photo of woman standing on sunflower field

Accountability That Works

If your Facebook or Twitter feed is anything like mine, you’re currently being deluged with offers for productivity coaches, apps and courses. Many of them might be helpful but is this really the first time you’ve tried to get organized and be more productive? No, and it won’t be the last – these systems are all too complicated.

I’ve been doing something different for the past year and I’d like to share it with you as a thank you for reading this blog. Keeping up with this idea takes less than 30 seconds out of your day – here’s how it works.

So, we know* that accountability is crucial when trying to reach a goal. We also know* that small, specific steps are the way to success. Add the magic of a simple shared Google spreadsheet and watch your productivity soar.

Part one: choose a goal and narrow it down to something simple you can do most days. Let’s say you want to get fitter in 2021. Nice goal but super vague – so make it concrete. What do you want to be able to do physically by the end of this year that you can’t do right now? I walk around our Open Space for 20 minutes every day – I used to be able to walk around it for 45 minutes a day and I’d love to get back to that.

Part two is easier to show you and then describe:

I created a Google sheet and called it Did I exercise today? Beth and I decided for ourselves what exercise meant – maybe hers was run three miles every day, mine was if I walk Daisy in the morning, I get to color that box. I made it a shareable document, so both of us can edit it. That means she tracks her exercise and I track mine but we can both see each other’s progress on the same sheet. Every morning, I open the sheet and if I walked Daisy yesterday, I color in the day’s square, If I didn’t, I don’t. That’s it. Not even a minute, even with my slow-loading laptop. Google documents save automatically, so that’s easy too.

I can’t believe how motivating those little purple boxes are for me!!!

– Beth

As the months roll by, the chart will stay the same (I’ll add new months as they come along) but my definition of what constitutes exercise will change. Right now, I’m happy if I walk the dog for 20 minutes in the morning. To build endurance so I can reach my goal, I might decide to make that same dog walk last a minute longer each week. By the end of the year, I’ll have added 52 minutes to her walk – awesome, and more than my original goal. I might stop at 45 minutes or I might decide it’s time to reinstate my run-walk program at that point. I don’t need a new chart for each different fitness goal because Did I exercise today? covers it.

I feel you could be taking me on longer walks. Win-win!

– Daisy

Beth told me she’s never exercised that many days in a row before. It’s not about perfection, mine is only what it is because I made my exercise goal incredibly doable and with a built in incentive – Daisy will let me know loudly if I don’t walk her.

This is like a Mastermind Group without the Zoom calls and the dues. You can make your own chart and try it with a friend or you can join my Joyful Surroundings LLC Did I declutter for 20 minutes today? spreadsheet. All I need is your best GMAIL email address and the name you’d like to use for our chart.

Of course, we all know you could join and then color in your square everyday while never decluttering. But as Mrs. Cooper told you in first grade, you’re only hurting yourself if you cheat – no one else cares, they’re too busy enjoying the social accountability of checking in daily to color their square and building a decluttering habit that’ll last.

If you’d like to join, please send me your best GMAIL email address and your name:

Yes, I’m in!

I want to share the Joyful Surroundings LLC Google spreadsheet Did I declutter for 20 minutes today?

I can add as many people as are interested, so feel free forward this to a friend if you want to do this together.

*Shoutout to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits for creating the mindset that inspired me to create this spreadsheet. If you haven’t read his book yet, you’re in for a treat!


  1. I’ve used a similar chart to create habits as well. It’s an easy idea and it is motivated to color in that little box. It’s surprising how something so simple works so well.

  2. This is definitely an Atomic Habits-approved approach to micro-habits in the vein of Seinfeld’s “Don’t break the chain,” but color-coding it makes it even more compelling to the visual person. I know my Fitbit and Duolingo streaks are what keep me going, so this definitely applies just the right gentle accountability for building on those goals. Great idea, Lucy.

  3. This IS like a Mastermind Group. These groups are effective because they’re supportive and the participants become accountable. The difference is, this time they have YOU to demystify.
    The chart is great. It helps make everything more clear, especially for those who are struggling.

  4. I love the simplicity and clear effectiveness of the accountability sheet you created! I can see how useful this could be for people. What’s brilliant about it is how it creates a self-accountability, but also the accountability to your partner. That double effect seems especially powerful.

  5. This is a terrific idea! Finding a way to add accountability can be challenging. This might even work with clients who have a tough time following through with homework. Maybe I’ll try it out. I have one client particularly in mind. She doesn’t have a computer, though, so I’ll have to think on this. Do you know if these shared sheets work on an iPad?

    1. Yes, I believe you can get an app for Google sheets/Google Drive on an iPad. Let us know how it goes if you do decide to try this with a client or ask them if they want to come play over here with this document too! I’ve found it works because it’s such a tiny babystep.


%d bloggers like this: