Do you hit the snooze button time after time? Or start your assignments the night before they’re due? We all have habits we’d be happy to kick. One of the keys to breaking old habits and forming new ones is accountability—being held responsible for our actions and decisions. In a recent Student Health 101 survey, nearly 8 out of 10 students who responded said they find accountability helpful. Here are six ways to make it work for you.
Accountability partners motivate you and celebrate milestones with you. In a recent Student Health 101 survey, two in five respondents said working with a buddy or group is their most effective accountability strategy. “Friends can be great motivation to keep you on track when you plan out your goals together,” says David M., a first-year student at Nova Scotia Community College. Test next week? Arrange a study session with a friend, and hold each other to it.
People who wrote down their goals, shared this information with someone else, and sent them weekly updates were 33 percent more successful than were those who figured out their goals but didn’t share, according to researchers at Dominican University in California. Share with a mentor, referee or coach, or your social media network. “A mentor is someone you can look up to, someone you can seek advice from, and someone who pushes you to meet your full potential,” says Jake P., a fourth-year undergraduate at Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia, whose mentors support his work in the community.
In our survey, three in five respondents said they use an app, wearable tracker, or diary to keep themselves accountable. If your goal is getting more physically active, a wearable tracking device gives added purpose to mundane errands and walking between classes. In a 2007 study, using a pedometer increased participants’ physical activity by 27 percent, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In our survey, the most popular apps were all about fitness goals. Many students recommended MyFitnessPal, Nike+ Running App, and MapMyRun. Apps like these are as accurate as wearable tracking devices, research shows. Apps can help you with other goals, like organizing, prioritizing, and eating well.
“The pedometer on the [iPhone] Health app keeps me motivated to beat my daily average. It’s almost like beating your high score.”
—Jake P., fourth-year undergraduate, Saint Mary’s University, Nova Scotia
Organizes and tracks everyday activities with the goal of motivating and inspiring you
Available on: iOS
Reminds and motivates you to stay on track
Available on: iOS, Android
Organizes your goals by date, habit, averages, and milestones
Available on: iOS
Rewards are motivating because they delay gratification. If you accomplish your goal of studying for two hours a night as exams approach, finish up with the a half-hour of TV and a do-it-yourself foot massage. Caution: Reward systems are usually a short-term fix, research suggests. To accomplish your health goals by earning cash from people who don’t, try Pact.
At StickK.com, you can put something on the line for unmet goals—like donating money to a cause you loathe. People who do this are three times more likely to succeed than people who don’t. StickK also highlights the value of a coach to hold you accountable. At the November Project™, a mass workout program gaining popularity in Canada, hitting that snooze button means you risk being called out on their blog.
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Student Health 101 survey, February 2015.