Video: For Habits, the Strategy of Accountability.

I’m doing a video series in which I discuss the various strategies that we can use for habit-formation.

Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life, and a significant element of happiness. If we have habits that work for us, we’re much more likely to be happy, healthy, productive, and creative. My forthcoming book, Better than Before, describes the multiple strategies we can exploit to change our habits. To hear when it goes on sale, sign up here.

I identify four strategies that are so essential that I call them the “Pillars of Habits”: Monitoring, Accountability, Scheduling, and the strategy I discussed in the last video, the Strategy of Foundation.

Today I’m going to talk about the Strategy of Accountability.


I can’t emphasize enough: Accountability is helpful to many people, but if you’re an Obliger — and there’s a good chance you are, because it’s one of the largest categories — you must develop systems of external accountability. This is the answer for habit-formation! This will work for you!

Don’t know what an Obliger is? Look here.

If you want a copy of the “Resolutions Chart” that I mention, email me here.

How about you? Do you find that Accountability helps you stick to your good habits?

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  • Jamie

    I’m predominantly a questioner, but accountability has helped me too esp in habits that are hard for me to maintain but that I know are good and worthwhile and make me (and others) happy. Cleaning the house is one. I feel accountable to my husband. Knowing he’s coming home at 6pm I start hustlin’ at 4:30 to pick stuff up, clean dishes etc… Without him around I’d just leave it.

  • Penelope Schmitt

    I think an accountability factor is definitely helpful as Jamie said, with ‘hard to maintain’ habits or ‘hard to establish’ habits. But I have also found that having an accountability partner can be like ‘Dumbo’s magic feather’–the help we think we must have that becomes our ‘loophole’ if suddenly that person isn’t there to account to.

  • Caryn

    How does a self-employed ‘Rebel’ create accountability for herself?! Clients are too easy-going and have no idea that their work gets done in the early hours by a hopeless procrastinator!

  • Kirk Apolo

    Thank you Gretchen, You help me so much 🙂 I really mean that.
    new games

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that.

  • Jamie

    What is the thing on her wrist? I couldn’t hear her. I’ve never seen one of those before.

    • gretchenrubin

      Sorry, I meant to put that in the text.

      It’s a Jawbone UP band.

  • ST

    So, so true! I’m an Obliger through and through. Yesterday, I *finally* took the plunge and signed up for a personal trainer at the gym, because I’m getting nowhere fast, trying to work out on my own. I sounded like a Gretchen as I explained that I need to be accountable to someone, to help me get into the habit of working out!

  • Ton Bil

    Sounds like a very important “pillar of habits”. Now, “For some people private [accountability] is better,” you say in the video. What exactly is private accountability? How does that function? Thank you for your answer.

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  • Cherri Porter

    I’m a questioner but external accountability is a key strategy for me as well. When my reputation is at stake or important relationships might suffer because of something I may or may not do, I am more likely to take action. The answer to my question of “why do this thing?” in this case is that “it matters” for a whole host of reasons.