The Fractal Accountability System

A couple years ago I interviewed YouTuber Robert Miles about his accountability system, which had made his output more consistent than anything else he tried. Since then, I’ve been consistently testing and updating the system based on new interviews. This is a summary of how it works (it heavily uses Beeminder)

First a caveat: I didn’t used to be a big fan of “productivity systems” like this - if I changed my productivity system without doing the internal work, it often led to resistance and burnout. But it turns out they’re a huge complement to an already aligned mind-body system.

There are 3 things that make this system SO powerful:

  1. Turning “accountability buddies” into “desire partners”
  2. Fractal accountability - holding yourself accountable to being accountable
  3. Continuous improvement - review and improvement is built into the system.

The accountability buddy → desire partner paradigm is one of the most important. One of the key problems w/ accountability and punishment is it creates negative associations with meeting your accountability buddy if you don’t do your task, exactly the time when you need to meet! In the desire partner paradigm, your partner is never there to hold you to “account” for what you didn’t do. Instead, it’s an exploratory relationship, helping you find what psychological desires are causing your behavior, and helping you find the most aligned way to meet them.

The key is that you never want to feel bad about meeting another person in this system. It should excite you and fire you up to meet your desire partner, even and ESPECIALLY if you didn’t meet your goals!

So once you have that paradigm in place, it’s time to set up your fractal accountability. The base level of accountability is hourly, which is achieved using Focusmate. Each work session, you hop on with someone, and tell them your desires for the hour, then check in at the end!

But how do you make sure you show up to your hourly sessions? That’s where your daily accountability kicks in. Every night, you review your day, see if you met your goals, choose your goals for the next day, and schedule your Focusmate sessions. Here’s my review template:

Where’s the accountability in that? Well, I have my app send an email with the review to two people I trust. I let them know that if I don’t check in for a few days, I want them to reconnect w/ me about what I desire.

I also have the app connected Beeminder! If I don’t do my 6 reviews a week, I get charged money! Again, not as a punishment, but as a reminder for me to check in with what I really desire. (forgot to mention, I also have beeminder set up to track focusmate sessions.)

And finally, I also get charged for not meeting my daily goals via Taskratchet! I found that once I started doing this, I started setting realistic goals and accomplishing them like crazy. It really helped me examine the goals I actually wanted to and could do!

And how do I hold myself accountable to my daily goals? Via my weekly review. Every week, I meet with a friend and together we review our week, review the daily reviews and how those are working, and set goals for the following week.

An important point about this accountability is that it’s with a different person than my daily reviews. This way, if something falls off with my daily accountability partner, my weekly accountability partner can hold me accountable to finding a new one (if I so desire).

The system of course continues with monthly and yearly reviews. At each level, you have a different accountability partner, you set goals at that level (which determine the goals for the level lower), and importantly, you review your systems at the lower level and improve them.

Like Rob, I’ve found this system incredibly valuable to me, and it has made me more consistent than ever before. It’s valuable enough that I’ll likely include it and the app as part of the next version of the Procrastination Playbook.

Of course this concept of fractal accountability isn’t entirely novel. I’m curious about other people who have similar systems, and any suggestions you have for how to make it even better!