If you’ve ever worked with a life coach or a writing coach you know that one of the things a coach provides is accountability. That is, you agree with your coach to get a series of tasks done before your next meeting. When you meet you tell the coach if you’ve completed your tasks.
The idea is that by promising someone you’re going to do something, and by reporting to them if you did or did not do that task, you get some help being accountable.
Being accountable is one of those buzz terms that really means taking responsibility and, in this case, learning to keep your promises to yourself.
You don’t have to hire a life or writing coach to accomplish much of the same thing.
I have an accountability partner. Her name is Helen Chang. She’s another freelance writer so she knows the drill. We have a weekly phone appointment with three goals:
- To acknowledge each other for accomplishments.
- To provide a brief sounding board for problems.
- To state what we intend to accomplish during the week.
Essentially we read our task lists to each other – admitting what we didn’t get done, congratulating ourselves for what we did and saying out loud what our plans are.
I’m not sure why having an accountability partner works so well. Maybe it’s just knowing we’ll have to admit to someone what we actually accomplished and didn’t accomplish. I’m not aware of a feeling of pressure during the week, but when I look at the list I’m often moved to do one more thing on it so I can brag to my writing partner.
Part of the secret to our success is the fact we don’t judge each other. We’re both pros and we respect ourselves and each other. If I don’t get something done, I know she will only acknowledge that she’s heard me and won’t make me wrong. If I need to blow off some steam around my writing business she gives me space to do that, but we both keep it short because we know there’s a huge difference between blowing off steam and wallowing in self-pity.
If you decide to try working with an accountability partner set up the ground rules in advance. Some suggestions include:
- short calls
- no fixing
- no making wrong
- willingness to congratulate each other for even tiny progress
Agreements like this can go a long way to making for a truly supportive partnership. Agree to give it a try, but set up a trail period and decide in advance it’s okay if either of you wants to stop after that test. Continue only if it’s working for both of you.
Image from http://www.sxc.hu