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Becoming more responsible

Becoming more responsible

There can be many definitions of responsibility. The concept of responsibility that we will highlight in this article is reflected in the definition mentioned on Businessdictionary.com. According to the website, responsibility is defined as “A duty or obligation to satisfactorily perform or complete a task (assigned by someone, or created by one’s own promise or circumstances) that one must fulfil, and which has a consequent penalty for failure” (Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/responsibility.html).

In this article we will talk about different factors that may impact a person’s ability to act responsibly.

Identify what is holding you back?

Many times people avoid things that are difficult or have no direct relevance or associated advantage to them. If you are procrastinating about the tasks, we need to look at different contributing factors. You can discuss some of the below mentioned factors with them:

  • Does the task at hand seem too boring?
  • Do you feel that they’re just not in the right mood to do the required job?
  • Do you feel that you should be doing something else instead of the assigned duty?
  • Does the task seem too difficult and/or complex?
  • Do you know where to ask help from?
  • Do you feel that if you do not do the task, someone else will do it for them?
  • Do you find it difficult to find a starting point?
  • Are there other commitments that need to be completed first before you can begin the job?
  • Is it the negative voices in your mind that tell you that you can’t succeed no matter what?
  • Do you underestimate yourself and as a result subconsciously do not put in the needed effort?

Take your time to go through the above reasons over with the person who is not acting responsibly. Once you have identified a multitude of factors, write them down on a piece of paper. Now that you have listed the causes that might be having a negative impact on one’s ability to act responsibly, let’s look at some of the strategies that we can use to improve our responsible behaviours.

The 4 table method-ECSC:

(For this exercise, we will use a third person to analyse at the situation from outside).

Write down current expectations:

Imagine that you have hired an employee, or you are a parent of a child, or a teacher of a student; what are some responsibilities that you expect from them? You might say that they should be punctual, hardworking, focused etc. Compile a list of as many expected behaviours as much as your brain can think of. Once you’ve listed down these behaviours, choose the 3 most important behaviours.

Expected behaviours vs current situation:

Now draw a table with 2 columns. In the left hand side, write the 3 important expected behaviours and in the right column, write where you are at in regards to the expected behaviours. You can name this column as current situation (see the image below for example). Write as many points and details that you like.

Steps needed:

Now take time to compare the 3 responsibilities and the current situation section. Do you think that you can see big gaps between expected behaviours and current situation? If yes, add a third column to the right side and name it “Steps needed” (please see the image below for example). Now list what steps does someone need to take to move towards their expected behaviours? List these steps.

Consequences and implications:

Imagine that this person still does not put in enough efforts to meet the expected behaviours, what could be positive and negative consequences? Add a 4th column and write these down.

Now that you have compiled this table, imagine holding a conversation with this person who is unable to show responsible behaviour. If possible, video record it for self reference. Expand on the expected behaviours, current situations, the steps needed and the consequences. Remember to include both positive and negative consequences as for some people, positive consequences help reduce the boredom associated with a job, whereas for others, highlighting negative consequences put them in eustress.

Making tasks less boring:

  • Don’t rush to complete tasks in a hurry. There might be no reward for finishing tasks early. Develop understanding of the assigned duty first.
  • Once you have understood what you need to do, now divide the task into smaller steps. Create a checklist and tick off every step as you complete it.
  • Don’t forget to take multiple breaks when you think your attention is drifting away. It is better to go slow but complete a task than to never start a task.
  • Discuss with your friends and colleagues about the task. This may help you learn about their approach to different tasks.
  • Incorporate something that may keep you interested and motivated during the task. This could be a fruit drink that you like, a new shirt, pen, CD etc.

Time allocation and management:


  • Refer to the expected behaviours section of the table and evaluate how much time of a day you are spending on the needed duties.
  • If you are not spending enough time, you need to evaluate how can you cut down the time on un-necessary activities.
  • If you feel that you should be doing something else (e.g. seeing a friend, going to a movie etc.) instead of the given task, schedule time for the interesting activity so you can concentrate.
  • Remember completing things on time means less hassle and worries for future.

Asking for help:

  • If things do become difficult, you can always take a break, or if time permits, revisit the task the next day.
  • Know when and where to seek help from, however be careful that you are not seeking help straightaway. If you do this, you’ll perhaps not develop the skills needed to complete a task.
  • Put in your best effort and if things are not working out, only then seek help. A good way to do this is to communicate the steps that you have taken to resolve a problem, to the person you’re asking for help. By doing this, they might be able to help you more effectively.
  • Realise that people can only help you to a limited extent. Sooner or later, it will be expected of you to complete your tasks independently.
  • Developing self sufficiency will increase your chances of career growth.

Finding a starting point:

  • Overthinking can sometimes make things look more difficult, complex and bigger than they are. Again breaking down the task in smaller steps and creating a task outline can be valuable.
  • Refer to the steps needed section in the table to find what you need to do to start the task.

Other commitments in the way:

  • Sometimes you might come across a situation where some urgent but not important things, or urgent and important things need to be done before you can fully attend to the task. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritise your work and fit other commitments in (Image courtesy: Progressive diary).
  • Try delegating these commitments to someone else where possible.
  • Allocate time when you can attend to these commitments.

Negative voices and under estimation:

  • Focus on the positive consequences, rewards and things that you’ll be able to achieve once you complete the task.
  • Reflect back on your past successes. If possible, keep some pictures of your achievements on your phone and look at them when you feel that you cannot do it.
  • Refer to task checklist. If you are getting stuck at a specific step or series of steps, seek help.
  • Unfamiliarity is often the reason why tasks appear difficult. With each try, you get closer to your goal.
  • Everyday when you wake up, plan what you need to do for the day, then write on a paper and at the end of the day, tick the tasks that you were able to do and highlight those which you couldn’t do.
  • Pat yourself for the tasks that you completed.
  • Analyse the reasons which became a hurdle in non-completion of the other tasks. Sincerely decide not to repeat those mistakes again.
    Practice this technique for a month or so, you will find it of great help.

If you have any other valuable suggestions, please share them in comments section.

Written by Muhammad Wasif Haq (2004)
Islamabad, Pakistan
The page is a part of Cool Bluez