Blog Short #140: How to Use an Accountability Partner
Photo by fizkes, Courtesy of iStock Photo
A fun and effective way to reach your goals and get unstuck if you’re struggling is to team up with an accountability partner. Doing so cuts through isolation, procrastination, and distraction.
Today I’ll give you all the ins and outs of how to set it up and make it work.
Let’s start with a definition.
What exactly is an accountability partner?
It’s someone with whom you mutually agree to check in regularly and monitor each other’s progress toward specific goals and actions. It’s a partnership to help each other stay on track and get to the finish line. And it’s been proven to significantly increase your chances of succeeding.
“If you make a conscious decision yourself that you want to achieve something, this increases your chances of success by 10-25%. Having a clear plan of how you’re going to achieve it increases your chances further, to 50%. But if you commit to someone else that you’ll do it, there’s a 65% chance of success. This increases to a massive 95% if you make a specific appointment with another person to report back on your progress.” (ActionBuddy.io)
To make it work, there are some guidelines you need to follow. But first, let’s go over how to select the right partner, and then we’ll cover how to set up a structure to get the best results.
How to Choose a Partner
Some people say you shouldn’t choose a family member, but I think it’s OK to do that as long as you have a relationship based on mutual respect and devoid of personal competition. In addition, the following qualities are important and necessary.
You need someone who isn’t afraid to be honest with you about your behavior. After all, the whole point is to ensure someone holds your feet to the fire and points out when you’re moving off track.
In addition to honesty, you also need someone empathetic. Honesty is different than criticism. Honesty means being truthful and seeing what is, but criticism adds judgment to that. You don’t want judgment. Choose someone who can empathize with your struggles without enabling you to give in to them. Find that person who can say,
“You’re procrastinating, and I understand how easy it is to do that. But it’s not in your best interest. How can I help you get over that hump?”
The goal of your accountability partner is to help you succeed and vice versa. You’re each other’s cheerleader, coach, and bearer of truth. You’re both committed to the process.
All of the above won’t work unless you truly trust each other. There are two elements to consider:
- Knowing that you each will not do anything to hurt or harm the other one.
- Knowing that you’ll keep each other’s confidentiality. This means you won’t discuss what you’re each working on, how it’s going, or what you learn from each other unless discussed beforehand and agreed upon.
A partner who’s genuinely interested and excited about what you’re trying to accomplish infuses the relationship with energy. Part of everyone’s struggle when working toward goals is losing interest over the long haul or a desire to quit when obstacles come up. A partner who will help you over those dips is essential, and vice versa.
A Quick Note About Coaching
Although an accountability partner is part coach in the sense that you’re keeping each other on track, it’s not someone to tell you how to do your work. The focus is on the process. If you choose someone with expertise in what you’re working on, you may feel the relationship becoming one-sided as your partner moves into a coaching mode.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have mutual knowledge and use it to help each other, but make sure it’s beneficial for both of you. It’s unnecessary to choose someone with knowledge about your desired goal, and some people prefer it that way.
Either way works as long as you feel equally stimulated and inspired to keep going.
You have to set up some basic rules and procedures for the whole thing to work.
1. Where and when.
How often will you check in, and where or how? You can meet in person, on Zoom, or over the phone. You might choose a combination. For example, meet in person once every other week and on Zoom in the weeks in between.
Some people check in several times a week or even daily, whereas others meet biweekly or once a month. I would caution you not to go longer than bi-weekly, especially when starting. Momentum is important, and if either of you tends toward procrastination, weekly is best.
2. How long?
Once you know where and how often you’ll meet, decide for how long. Set a time. Meetings shouldn’t be overly long, and they should be focused. You might meet for 30 minutes to an hour once every other week and check in by phone on the weeks in between for 15 minutes.
Another issue might be to set up how long you want the partnership to continue. Three months? Six months? Or something shorter? You might not decide that at the outset, but it’s good to consider once you get into it.
3. Goals and Tracking Methods
Now for the actual goals and how you will track them.
I would suggest that you do something written. An easy thing to do is set up a shared Google Doc where you both write out your specific goals and actions you want to take. You can create a more formal format if you like.
Goals can be big, but they should be broken down into smaller goals you can track. An excellent method to use is SMART goals. SMART stand for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
To use this method, ask yourself these questions:
- Specific. What do I want to accomplish, and what does that look like? Make your goals specific and limited enough that you can create a plan to achieve them.
- Measurable. What metrics can I use to show progress? There should be numbers, milestones, or data you can measure to show movement toward your goal.
- Attainable. Is what I’m attempting to do possible? Choose goals you can achieve. This means you have the resources, time, and energy to make them happen. You might decide to go back to school, but your current life circumstances and finances will not allow that. Start with something you can do right now.
- Relevant. Is my goal meaningful or relevant to my current life trajectory? Choose a goal that furthers your personal, academic, or professional development. How will it personally benefit you?
- Time-Bound. Can I achieve this goal within a given time frame? Every goal should be broken down into specific actions and set within time on a calendar so that both you and your accountability partner have something to work from.
Putting It All Together
Here’s an example of my own. I recently set up an accountability partnership with my son. We both have some crossover expertise in what we’re working on which will be helpful in this case.
We’re meeting in person every other week for an hour and by phone/Zoom on the weeks in between for 20 minutes.
We’re using a Google doc to list goals and document weekly actions. We use these for the weekly check-ins. During the in-person meetings, we cover obstacles or pivots we need to make based on our experiences.
We also make sure to outline successes weekly. Our goals are measurable and specific, so it’s easy to see where we are and what needs tweaking.
The Best Part
The best part is that having an accountability partner is fun, especially if you choose the right person, and it makes working on goals more manageable and enjoyable, which is the whole point.
It’s especially beneficial in dealing with procrastination. When you have to report your progress to someone else, you’re more likely to make your goals specific, doable, actionable, and, most importantly, you’ll finish. Give it a try!
That’s all for today.
Have a great week!
All my best,