I’ve always followed the productivity space closely. I enjoy trying new productivity methodologies and frameworks to explore how I can get more done in less time. I was surprised recently when I came across a concept that I had never encountered before: an accountability buddy.
I discovered accountability buddies through the Productivity Reddit Discord group. There’s a channel called (you guessed it) “Accountability Buddy” where people pair up to work towards shared goals. I was so impressed and inspired watching strangers from across the world come together to achieve their goals. I decided to do a deep dive into accountability buddies and share what I learned.
What is an accountability buddy?
An accountability buddy is someone you partner with to tackle a common goal. Those goals can include running every day, studying for a set period of time, or staying off social media. Accountability buddies work best when they are a peer working towards a similar goal. This is different from a mentor or a coach. Generally, you set up a recurring meeting with your accountability buddy to check on each other’s progress and hold each accountable. You can also meet with an accountability buddy for one-off working sessions too.
The power of external accountability
The key to the success of accountability buddies is how they incorporate external accountability. If we set a personal goal and don’t tell anyone else about it, we rely on internal accountability to achieve that goal. When we share that goal with others, we now have external accountability towards those we shared with.
Research has shown that when we work harder and perform better when we’re being watched. This concept is known as the Hawthorne Effect. Accountability buddies take full advantage of the Hawthorne Effect and external accountability. By including an accountability buddy, you’re no longer just letting yourself down if you miss your goal, you’re letting your partner down too. This can greatly boost your motivation.
Does an accountability buddy really help?
Studies overwhelmingly show that accountability buddies increase the chances of achieving your goal. One study by The American Society of Training and Development found that people are 65 percent more likely to achieve their goal after sharing it with someone else and 95 percent more likely if they commit to recurring meetings for that goal.
Additional bonuses of accountability buddies
Depending on the structure that you set up with your accountability buddy, there are a number of additional benefits. First, you get a chance to connect with peers with similar interests and aspirations.
Second, you share your experience and struggle in achieving your goal. Accountability buddies are great to motivate you but a true accountability buddy also supports you when you miss a day or have a setback.
Additionally, an accountability buddy is a great source of inspiration. They’re an extra mind to think about ways to reach your goal. Their perspective might allow you to find new routes to achieve your goal that you might not have reached otherwise.
Finally, accountability buddies can make achieving a goal a lot more fun. This is especially true if your goal is something you find unappealing, perhaps something like running or dieting. Humans are social animals. We enjoy working with others. Sharing your experience of reaching a goal is more fun as a pair rather than solo.
Drawbacks of an accountability buddy
You can’t rely on an accountability buddy for all, or even a majority, of your goals. Accountability buddies require coordination and a large time commitment. They’re best for bigger goals that you struggle to complete with only internal accountability.
It’s important to build the strength to motivate yourself internally. In that sense, an accountability buddy can be a crutch towards building your own motivation. If you want to be successful, you will need to foster the skill of self-motivation by yourself.
Where to find an accountability buddy
There are a number of different paths you can take to find an accountability buddy. You can start with your family, friends, or coworkers. You’d be surprised at the number of people in your life that have similar work or personal goals.
Depending on your goal, it may be easier to branch out beyond your immediate personal network. For productivity-specific accountability buddies, you can join the Productivity Reddit Discord server. That’s where I first discovered accountability buddies. There is also the GetMotivatedBuddies subreddit for more general goals. Finally, you can turn to a number of paid services such as Supporti or UpWays.
All you have to do is share your goal and see who else connects with it. Don’t be afraid to turn people down if you don’t feel a connection. Trust is extremely important in building a helpful accountability partnership.
How to be a great accountability buddy
An accountability buddy relationship is a partnership where each partner needs to provide their share of support. To that end, it’s important to understand what you should focus on in order to be a great accountability buddy.
The company Supporti recently ran a survey to nearly 200 people who had experience with accountability buddies. The survey asked what traits were most valuable in an accountability partner. The top results were:
- “cares about your progress” (80.0%),
- “trustworthy” (79.6%),
- “gives positive reinforcement” (77.8%),
- “nonjudgmental” (66.5%),
- “gives of good advice” (64.2%),
- “dependable” (48.9%).
As you can see, being a good accountability buddy is similar to being a good friend or family member. Focus on making sure your partner feels supported and heard, and avoid being judgemental.
I find a lot of appealing aspects of accountability buddies. I love that they encourage us to work together, often with strangers, towards shared goals. I love that these relationships are with peers who share the same experience, struggle, and aspirations. Accountability buddies feel in line with the future of work, as remote work grows and jobs become more independent. It’s a concept that I believe will continue to grow in popularity.
I recently started working with an accountability buddy to go on runs in the morning. It’s a habit I’ve been trying to build unsuccessfully for years. I’m proud to say that we’ve hit our goals for the first week.
This post is written by:
The co-founder of Rize – a simple, intelligent time tracker that improves focus and helps build better work habits.
You can find more of his work here.
If you prefer an audio format, please consider subscribing to the Monthly Method Podcast.
- When you don’t achieve your monthly goals
- What will people think?
- Unconventional Productivity Tips from Reddit [March 2021 edition]