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Timeline & Accountability

We’ve talked about how making your life plan is a process involving specific steps. The first two are drawing a roadmap and writing an action plan. Now let’s talk in detail about the middle two: setting up a timeline and defining accountability.

Setting up a Timeline

Establishing a timeline that gauges your progress along the way is actually more important during implementing the plan than during its conception, so you might be tempted to delay this step until you “know more about the future.”

But that’s not the point.

A timeline sets up the stepping stones leading from where you are now to your ultimate goal, establishing markers on your journey that let you know if you’re on course and generally how well you’re doing in terms of your expectations. Right now—not later when you’re busy with the steps of implementation—is the time to set this timeline up.

The key difference between your timeline and your action plan is that now we are talking about accomplishments, such as getting a certification, climbing a mountain, or moving your body mass index classification from “overweight” to “normal.” These are specific markers, not “make progress toward this” or “be sure to study that,” but rather “begin mailing coupons” or “pass GED exam.”

Defining Accountability

This is a tricky one. I don’t mean you’re supposed to look up the meaning of accountability in the dictionary. I mean define as in to create a space, or atmosphere, for that accountability. You need to make sure you check in with your own progress.

This involves three steps:

  • Telling others about your goal and progress toward that goal;
  • Scheduling a regular check-in with a friend or advisor; and
  • Regularly reviewing your stated goal, lessons learned, and decisions made.

Note that none of this should involve being chastised or having someone (including yourself) make you feel bad about your progress. Do not enlist the aid of a family member or acquaintance who’s going to sneer at your aspirations, sabotage your success, or encourage you, even subtly, to give up.

You want to talk with people who are supportive and experienced, people who will do more than measure your progress with a yardstick. You’re looking for feedback and constructive honesty.

Let’s say your goal is to become a US citizen, and the next “stepping stone” is doing well at the naturalization interview. You would be wise to have at least one friend or mentor who’s been through the interview. They can take you through practice runs and give you advice such as getting there early, having all your documents organized and ready to be presented, and responding to questions about your application, background, personal character, and allegiance to the US in an open, honest, and straight-forward manner.

This friend or mentor must be willing to advise you candidly on such matters as needing to dress more formally than usual, having good hygiene, and other relevant, even personal issues.

But ultimately, your atmosphere of accountability must begin and end with you. Journal or otherwise keep a tangible account of your progress, and review it regularly with an objective eye.