“If we believe someone is watching, we behave differently.” — Gretchen Rubin
Last week, we covered the uncanny power of being accountable to someone else in order to reach our goals — and that a good buddy system gives us a crazy 95% success rate. That’s partly because starting a new project or habit on your own can often feel like you’re shouting into the void. Having a buddy running alongside gives you a supportive audience and immediate feedback; the process is witnessed and celebrated as much as the result.
The question today is HOW to start buddying up. Many accountability partnerships tragically end after a few weeks, so laying a good foundation is absolutely key. Here are three quick tips to get you started
1) Meet your match
Like any relationship, finding the right fit takes trial and error. But the most crucial bit is finding someone who is equally committed to change. You’ll be their cheerleader as much as they’ll be yours, so think about how you can mutually benefit each other. You don’t have to find someone who is doing the exact same thing, but shared goals or similarities will help you both have empathy for one another.
Some people find their buddies through networking events, mutual acquaintances, or even through online forums specifically set up for these sorts of things. The point is, think outside your box and ask around. Maybe even put the word out that you’re looking for an accountability partner (and then explain what you mean by it!)
It can be tempting to default to close friends and relatives, but just be sure that they are also keen to progress on a challenge they’ve set for themselves and are not just there to be your emotional support. Close relationships tend to come with preexisting power dynamics, patterns of behaviour and emotional expectations that might work against you when you’re in “business mode”, so choose wisely.
2) Choose one thing to work on
We all have multiple goals we’re trying to achieve, but choose only one thing to work on with your buddy. If you want to build something sustainable — whether it’s a habit or a business — it’s much more effective to focus on one activity at a time. It’ll also spare your poor accountability partner from a mixed bag of progress reporting. (“So today, I woke up at 6AM, but I missed my fitness class. And then I cooked dinner instead of eating out, but I didn’t drink enough water.”)
3) Set your reporting expectations
Set a frequency and a timeframe for checking in with one another. Some people check in daily and keep it to ten minutes maximum. Some people check in once a week and have an hour-long meeting. Treat each check-in as your deadline for change, no matter how incremental the progress. And structure your check-ins so they are almost like semi-formal meetings. You can be friendly and encouraging to each other, but you’re both also dead serious about getting things done.
Your check-ins are about positive reinforcement and by that, we mean it’s about rewarding every single move towards the direction of attaining your goal. So even if your partner reported that he or she was thinking of getting up early for a class, cheer your partner on. And then encourage him or her to take the next step of getting out of bed. You and your partner are there to stretch each other to take that next step towards your goals. It’s definitely not about shaming or guilting one another, but celebrating the momentum.
Also, have a solid No-Flake clause. Most partnerships don’t work because one or both of you started to flake out. Once one person stops checking in and it’s acceptable, then the other person does. Before you know it, both of you are pretending you’re doing accountability when really you’re just wasting your time. So put in an ultimatum from the start. Maybe agree to terminate the partnership if one of you starts to disappear more than three times. Set a rule that encourages both of you to take this seriously.
Now go forth and buddy up!