house, buy a house in preconstruction.
  9. If you want to save for a new car, put a deposit down now for a new car coming out next year.

Read next:
    1. How to prioritize sprint goals
    2. Strategies I used to finish master’s degree earlier
    3. A new way to look at time blocking: flexible time blocking

If you prefer an audio format, please consider subscribing to the Monthly Method Podcast.


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