Use Public Accountability and Deadlines to Get Things Done

September 22, 2008 - Written by Gyutae Park  

It’s 3 am in the morning. There’s still a ton of stuff I need to get done, and yet I’m tired and cranky, craving sleep. I could easily just throw in the towel and call it a night, but I know that there’s just too much at stake. I need to get my work done before it’s due, and do it well before time’s up. My body is screaming at me, threatening to shut itself down. I retaliate by consuming more and more coffee, stimulants to keep me alert and sharp.

This is a common scene from my college years not too long ago. I’m sure many of you have experienced the same. Tuition at Northwestern cost me an arm and a leg so naturally I wanted to do well, ambitiously prepare for my career, and ultimately get my money’s worth. Furthermore, coming from a Korean family, I was constantly bombarded with high expectations – especially from my parents. I had to do well, otherwise a lot of people would be disappointed in me.

This is the kind of high-stress, high-pressure life that I lived. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best way to go about things nor did I have my priorities straight. But at the end of the day, this much is still true: public accountability and deadlines force you to get your work done.

As a blogger and Internet entrepreneur, you essentially work your own hours and set your own agenda. There’s no boss setting hard deadlines for you and your family and friends are oftentimes against your business ventures online (especially if you haven’t seen big success yet) which makes it a lot harder. It’s easy to day dream about what you want to do, but a lot of times the actual work never gets done.

I’m a chronic procrastinator myself, always putting things off until the last minute when I absolutely need to do them. However, as I learned in my college years, public accountability and deadlines are crucial in getting work done as quickly as possible. I still struggle with productivity on a daily basis, but I’ve found that these 2 components are key to successful action. As the graphic shows, goals are just dreams with deadlines.

Below are a few guidelines that will help you to set up motivating influences for your online business. If you’re not very productive right now, they may be just what you need to get started.

Setting Up Public Accountability

Have you written your blog post for tomorrow yet? Or finally started on your plans of a new membership site or affiliate marketing campaign? Telling yourself that you’re going to do something simply isn’t enough. Unless you have someone who will keep you accountable and motivate you to get your work done, chances are that nothing will happen. Accountability can come from a variety of different places: a business partner who depends on your performance, your blog audience that you obviously do not want to disappoint, or a rival who you don’t want to admit failure to. Putting your reputation on the line will give you the pressure you need to perform high-quality work in less time. Isn’t that what we’re all after?

I suggest that every Internet entrepreneur, publisher, and blogger set up some sort of system to encourage accountability. You can join a mastermind group, discuss your goals on your blog or industry forums, work closely with partners, or announce to potential customers what you’ll be delivering on. Sharing your goals with others forces you to live up to them without making excuses.

As an example of public accountability, Tyler Cruz set up a bet with his readers a while back to either work at least 40 hours in a week or pay $100 to one of his readers. Sure, it seems a little silly and extreme, but there’s no doubt it increased Tyler’s productivity.

What are some ways you can set up a structure of accountability to keep you motivated and productive?

Making Deadlines

It’s common for most people to procrastinate and put things off until the very last minute – either out of laziness or an obsession for perfection. Deadlines are effective because they counteract this natural tendency and force you to make a decision or complete a project by a certain date and time whether it’s ready or not. For example, do you want to launch a new site? Give yourself a reasonable deadline then use public accountability to enforce it. When I first started my massive contest where I gave away thousands in prizes, I set an end date and announced it to everyone participating. After making that sort of a commitment, there was nothing I could do but work hard and meet the deadline. Without proper deadlines, your projects will float around on your to-do lists without ever being completed. Make deadlines for everything you do if possible – writing individual blog posts, answering emails, launching new sites, and executing marketing campaigns.  You’ll see a big difference in the amount of work you get done.

What are some of the ways in which you are using public accountability and deadlines to increase productivity in your online business? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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15 Responses to “Use Public Accountability and Deadlines to Get Things Done”

Rarst on September 22nd, 2008

Deadlines don’t work for me because I had long stopped believing in them. After hundredth “this must be finished tommorow!” spanned across few weeks (very long tommorow)… 🙂

My recipe for getting stuff done is good enough mood and calm environment.

Gyutae Park on September 22nd, 2008

Hey Rarst,
I think the ingredient that you’re missing is public accountability. Deadlines to yourself usually don’t work because there’s no motivation for you to complete them. It’s easy to put off your deadlines because there’s nothing at stake. Try working with a few people to keep you accountable with your goals.

Mood and environment are definitely factors but your business shouldn’t depend on them!

Rarst on September 22nd, 2008

That opinion includes public deadlines as well. 🙂 I am not saying that it is best atitude to have. That simply works for me.

PS for the record my work isn’t time critical, I chose it wisely according to my taste 🙂

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Gyutae Park on September 22nd, 2008

Are you satisfied with your productivity levels using your method? What kind of work do you do, if you don’t mind sharing?

Rarst on September 22nd, 2008

My job (two of them actually) is best described as “general IT stuff”. I don’t have deadlines to make but tasks to complete. Choice of tools is mine, time span is also mine (as long as it is rational).

I do have experience working on very tight clock and that felt bad exactly because of unrealistic public deadlines. I quit after few months of being ordered to sacrifice my share of work to help others make their deadlines.

Gyutae Park on September 29th, 2008

That’s interesting… At the end of the day, I still think you need to set deadlines to get things done – and to an extent I’m sure you do. Sure, good mood and a calm environment can help your productivity, but you can still set time frames to increase productivity without causing stress. Stress isn’t always a bad thing either.

Clog Money on September 22nd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

I completely and utterly agree with everything in this post. My day job is incredibly lax, it’s very rare that I ever have a deadline and it’s even more rare that that deadline is publicly accountable. I hate it, I just lack the motivation to work without a firm deadline.

Strangely I find working on my own projects completely different. Mainly because I am SO self motivated to make a success of myself in this field that I don’t need even need to set deadline, I just keep going with the on going job that needs to be done. This is also my hobby and it never feels like a chore. That to me makes a huge difference in my work attitude and ethic!

Gyutae Park on September 29th, 2008

That’s awesome! Self-motivation is a lot easier when you’re working for yourself, yeah? It’s still a good idea to set deadlines for yourself though, as you want to get everything done as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

You get tired of hobbies sometimes too. 😛

Flashlights Web on September 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Deadlines are important for every tasks and projects.

Gyutae Park on September 29th, 2008

Agreed. Glad you got the gist of the post. 😉

Eva White on September 24th, 2008

I have always found that the work takes a s much time as you have. It can take me 12 hours to write a 500 words post and it can take me half an hour to do it. Its only when the deadline approaches that any work can get done. I guess I’m a procrastinator at heart.

Gyutae Park on September 29th, 2008

Hey Eva,
I think you really hit the nail on the head with that comment. The more time you have, the longer a task is going to take – unless you have deadlines of course. Deadlines limit the amount of time you have, so you’re forced into focusing on the most important elements. Public accountability just makes you follow the guidelines you set for yourself instead of waffling.

I’m a procrastinator at heart as well, so I know exactly what you’re talking about.

Kerul on September 24th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Deadlines and accountability (public or private) are good strategies, but they’re not the only ones available. I call accountability a “hitman” strategy because there’s an unpleasant consequence involved. You have to picka “hitman” that is just unpleasant enough to motivate you. Of course, you could also pick a reward (or inspiration), as an alternative. There are lots more options available for managing your time (and other resources, like energy, effort, goals, money, support, etc.), so don’t just fixate on deadlines and accountability.

There are definitely some good suggestions in this post (and int he comments). But don’t think all procrastination (or productivity, for that matter) is created equal.

It can sometimes be good to procrastinate – it can lead to less struggle, delay (counter-intuitive, but true), and more optimal functioning.

There’s a new book out titled Productive Procrastination, and it describes how to do it, how to tell productive from destructive procrastination, and how to end the destruction kind. (Yes, it’s available on Learn more about the concept of Procrastivity at

Wishing you all optimal procrastivity,

Gyutae Park on September 29th, 2008

Hey Kerul,
You bring up some good points in your comment. There are definitely other ways to manage your time, but I’m simply describing what has worked for me and others in the industry. For me, setting personal deadlines and enforcing them with public accountability works extremely well – especially when you’re working for yourself online.

As for procrastination being a good thing, I would have to disagree. Procrastination by definition means that you’re wasting time and not focusing on what’s really important. That’s not optimal if you ask me.

Looks like you wrote that book you’re suggesting. Would you like to send me a review copy? 🙂

wisdom on October 2nd, 2008

I have seen public accountability such as the example you used with Tyler used around the web in different ways. Having a firm deadline always forces people to work harder and be more productive. However working too hard and not thinking can also deter you from your end result.

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