Do you remember your New Year's resolutions from last year? How many of them have you achieved? Studies show that just 25% of people remain committed to their new year goals after 30 days, and only 8% achieve them in a sustained way throughout the year.
Would you prefer to avoid being part of that statistic? We're here to tell you about a great way to learn how to achieve all your goals and live your life to its fullest potential. And not just at New Year's either — you can be a goal-crushing machine all year round.
With an accountability partner by your side, you can stay focused on your goals to further your personal development and achieve all your ambitions. It's a committed, reciprocal relationship to drive both partners towards success. Read on to find out more!
What Is Accountability?
Put in the simplest terms, accountability is about taking responsibility for your actions. More than that, it's about being held accountable to another person, or group of people. Using this model can help with productivity, focus, and achieving high standards.
Accountability is used in education, the military, and most organizations, by setting frameworks for teams and individuals and having clear expectations. It's harder to achieve this on an individual level though, in relation to your personal goals.
And this is where an accountability partner can help. Most people have goals they want to achieve, but somehow, things keep getting in the way. Over and over again, people struggle to succeed in things that matter to them.
Your goals may be professional or linked to personal development. Maybe you want to finally get that promotion at work, or you want to finish your novel in 2021? Or maybe, like 56.4% of women and 41.7% of men in the US, you'd really like to lose some weight.
Most people know what smaller steps they need to take to achieve their goals (eat less, exercise more, write 1000 words a day). But often they can't manage to make the effort with the consistency that's needed to make progress. Accountability can be the crucial element to help to break through this impasse.
Accountability is the state of being held responsible for your actions, as well as your thoughts and emotions relating to those actions. There is a key difference between internal and external accountability. Knowing the difference between the two is the first step to unlocking the potential of accountability as a breakthrough tool to increase your productivity.
Internal vs. External Accountability
Internal accountability is about being accountable only to yourself. You make a personal commitment that you will accomplish something. You acknowledge what is important to you, and plan the actions you will take to achieve your goal.
But we are all fallible. We have bad days, with competing priorities and busy schedules. We lose focus. We procrastinate. We get lazy, and our motivation diminishes as we encounter obstacles along the bumpy road towards our final destination.
It's tempting to blame other people or external events for our failures, rather than taking personal responsibility. It's easier to attribute negative results to just plain old bad luck. It's not our fault that our efforts have been derailed, yet again!
But by combining internal and external accountability, we vastly increase our chances of overcoming the roadblocks and actually realizing our goals. By introducing a person into the mix to whom you have to report back, you can stay focused and take full responsibility for what is happening in your life.
Setting up a relationship with accountability at its heart will help you to feel encouraged and challenged. This can be a powerful catalyst for achieving your goals. If someone is keeping track of your progress and cheering you along the way, you're much more likely to succeed!
The Power of Accountability
There is a famous quote about accountability from Thomas Monson, who was not only a President of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints but also a successful businessman.
"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates."
People fail to achieve their goals because they set unrealistic or broad ones, or because they don't have any mechanism for holding themselves to account for achieving them. If you are answerable to someone else, your chances of success increase massively.
A study by the Association for Training and Development showed the huge power of accountability. 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.
This research shows that social accountability really helps to increase the chances of sticking to your plans and forming new habits. This is why support groups and team accountability are successful models.
But committing to one specific person and setting a time to report back to them is the critical element in achieving personal goals. And this is why accountability partnerships are such amazing tools for personal development.
What Is an Accountability Partner?
An accountability partner is someone with whom you establish an ongoing, reciprocal relationship. Each member of the partnership commits to coach the other towards achieving their goals and to be held accountable for their progress towards their own. This relationship helps each partner to stick to their commitments.
It's not just about a shallow offer of congratulations when you achieve something, or a simple reminder to complete a task. It's a deep relationship based on trust and commitment, where both members of the partnership coach and support each other along their journey.
It's important to note that an accountability partner is not the same thing as an accountability coach. A coach is someone who works with you to support you in achieving your goals — a personal trainer, maybe, or someone who is focused on helping you achieve your business goals. These relationships can be helpful, but are generally not cheap and do not offer the rewarding element of reciprocity that is present in a partnership relationship.
An accountability partnership is a more informal arrangement, but commitment is still the critical factor. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement, where you have someone to share your goals with and to report back to on your progress.
It's All About Reciprocity
It's easier to keep a promise to someone else, than to yourself, and that's what makes the relationship so powerful. You have to report back to someone else that you've taken action, and you have to hold your partner to account too, for staying committed to their goals.
If someone is devoting their efforts and their time to helping you succeed, you will feel a compulsion to repay those efforts. And the best way to do this is to make sure you stick to your commitments and keep your promises.
Who Should Be Your Accountability Partner?
So, you've decided that an accountability partner could help you to achieve your goals. Those goals might be professional or related to your health and wellbeing or personal development. The next step is to find someone with whom to set up this mutually beneficial relationship.
It needs to be someone who will help you stay on track and encourage you to actually follow through on your plans. You need to find a person to cheer you on, help you stay committed, and focused on the most important tasks. But they also need to be strong enough to hold you to account if you're getting distracted.
There's no reason why your accountability partner shouldn't be a friend, but you need to make sure it's someone who will actually hold you accountable and not let you get away with too much slacking. It needs to be a friendship that can survive some tough love!
Some people like to choose a family member for personal goals, such as weight loss or achieving a regular exercise habit. They may prefer a colleague for professional goals.
Your accountability partner doesn't need to be someone with the same goals or interests. In fact, you can learn a lot from working with someone who has a different skillset or who comes from a background that is different from your own.
How to Find an Accountability Partner
If the person you'd like to work with is someone you know already, you can simply ask them! Maybe you want your spouse to hold you to account to go to the gym regularly, or you'd like a sibling to support you in your efforts to establish a meditation habit. Find out if they have a goal of their own, and ask if they'd like to set up a partnership.
Alternatively, you could reach out to friends or colleagues. It's important to remember that the goals don't have to be the same, or even in the same area of life. There's no reason why you couldn't buddy up with a colleague who wants to work on a professional goal, while you want to focus on a health-related goal; some people do prefer to keep the personal and the professional separate, though.
If you don't know anyone in person, there are lots of other ways to find an accountability partner. You could search online for forums, blogs, or websites that relate to the field you are interested in. Or you could look for relevant local meet-ups.
Once you find someone that you click with, ensure that they are as committed to their goals as you are. It's important that the relationship is balanced, to give both partners the best shot at crushing their goals.
What to Look for in an Accountability Partner
Look for a partner who is genuinely interested in helping you on your journey to success. They need to be enthusiastic about the idea of a partnership, rather than just focused on what they can get out of the relationship.
Equally, you need to be fired up about helping them too! Reciprocity, as we mentioned above, is key. You both need to be committed to your own goals, but also fully engaged in helping the other person to achieve theirs.
It's also really important that the other person is trustworthy. You need to be sure that they have your best interests at heart and also that they will keep the discussions you have private. Confidentiality may be particularly important if you're working with a colleague and you don't want other people at your workplace to know about your journey.
You need to find someone who is able to motivate you and boost your spirits if you're feeling deflated. You may also want to look for someone who has a similar communication style to your own. Failing that, you'll need to understand and appreciate each other's style of communicating if there are major differences in approach.
It's also worth thinking about the level of success you have both achieved already, particularly if your goals are in a similar area. If you're working towards running a 5k, and your partner has already completed several marathons, the partnership may be imbalanced.
If one person has a greater level of expertise than the other, it can feel more like a coach-coachee relationship and can become one-sided. This can become problematic if one partner feels like they're getting less out of the relationship than the other. The ideal relationship is where you both feel equally challenged and encouraged.
Keep an Open Mind
Working with someone from a different background can be a really enlightening process. If your partner has different strengths and weaknesses than yours, you will complement each other. You can both bring a unique perspective to the relationship and suggest things the other person may not have thought of on their own.
It's worth remembering that you can always test the relationship out before making a longer-term commitment. Let's move on now to talk about the rules of engagement and how to set up a successful accountability partnership.
Setting up an Accountability Partnership
Once you've decided you want to proceed with an accountability partnership, and you've found the person you want to work with, the next step is to get the partnership rolling! There are a few important decisions you need to make to ensure the relationship is successful.
How Does an Accountability Partnership Work in Practice?
Both partners need to agree on the goals they're working towards (we'll do a deep dive on goal-setting in the next section). Then you need to agree on a regular series of meetings, where you update each other on how you're doing, share ideas, give feedback to your partner on their progress, and agree on tasks to be completed before the next meeting.
Your meetings might take place in person, over a coffee, or you might choose to use Skype or Zoom. Some people like to communicate by text or via a social media messaging platform. The most important thing is to find a method that works for both of you, to hold you accountable for meeting your deadlines and making progress towards your bigger goals.
How Often Should You Meet?
The decision as to how often you should meet with your partner is a tricky one and you will have to work out with your partner what works best for you both. Partnerships are most successful when each member has a similar schedule so that the timing of meetings can be mutually convenient.
Some people like to have a daily check-in by text or email, where they update on progress achieved the previous day and goals for the day to come. Others prefer a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly longer meeting. Some partnerships may do a combination of both longer meetings and quick check-ins.
Once you've decided on the frequency of your meetings, you need to commit to honoring the diary commitments. Sure, all of us have a crisis now and then, but the meeting with your partner should be a fixed commitment.
Success coach Jack Canfield advises that meetings should be kept short and focused. This is a particularly important factor to consider if your accountability buddy is also a friend. You'll need to work hard to keep the meeting on topic and prevent it from becoming derailed by chatting about irrelevant issues.
Rules of Engagement
You'll need to break your bigger goals down into smaller chunks for the process to work properly. If your partner asks you, "did you finish your novel yet?", it's not very likely that you'll be able to answer in the affirmative after one week. But if your bite-sized goal is more achievable, you'll have a better chance of success. Yes, you did write 1000 words every day this week!
It's important to discuss with your partner the kind of coaching style you both prefer. Some people just want to be listened to and to be allowed to work things out for themselves, whereas others prefer a more active approach.
Do you want your partner to ask a lot of questions and challenge you, or would you prefer them just to act as a sounding board? Do you want feedback in the form of advice and tips? You need to find out the coaching style your partner is the most comfortable with too.
Don't forget about confidentiality, either. We mentioned this earlier, but it's worth repeating that it's really critical to be clear about this if you want your discussions to be kept private. You might not want your other friends to know about your weight loss struggles, or you may prefer to keep your ambitions for promotion a secret from other colleagues, and your accountability partner must respect these wishes.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
Honesty is essential too. You need to make a deal with your partner that they'll be brutal with you when needed and that they'll allow the same in return. You need to call out each other's excuses and highlight any blind spots.
The journey towards changing habits is not a linear process. Sometimes you need some tough love to stop you from reverting back to old habits.
Investing some time at the beginning of the relationship on establishing the terms of engagement is critical. This is what will make the partnership a success. Both partners need to be open to constructive criticism as well as enthusiastic encouragement — a balance of the two is what will help you to achieve your goals.
Commitment Is Key
It can sound a bit daunting and stressful to be held accountable for your actions, but if you put in the effort, an accountability partnership can be fun and exciting. As both partners make the shift towards taking responsibility for their own future, a virtuous circle of progress will be established. Negative thoughts will lose their power and focus and productivity will become second nature.
Your partner won't do the hard work for you, but if you both commit to making yourselves answerable to your partner, this commitment will be a key driver towards your success. Knowing that you have to report back to someone else will mean you'll push yourself harder and make serious progress towards achieving your goals.
The Importance of Goal Setting
Let's move on to talk in a little more detail about the goals you want to achieve. People tend to fail in their endeavors because the goals they set are vague or unrealistic. For your accountability partnership to work, you need to get savvy about goal setting and set yourself up for success.
Remember that you don't need to have the exact same goals as your partner. You just need to have a shared commitment and drive towards achieving them, and a determination to help each other along the journey to success.
Each partner needs to choose a goal they want to accomplish or a behavior that they want to change. Then you need to establish clear metrics that you can use to measure progress against this objective.
Without clear goals, there is no point in having an accountability partner. Your partner can help you to track your progress and support you in achieving the smaller steps that are required to reach the final destination. Along the way, you'll learn new skills and challenge yourself to become a better person.
Your goals should be a stretch and take you out of your comfort zone. You should write your final goal down and display it somewhere where you'll see it every day. You might want to use a vision board to help you stay focused, or set a daily alert on your phone to remind you of the main purpose of your efforts.
You may find that you can make an even bigger leap than you originally aimed for, by working with an accountability partner. Think big and don't hold back! You might surprise yourself at what you can achieve.
Breaking Down Your Goals
It's a good idea to break your bigger goal down into smaller, more manageable steps. You might want to do this before your first meeting with your accountability partner, or you might want to talk it through with them and decide together on the best approach to breaking it down.
It's important not to over-commit yourself and risk feeling disillusioned if you fall short of your targets. There are a couple of frameworks you can use to ensure that your goals are effective, rather than vague. This will give you a much higher chance of success.
SMART Objectives and the PACT Framework
A lot of people are familiar with the SMART pneumonic (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) from performance appraisals in the workplace. But this framework is equally useful for personal goals.
"Lose some weight" is a good example of a vague goal. "Lose 14lb by Christmas" is more specific, measurable, and time-bound. It's also relevant if the person setting the goal wants to lose weight!
Achievability is another key criterion. The above example may not be sensible if it's currently November, but you might set this target in August and have a fair chance of achieving it.
This goal could be further improved by breaking it down into smaller goals, such as "go to the gym three times a week for a 45-minute workout", or "only drink alcohol at weekends", "stop getting take-outs", etc.
The PACT framework is another useful tool for sense-checking your goals as to how effective they are. Is it possible? This is similar to realistic; can you achieve this goal in the allotted timeframe?
Let's go back to the novel-writing example. "Finish my novel by Christmas" might be possible if it's November and you've already written 70,000 words. Not so much if it's 20th December and you haven't even gotten started yet.
Actionability and clarity are the next steps in the PACT framework. Is your goal specific and does it have a concrete outcome? Do you have complete control over the outcome? Are you clear on the actions you need to take to achieve the goal?
The final point is time-bound, the same as in the SMART model. This is critical when working with an accountability partner. You'll need to break your bigger goal down into smaller milestones, set deadlines, and agree to report back to one another on your achievement of these mini-goals.
3 Steps to Build a Successful Accountability Partnership
So you've got your partner and you've set your goals. We know that the research shows that having an accountability partner can dramatically increase our chances of success. Let's talk now about a few more of the key building blocks to establishing a really successful accountability partnership.
1. Set a Timescale for the Relationship
It's helpful for both parties to know how long they can expect the accountability partnership to last. Will you keep going only until you've reached your ultimate goal? Or will you set another one after that, and continue indefinitely?
Ideally, you'll both be working towards goals with a similar timeframe, but it's important to agree on what happens if one completes their goal before the other. Will they choose another to cover the span of the arrangement? Will you have some kind of celebration to mark the event?
2. Agree on a Structure for Your Meetings
You might want to design a proforma for your meetings, to help you remain focused. In each discussion, you need to review each partner's main goal and assess progress against it. You can discuss actions taken in the previous period and discuss any problems or pitfalls encountered.
Then you need to agree on the tasks to be accomplished in time for the next meeting and leave space for discussion and support as required. Finally, you need to agree on the time, place, duration, and mode of the next meeting. Try to ensure that each member of the partnership has an equal amount of time to discuss their progress.
Don't forget to review your overall goals every few months. It's important to reflect on what's changed and how far you've come. What have you learned? Do you need to make any adjustments to your strategy?
3. Be Flexible
Yes, structure is important, but rigidity isn't helpful. There will be times when one of you has an emergency and has to rearrange a meeting. Just reschedule and move on, but make sure it doesn't happen too often.
Likewise, you may need to revise the format of the meetings from time to time. Or perhaps one of you needs to tweak your goal slightly, to make it more actionable. The most important thing is openness; you need to discuss between you what is and what isn't working, make the necessary changes, then switch the focus back to achieving your goals.
4. Empathy Is Crucial
We've talked a lot about tough love, and sometimes that's appropriate. But at other times, you or your partner will just need compassionate support and a non-judgmental approach. This is particularly important when things that are beyond an individual's control have happened which have derailed their plans.
Remember to treat the other person as you would like to be treated yourself. Your partnership needs to be a supportive, safe environment for you both, built on trust. This is what will enable you both to flourish.
The Benefits of Accountability Partnerships
Let's summarise the benefits of an accountability partnership. No one can change the world all by themselves, and even the most successful entrepreneurs have a team of people behind them, to support them in their endeavors. Having a special relationship with one person where you are both accountable puts you at a real advantage.
You get personalized support and a direct form of accountability, from just one person with whom you can build a close relationship. You have the opportunity to coach someone else, as well as receiving support yourself. This makes the relationship all the more rewarding.
While you'll have plenty of opportunities to talk about your own issues, you're also likely to learn something from discussing your partner's challenges. Sharing your goals and struggles with another person can often lead to a strong friendship with all the other benefits that entails.
This model is also very flexible. Many people use it in a professional context, but you could use an accountability partner to help you achieve your financial goals or support you on your weight loss or fitness journey. Other people use accountability buddies to help them achieve cleaning, home organizing, or decluttering goals, and many writers also find this a beneficial way to track their progress towards their long-term ambitions.
Potential Drawbacks - and How to Counter Them
Nothing is perfect, and there can be some risks to entering into a partnership. But these risks can generally be avoided by taking a few precautions before you enter into the relationship.
It may be that if you set up a relationship with a stranger, for example, someone you've met online, that you don't get on well and aren't compatible. This can be discouraging and can hinder your progress towards achieving your goals.
But if you take time to really discuss your approach and the way you like to work, then it should be possible to avoid this stress. You should also make sure that you have a trial period, before agreeing to a longer-term commitment. Just like you probably wouldn't move in with someone after a first date!
Maybe your schedules don't match up if you're both busy, or there's a lack of formality to your discussions and you're easily distracted. Discussing your schedules upfront and making sure they match can help to avoid this, as well as sticking to a clear structure for your meetings, as we discuss above.
Finally, things can feel one-sided if one person dominates the partnership or if one partner has already achieved a high level of skill or expertise in a particular area where the other partner is trying to make progress. Again, if both partners are focused on ensuring that each of them gets a fair deal, then this should not be an issue. And you should choose your partner carefully to make sure that there is no imbalance of skills which could affect the relationship.
How ActionBuddy Can Help You Crush Your Goals
Here at ActionBuddy, we've developed a platform that can help you and your partner to achieve your goals. We can match you up with someone, or you can invite your pre-selected accountability partner to join the platform and be your action buddy.
Each partner sets three specific actions that will help them to progress towards their goal. Then they participate in a 15-minute long action review, via Zoom or Google Hangouts. We have many satisfied clients, who testify that this system has helped them to beat procrastination and achieve their goals.
The ActionBuddy platform offers a further feature to help you stay focused. You pledge to achieve your essential actions, and if you fail, you give money to a cause that you don't like or support. This is a powerful incentive for most people to get things done!
Most users find that this happens very rarely, though, as the combination of the pledge system and the mutual support offered by your accountability partner provides the perfect motivation to complete the actions you have agreed to.
This model can be used for achieving goals in any area of life, whether work-related or linked to personal development or fitness. It's a popular platform with freelancers and self-employed people, who may lack the structure that people in traditional employment have. Having an accountability partnership can provide the perfect substitute for team accountability in the workplace.
Grab the Chance to Be Successful!
Don't be that person who fails to achieve their New Year's resolutions. You don't even have to wait for New Year's to make a change. You can take the first step towards success right now, by establishing a relationship with an accountability partner.
Having a dedicated relationship that is focused on achieving your goals will give you the opportunity to banish procrastination, boost productivity and crush your goals. The power of accountability means no more excuses.
You deserve personalized support to help you accomplish your dreams. And you can combine this with the satisfaction of helping someone else on their journey to success too.
The ActionBuddy platform makes it easy for you and your accountability partner to work together towards your long-term goals. Sign up now with ActionBuddy and we'll support you every step of the way.