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As kids, many of us had a tendency to associate being responsible with being grown-up. In fact, the two went hand in hand, as far as I was concerned.
People like our parents, grandparents, teachers… they were responsible.
They had jobs, cars, homes. They took care of us.
But when I was in high school, the concept of adulting started to creep in… take shape and become somewhat real to me.
In my parents’ home, certain things were expected of me once I turned 16. Things like:
While there were times when I thought my parents were being unfair or unrealistic in their expectations, I later realized they were simply teaching me how to be a responsible person… and that being responsible isn’t just for adults.
Responsibility builds character. It will define how people see you, as well as how you handle everyday situations.
Responsible people tend to earn the respect of others. They will work hard for what they want and are rarely a disappointment to their family, friends, employers or colleagues.
They are successful in life, both personally and professionally.
They are someone to be counted on… and you can be too.
In this article, I will outline 9 habits that are guaranteed to help you be more responsible.
1. Be Accountable For Yourself
The first, and most basic, step you can take when trying to be a responsible person is to be accountable for yourself.
This means owning your mistakes and admitting when you are wrong.
It also means stop blaming others for your shortcomings or inability to get what you want. (Read about the differences between accountability vs responsibility.)
Say, for instance, you and your co-worker are up for the same promotion. She stays late every night for weeks to get ahead… but you choose to leave on-time to get to spin class three days a week.
When your boss decides to give your colleague the raise, whose fault is it?
You didn't lose out because they were more qualified. You lost out because you chose not to make the opportunity a priority. Spin class was more important.
Admit it and move on.
Don’t make excuses!
Responsible people also tend to only commit to what they know they can do.
They assess and manage expectations… and learn to recognize their own limitations. They are not afraid to say “no”.
You will earn more respect from others if you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Trust me.
There is nothing worse than committing to something you can’t finish and leaving other people to pick up the slack. It breeds disappointment and that is a hard thing to get past.
2. Be Punctual
I can’t stand when people are late.
I also hate being late.
We are taught the importance of being on time from a young age.
Setting alarms to wake up for school.
The bell that rings when it’s time to get to class.
Your coach making you do extra laps for being late to practice.
Learning to be punctual is a big part of being responsible.
There is honestly no good reason to be late to work, a doctor appointment or social engagement… barring an unforeseen train delay or accident on the highway. In which case, a responsible person would call.
But even circumstances like these could sometimes be prevented just by leaving the house a bit earlier.
So what if you’re early? You can stop for a cup or coffee or sit on a park bench for a while to clear your head.
They say the early bird catches the worm… and it’s so true. Not feeling rushed is a great way to relieve stress and will likely make you more productive in the end.
3. Get Organized
Responsible people are typically organized.
They are not necessarily “Type A”… but definitely have their act together when it comes to planning and scheduling.
Being organized comes more naturally for some than others. For some people, it’s been ingrained in them since college… maybe even earlier.
A day planner is a great way to stay on point with tasks… be it daily, weekly or monthly. Even longer term project planning can be broken down in a planner. It can also be color coded for social versus work obligations.
This traditional method is great for visual minded people. You can also utilize a wall calendar or white board to help you stay organized.
For the more tech savvy person, there are a plethora of calendar apps available to help you stay ahead of the game. Some are free, others free to try.
You can set alarms to remind you of upcoming tasks and often send emails or texts right from the calendar.
But the best part about these apps is you can typically share your calendar and schedule with family members or colleagues very easily, with seamless integration between all smart devices… keeping everybody in the know.
4. Quit Procrastinating
Procrastination may just be your worst enemy when you are trying to be a responsible person.
Life can be so hectic at times that it is only natural to want to put things off.
In some instances, that is ok to do… but a responsible person accounts for those hiccups in their schedule.
Don’t save things for the last minute!
If you have a project that is due in three weeks, and you planned to work on it every weekday for 1 hour… it may be wise to allot yourself an extra hour or two a weekend, just in case.
This way, you won’t fall behind.
It may mean you’ll have to take a pass on a hike with friends or going to a movie with your girlfriend, but things happen. They will understand if you have to reschedule, as long as you give ample warning and are honest.
Yes, procrastination also comes into play when you're making plans with other people.
If you need to change or cancel plans, barring an emergency, be sure to give advance notice.
It really stinks when a friend bails on you last minute… especially if it’s something they were looking forward to or counting on you for.
5. Keep Your Emotions In Check
If you want to be responsible, you need to choose your words wisely and have a clear course of action… especially when you are seeking to resolve a conflict or improve a situation in some way.
In order to do that, you need to keep your emotions at bay.
If you go into a meeting with your boss, feeling angry about being passed over for a promotion, you’re likely going to lash out and say something you’ll regret. Or worse, quit.
If you’re unhappy with certain aspects of your romantic relationship, the last thing you want to do is initiate a conversation when you’re feeling emotional.
This can lead to blaming… or else saying hurtful things to each other in the heat of the moment that you can’t take back.
Whatever the scenario, a responsible person will often compose their thoughts before engaging in important discussions. Perhaps they’ll even make a list… being sure to avoid words like “always” and “never”.
You rarely see a responsible person lose their cool or become easily rattled… and this is why.
Understanding the value of keeping your composure and having patience is key if you want to be a responsible person.
6. Stop Whining
Along with a willingness to own their own mistakes, responsible people will not complain very often… because they understand that complaining usually gets you nowhere.
While there are certain exceptions, such as letting a manager know about poor service in their restaurant… there is a time and a place.
Responsible people won’t whine about things being unfair or place unwarranted blame on others.
Instead, they will reflect on why things happened the way they did… and try and figure out what, if anything, they could have done for things to turn out differently.
Responsible people own the circumstances.
They are always looking for ways to learn from their mistakes and improve upon them.
These people are optimistic and often upbeat, rarely looking for scapegoats.
7. Be Willing To Work To Earn Someone’s Trust
There is a saying… “Trust is given, never earned.”.
But I would argue that there is a place for both when it comes to gaining someone’s trust.
You see, there are people who blindly trust others because they want to… or simply have no good reason not to.
Many people will do this when it comes to romantic relationships.
They start dating someone and have no reason other than to think they are a good person… worthy of their time.
You start by meeting at restaurants, movies, bars. Eventually you invite them into your home for a meal… then wind up cohabiting and taking trips together.
Love is a leap of faith and, sometimes, so is trust. We are willing to give it until it’s broken.
Responsible people, however, often won’t accept trust that isn’t earned… especially when it comes to pleasing their parents or employers. (They are not people pleasers!)
Starting in their formative years, many tweens and teens are anxious to prove to their parents they can be a responsible person… meaning they can stay home alone, ride their bike to a friend’s house, get a phone, extend their curfew. You name it.
These kids will help out with chores without being asked. They will do something nice for their parents or siblings… just because.
When responsible people enter the workplace, they will often feel the need to work hard for their boss’ approval and trust. They are determined to let the higher-ups know they can be counted on to handle more responsibility.
Responsible people will never let themselves be overlooked for lack of trying.
8. Be Dependable (Consistent)
If you were to ask almost anybody what they look for in a colleague… one of the top answers would be consistency.
They are not looking for perfection.
We all make mistakes.
Responsible people will make mistakes, just like everybody else.
But what sets them apart is their desire to be someone that others can count on… which means they will make things right in the end.
A responsible person shows up when they’re supposed to.
They do what is expected of them.
Others are rarely surprised by their behavior because responsible people mean what they say and follow through with their promises… adhere to their commitments.
Being dependable means thinking about how your actions affect others and taking that into account.
9. Exercise Self-Discipline
If you want to be a responsible person, you’ll need self-discipline.
There are things you will need to do in order to be successful and fulfill your daily obligations.
For example, your dream job may require you to wake up earlier than you’re used to in order to be ontime… but you like your sleep. You also like staying up late to catch up on your favorite television shows.
So, what’s the bottom line?
If you want the job, you will need to find a way.
You will need to say “no” to certain things and change some of your habits.
You’ll need to condition yourself to do whatever is necessary to get into a better routine… a routine that works, without making you miserable.
This could be as simple as not allowing yourself to meet up with friends during the work week. Instead, go home and have a nice dinner… then start your shows earlier, so you are still in bed at a reasonable time.
If exercise is important to you, but you don’t see how the gym fits into your already crowded morning… why not try an online workout to save yourself time driving back and forth?
Responsible people know what they want… and will tweak their lifestyle to make it happen, if necessary.
They will eat a healthy, balanced diet. They will get enough sleep. They will make time for exercise. They will seek ways to sharpen their minds.
Responsible people are masters of the balancing act because they know that anything is possible if they want it bad enough.
Acts of self-discipline are merely rungs on the ladder to success.
Final Thoughts On Being A More Responsible Person
Being responsible is more than a state of mind.
It is more than the way others perceive us.
If you want to be a responsible person, you must recognize that it is a commitment.
A commitment to be accountable to both yourself and to others.
It is about being courteous and diligent… about standing strong in your convictions and always being willing to improve. To learn.
Responsible people aren’t ok with mediocrity. They strive to be the best version of themselves so that good things will happen.
Even if you don’t consider yourself responsible now… it doesn’t mean you can’t still be.
If you want it badly enough, and adhere to the advice I’ve given you, it will happen.
Change starts from within and the possibilities are endless.
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications, and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization, and product reviews.