Accountability partners work wonders for me and I’ve found that having one pretty much guarantees that I set regular goals and push myself to getting them completed. Unfortunately finding (and keeping) accountability partners is not so easy and this has been an inconvenient truth which I’ve just accepted …until this morning.

Where I might be going wrong

Something happened this morning which lead me to question the beliefs I had about accountability partners, beliefs such as:

Great, so I’m looking for someone who is similar in character to me, who is building a similar business to me, has a similar level of success, has a similar amount of the project completed, and who has a schedule which matches mine. Given such unrealistic requirements it’s no wonder why accountability partners are hard to come by.

Where did I get these beliefs? I don’t remember learning any rules to choosing a partner and even if I had I wouldn’t have taken any notice because I tend to make my own rules for such things. I can only assume that at some point I imagined what an ideal partner would look like and created these beliefs based on that image?

However they came to be, there are 2 things which I’m certain of:

  1. I acquired them all very early on (probably shortly after learning about accountability partners for the first time)
  2. I probably gave little or zero thought to these beliefs before accepting them
  3. They are possibly all bullshit

Nothing lasts forever

Even if you’re lucky enough to find your ideal accountability partner, keeping hold of them is not guaranteed. All it takes is a change of priorities or circumstance from either of you and the partnership can break down.

Nobody is at fault if this happens, it’s just life. What if your partner is going through a tough time and needs to put the accountability meetings on the back burner for a while? What if one of you moves to another time zone making it difficult to schedule a time? What if one of you gives up?

You can’t count on having your accountability partner forever because you have no control over their circumstances or their priorities. You can’t even count on having access to your partner regularly as even a holiday or illness can be enough to put a spanner in the works and rob you of some progress.

The problem with accountability partners

As far as I’ve found, having an accountability partner depends on the following things:

That is way too many dependencies for my liking. I want all the benefits of an accountability partner without having to deal with the slim chance of finding one or the high chance of losing one, and that has lead me to explore the idea of a different type of accountability partner.

The ‘One Way’ accountability partner

My intention is to experiment with using an alternative type of partner, one who is easy to find and is free from the reliability issues described above, and I shall call them “one way accountability partners” (or at least until I think of a better name).

The plan is simply to choose someone from my list of contacts, call them up, tell them what I intend to do and on what date, then let them know later if I did it or not. I won’t expect them to share their goals with me and I won’t expect them to give a shit if I complete the goal or not, all I’m doing is making myself accountable to them.

If I discover that this approach works as well (or even partially as well) as a ‘traditional’ accountability partner then there’s a good chance I’ll start using it full time as it has a load of potential benefits:

Field Notes: Accountability Partner #1

My friend and I were due to have a chat so I called and towards the end of the conversation I said:

Just before I go, I’m experimenting with accountability techniques so I want to tell you that I will have xyz project 100% completed by Friday at the latest.

My friend was familiar with the concept of accountability partners so there was no need to explain how it worked.

I didn’t promise to send any further messages to say if I had succeeded or failed, and I didn’t ask for congratulations or a kick up the ass depending on my performance. I wanted to avoid roping unwilling people into the pursuit of my goals because surely they have more important things to do (such as the pursuit of their own goals). Despite this I was told “I’ll be checking up on you” which I appreciated.

I wanted to avoid roping unwilling people into my pursuit of my goals because they surely have more important things to do.

The experience was almost identical to using a regular accountability partner with one exception: The consequences of failure felt less severe. I knew that if I failed to reach my goal then there was less chance I’d experience the discomfort of confessing my failure as my parter might have forgotten all about it? Or maybe they just wouldn’t ask me about it? Or maybe they ask me far enough into the future that I no longer give a shit? This lack of consequence didn’t seem to affect the amount of ‘accountability’ I felt compared to using a regular accountability partner.

My goal was completed and the day after the deadline I received a text asking if I did it to which I replied “yes, thanks for being accountable for me”.

Field Notes: Accountability Parter #2

Decided to text instead of call this partner because they live in a different time zone which can be inconvenient for us both. And anyway, speaking shouldn’t be necessary with these “one-way” accountability partners because I don’t require any input from them (or at least that’s the theory). Here’s what I sent:

I’m experimenting with accountability partners this month to improve productivity. I just want to tell you that I intend to do 2 hours of focused work on a particular project each day for the next 5 days. If I fail to do this I’ll send you message saying a “mission failed”.

This time I promised to send a follow up message if I failed. I figured this might account for the loss of consequence I noticed with my previous partner by providing a source of discomfort which I will strive to avoid. This discomfort is created both by having to confess to a failure, but also by having to bother someone with a message that is pretty useless as far as they’re concerned.

My goal was completed within the time limit and as expected the additional consequences did seem to increase the amount of accountability I felt compared to with the previous partner.