Maintaining your productivity can feel like a solitary endeavor – just you and your task list or calendar.
While time management is more appropriately described as self-management, you don’t need to do it alone. One of the best ways to manage yourself is to develop productivity systems that involve other people, such as accountability partners.
Humans crave connection. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, the right person helping hold you accountable to your goals and tasks is a gift to your life and a boon for your productivity. There’s no ability like accountability.
Here are some tips for working with an accountability partner.
Choose someone who:
- Has different skill sets than you
- Has a different (but complementary) personality
- Is available for meetings at the same times you are
- Has their own goals for the partnership to which they wish to be held accountable
- You can trust to keep confidences
Once you find a likely candidate, schedule three meetings with the following agendas:
- Agree up front that you are both in a trial period for the partnership and that either person can withdraw after the third meeting with no hard feelings.
- Get to know each other (if you don’t already).
- Share your overall vision, ground rules, and hopes for the partnership.
- Your homework is to do the exercise on this post. It will help you find the gaps between where you are and where you want to be.
- Share your gaps with each other from the homework. Discuss your ratings in each area.
- Select one or two of your biggest gaps. These are the areas in which you will set specific goals.
- Your homework is to write specific, challenging goals to bring to the next meeting. For fun, consider doing your goal setting in the form of a mind map.
- Share your goals (mind maps) with each other. Make sure to specify “The Why” you want to achieve each goal.
- Give feedback to each other. Are the goals measurable, appropriately challenging, and attainable in a reasonable timeframe?
- Help each other break down goals into specific plans.
- Decide if the partnership will continue. If so, schedule subsequent meetings.
Every accountability partner meeting should include a review of goal-related progress and honest feedback.
To keep the partnership fresh and fun, I recommend having one “special topic” per meeting.
Here are some suggestions from my blog:
- Personality tests
- Goal revision or abandonment
- Procrastination reduction
- Life balance
- FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
- The law of the hammer
- Executive function skills
Does this sound good to you? Forward this email to someone who may be a good accountability partner.
The Role of Vulnerability with an Accountability Partner
The purpose of an accountability partnership is not to impress each other. You have enough impression management in the rest of your life and work.
Each accountability partner must come to the relationship raw and vulnerable. The partnership should be a safe space.
It should also be a conduit for growth and development. Translation: Do not get into patterns of enabling your partner’s unproductive behaviors.
Be brave. Be kind. Be imperfect.
NOTE: In my flagship seminar, The ROI of Time Management, accountability partners are established as part of the curriculum. This two-hour seminar is available via live webinar or in person. Please contact me for details.
Are you ready to get serious about doing the right things AND doing things right?
Check out my eBook Corral Your To-Dos: and don’t rely on your brain – at all.
Melissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.
I think the intentionality you describe here is so important. An accountability partner should be invited in… not like a friend or family member nagging you. It can be such a simple and affordable way to hold to a behavior or goal!
Exactly! There is a fine line between nagging and feedback, but the best accountability partnerships find the right balance.
There have been several times in my life when I’ve had accountability partners. However, the arrangement was a bit different than you described. What I noticed was how darn effective it was. I’ve always been self-motivated, but having this other layer and commitment to a person, action, and deadline, created outcomes that wouldn’t have happened independently. Just having the opportunity to discuss ideas with another person can encourage new ideas. With the virtual organizing that I now offer, accountability plays an important role in my clients’ progress and success.
I’d love to hear more about what made your accountability partnerships so successful! Your insights are always on point, Linda.
I have two businesses. One in which I am the sole owner and the other I share with a partner. We just started this second business in February. What I have noticed in both businesses is that having someone to bounce ideas off and with whom to share progress and lack thereof has been extremely motivating. Having a partner has made me accountable and more responsible in both businesses.
Congrats on starting a new business in a challenging year, Diane. Someone wise once advised us that two heads are better than one, right?
Thank you for sharing a more in depth take on this strategy. I’ve read (and written) about accountability partners as part of a list of strategies. It’s nice to focus one one idea like this, especially if you’re new to productivity goals.
Wonderful, thoughtful, and detailed!
Would you say that this is similar to a master mind group? I’ve always been fascinated with those groups, designed to support and motivate the participants with fresh ideas, examination of their business model, as well as accountability. Usually, it’s a group of more than 2 people.
I believe that mastermind groups have an accountability component to them, but also education, advice, and a facilitator. I agree with you that they sound amazing.