Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Part I: The power of accountability as an ASP'er

Accountability can help all of us stay on track with the tasks we need to accomplish.  When we know we are answering to someone else, we are more likely to work consistently on meeting an obligation.  A real deadline keeps us focused. 

The problem, I find, is when the project has no deadline or no one is expecting to see the finished product or no one else is invested in the project.  If the task is merely something that I want to do as opposed to something that I need to do, the accountability seems missing.  It is much easier to procrastinate, to pay attention to things right in front of me, and to delay the task.  For me, these tasks become orphan tasks that are disconnected from the remainder of my work.

When I discover an orphaned task, the first thing I determine is whether I still think the task is one that should be completed:

  • I remind myself of the objective/goal that I had when I originally decided the task should be added to my project list. 
  • If the objective/goal is still valid, I use that to as an incentive.  In looking at my other projects, I determine where the orphaned task should be in priority.  
  • If a task is no longer important or no longer possible, I decide to let it go.  Timing, budget, my energy level, or a resolved problem may all be factored in when I release the orphaned task.

When I realize that I have a task orphan that is valid but I still keep putting it on the back burner, I try to find ways to make myself accountable.  Which strategy I choose will depend a great deal on the particular task, but here are some things that I try:

  • I break the larger task into small steps that are then assigned to time blocks on my calendar during the next two weeks so that my calendar holds me accountable to get started..
  • I discuss the task with a colleague so that someone else now knows that it is on my agenda.
  • Once I make some progress, I talk to a colleague about my progress and what I want to accomplish next.
  • I set a deadline date for showing the results to a colleague - or several deadline dates if I am going to have stages for completion.

Most tasks I can stay motivated and work on consistently.  However, I know that orphan tasks are a different breed.  By recognizing my need for accountability, I am able to get unstuck and complete the task that has been stranded on the corner of my desk for far too long.  (Amy Jarmon)

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