Have you ever tried working with an “accountabilibuddy” aka Accountability Partner, doing Virtual Co-working, or using a Buddy System to achieve a goal or create a habit?
We humans do so love to be connected and if you have read Gretchen Rubin’s 4 Tendencies and find yourself an Obliger like me, you know that external accountability can be a powerful motivator to drive consistent action. (Rebels and Uploders can skip this blog post – other people may hinder your progress! Questioners this may answer some of your skepticism… or not!)
In the last year there have been three accountability partner systems that worked well for me and I’m going to break them down so you get some ideas of how to find and structure your accountability partnership.
Thanks to all my accountability partners who help me to achieve my goals!
TL;DR: 7 tips to design your accountability partnership
- Shared Goals
- Calendar Compatibility
- Make it the default
- But be flexible
- Build in hidden extras
- Set a finish date
Case 1: Yoga with Adriene and my big sister
I’ve been doing Yoga with Adriene‘s 30 days of Yoga practices for several years. I’ve never really managed to do it in actually thirty days until 2020. That was a huge shock to me that I could do it without a break but it felt like a new story I could tell myself! I can do hard things.
For 2021, I decided that I wanted to join again and my biggest accountability partner was my sister. She is based in the UK and I’m in Japan and with Covid travel restrictions, I’m not going to see her for a while and it’s been over 18 months since I saw her last.
Shared Goals: We both wanted to complete the programme and improve our health.
Ease: Adriene told us what to do every day – no decision making required.
Make it the default: We set up a repeating calendar invite and the same zoom link. Plug and play!
Calendar Compatibility; If we had both wanted to do AM workouts this would not have worked but luckily my sister wanted to do evenings and I preferred the mornings so 6am JST and 9pm GMT worked out for us
But keep it flexible: we both set our boundaries. Friday night is my sister’s chill out night and I don’t want to get up at 6am on Sundays. 4 days of the week we practiced together but knowing that she was doing each day made it easier for me to keep up on the other side of the world.
Hidden Extras: I get to chat to my niece and nephews and my sister every day. The yoga is great but the 5 mins before and after are what really kept me coming back
Set a finish date: Having a limited period makes people feel that they have an easy out. In this case, 30 days of Yoga. But as it happened at around day 20 we started to talk about the future and we are continuing three days a week together. Mainly because I want to start running again now my injury is over!
Case 2: Search Inside Yourself Leadership: Mindfulness Buddy Take 2
As part of the SIYLI online course last year we were set 28 days of practice and given a structure to meet once a week with your buddy assigned in the last session. I tried a few times to connect with my buddy but the calendar compatibility wasn’t there. In the capstone meeting at the end of the 28 days, I shared in a breakout room that I hadn’t been able to connect with my buddy and I felt a bit down about that. One of the other participants said he felt the same so we decided to try Mindfulness Practice Buddy Take 2!
Shared Goals: Originally we both wanted to complete the 28 days of practice and have someone to share the experience with
Calendar Compatibility: Again this is where the global time difference is a help not a hindrance. My 9am is John’s early evening.
Ease: We followed the SIYL buddy call flow for the first few months but now we just check in as we like (and often for more than the recommended 15 minutes!
Make it the default: Tuesday morning 9am I fire up the whatsapp or we let each other know that. We also often start with a Moment to Arrive as recommended by SIYLI… but not always
But be flexible: see above
Build in hidden extras: meeting John’s new puppy, sharing openly with someone who has no connection to your daily life is so liberating, connecting with a fellow human just doing their best and trying to be better is what keeps me coming back.
Set a finish date: Again originally through the 28 days of practice but by mutual agreement we decided to continue.
Case 3: Virtual Coworking with Make March Matter
Make March Matter is a free online community that I launched in March 2020 as a response to Covid impacting small business owners. There are many ways we bring accountability to each other (part of the reason we are still going strong with over 250 members). I wanted to share a mini accountability practice. It’s usually a small group 3-4 people who come together for one event only. Not always the same people and not doing the same work so it is an interesting case study.
Shared Goals: In the virtual co-working we all have something we want to get done but are not doing – procrastination, doom scrolling, distractions are the usual culprits!
Calendar Compatibility: these are Pop up events run by anyone with a zoom account
Ease: no prep required other than adding a FB event with a link (I just duplicate previous meetings and add a new zoom link)
Make it the default: Same format each time. Share your expected outcome, Cameras and sound off for a focused work period, chatty break time, Cameras and sound off for a second focused work period, Chatty wrap up
But be flexible: Can only join for the first or second work session? No worries do as much or as little as is useful! Can’t join at this time? Set up your own event!
Build in hidden extras: I find it really inspiring to see what others are achieving and the scheduled chat breaks help to re-energise. Knowing that I need to report back gives me a kick up the butt to stay on task!
Set a finish date: Recently we are favouring 50/20/50 so a 2 hour session is becoming the norm but the limited time to focus really helps keep members on track and off SNS!
What works for you?
So how about you?
What works or doesn’t work for you when it comes to accountability partners? Share your hints and hacks in the comments!