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Holding Ourselves Accountable on Our Most Difficult Tasks

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

Today, I want to talk about one of my very favorite topics (no, not brownies, although if you ever want to talk about brownies, totally call me:).

I’m thinking about accountability. You see, in my job, I often feel silly – like, I know that I have a lot to offer in terms of advice, suggestions and a certain level of expertise but oftentimes, it’s just me being in the room that makes all of the difference. Let me explain.

Years ago, I started working with a client named Michelle. Michelle was referred to me by her therapist after having gone through a tough break up a few years back. She was working on putting it all back together while being the primary caregiver of her three children and working full-time. In addition to needing to have her home organized, she was determined to keep it that way once we had finished – my favorite kind of client.

We began in her home office, where papers were strewn about, filing systems were outdated and piles on the floor had become her best organizational system. It took us several appointments and many discussions in order for us to come to the realization that she was, of course, perfectly capable of doing ‘office stuff’ – she just didn’t like doing it alone. You see, her former partner would often just sit with her while she paid bills, balanced their family budget and did general ‘office stuff.’ Without her partner, she was getting by with the bare minimum, like paying her bills, but not much more.

Over the weeks that followed, when I would come for an organizing session, we would start by reviewing the areas we had already worked on, and we would tweak some to improve efficiency. After that, we would turn to the tasks at hand, many of which would include her needing me to just sit with her while she worked in her office. I confess, sometimes I even paid my own bills online while she paid hers! The point is, all it took was a few minutes at the beginning of the session for her to get caught up - she got the job done because someone else was there with her.

Another example is from a client named Judy whom I recently started working with. Judy lives about an hour from me and, yes, the goal is for us to eventually work in her home together but because she’s at a higher risk for Covid, we’re staying virtual for the moment. The focus is on her kitchen and dining room. Because I’ve been organizing professionally for nearly ten years and can say that I’ve organized all shapes and sizes of kitchens, I can certainly contribute even when I’m not on-site. During our meetings, she ‘carries me’ all around the areas of concern, showing me what she has and hasn’t accomplished and where she’s stuck. If she goes too fast in one particular area, I ask her to go back to make sure that I’ve seen everything I need to in order to offer a complete assessment. Once I’ve got the full tour of where we’ll be working that day, we get into the details. Now, when I’m on-site with a client, this is where I work up a sweat – helping them sort, running things all around the house to put them away and taking things to either of our cars for donation or sale; however, with virtual organizing, it’s on the client to do that while I watch, answer questions and offer suggestions when needed. At the end of each session, Judy and I review what she’s accomplished, what she wants to work on the next time and, most importantly, what she needs to do before our next session. She knows we’ll review this in-between session progress before we dig in the next time. She has some flexibility but she also knows that I know what her goals are and how close or far she is from achieving them. It’s not a guilt trip or a good-cop/bad-cop situation, it’s accountability.

This second example demonstrates two different forms of accountability. First, just like Michelle, having someone in the room while Judy does a dreaded task forces her to get it done. Second, having an agreed-upon list of tasks to accomplish in-between sessions helps to keep her motivated toward her ultimate goal.

As an organizer who seeks long-term results for her clients, I can tell you that finding accountability is an extremely personal journey - and if ‘accountability’ sounds too technical for you, then use ‘body double,’ ‘aide’ or just plain ‘helper.’ No matter which word you choose, though, they’re often THE KEY to your productivity in one or more areas of your life.

My advice in finding that perfect combination of the who, what, where and when is to be open. You never know what is going to push you closer to your goals. The key is to keep trying, recognize what works – and then repeat it.

Aubrei Krummert is a Certified Professional Organizer in Athens, Ohio. She specializes in Home Productivity and works with clients across the United States, doing on-site and virtual sessions. Contact her now.

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