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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 9 out of 10 students who responded said they find accountability helpful.
1. Recruit your friends
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 are an incredible help to keep my focus and stay on track while studying, and at the gym they are good motivation,” says Binkusu K.*, a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Test next week? Arrange a study session with a friend, and hold each other to it.
2. Write down your goals—and share them
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, California. Share with a mentor, referee or coach, or your social media network. “A mentor [is] a source of guidance and wisdom,” says Andy T. at San Diego State University, California, whose mentor supports his career goal.
3. Track your progress
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. Tracker comparisons
4. App-arently you can
In our survey, the most popular apps were all about fitness goals. Many students recommended MyFitnessPal, Nike+ Running App, and RunKeeper. 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.
New habit apps
Apps that turn goals into a reality“Steps Pedometer & Step Counter Activity Tracker has helped me track my progress and motivated me to meet my goals. Using it only takes about 5–10 minutes of my day.” —Leo C., third-year undergraduate, University of North Texas Healthy habits Tracks your progress and sends you reminders, awards, and motivational messages. Check it out. Available on: iOS, Android Balanced Organizes and tracks everyday activities with the goal of motivating and inspiring you. Check it out. Available on: iOS Habit list Reminds and motivates you to stay on track. Check it out. Available on: iOS, Android Strides Organize your goals by date, habit, averages, and milestones. Check it out. Available on: iOS
5. Reward yourself
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.
6. Consider extra incentives
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, hitting that snooze button means you risk being called out on their blog.
*Name changed for privacy
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