Accountability is a multi-tier concept. Essentially, it is a promise to yourself (and those who may be benefitted or disadvantaged by it) that you will achieve the things for which you've taken responsibility.
But then, we're all human beings, inherently imperfect. And that means it is easy to shirk our accountability to ourselves, which in turn will cause us to fail. And that is why we need accountability partners: to break these bad habits of failing ourselves!
An accountability partner (or sometimes, an accountability coach) is a person in charge of keeping you accountable — holding you to what you committed to — motivating you to keep productivity high, keeping you from failing, and helping you complete your goals. Once you make the commitment to yourself, you also commit to them and entrust them to check in with you and monitor your progress.
In a way, with accountability partners, the onus to keep you honest is on them. Don't get me wrong, it's still you who has to do all the work and make sure you don't fail at your task, but having a partner to stay accountable to and making sure you're working towards your goals to the best of your ability really makes a difference!
Why you need an accountability partner
Let us count the ways!
An accountability partner motivates you
We all need a little confidence boost every now and then—by checking in with you regularly, your accountability partner keeps you encouraged and motivated to not lose focus or give up halfway when things get too difficult.
An accountability partner supports you
Your partner is with you every step of the way and understands how you want to achieve your goals. So when you're stuck, they'll be better placed to offer relevant and helpful suggestions or support you as needed.
Most importantly, an accountability partner gives you honest feedback when you need it
When something's not working, your accountability partner can tell you without having to sugarcoat it to protect your feelings, the way good friends would.
The road to achieving our goals is long and full of detours. You'll definitely go off track sometimes! And when you do, it's best to make sure you have someone to give you the push you need to get back on track. You can expect them to call you out on any excuses you try to come up with when things just aren't getting done, that is, to help you avoid procrastination.
Who can be an accountability partner?
A family member or friend
Who better to keep you on the straight and narrow than your mom? Or it could even be a loved one, or your group of close friends who can make sure you get stuff done. Just identify them, get on a call or meet them in person to talk about your goals and challenges, set up regular check-ins, and get started!
There are many pros and cons to this approach. The biggest pro is that having a loved one as an accountability partner means you get someone who knows you well, is aware of your personal experiences, ambition, strengths, weaknesses, and bad habits. Perhaps most importantly, they're invested in seeing you succeed -- who better than a significant other or a sibling to make sure you study for your exam?
Also, they're free! You only have to pay them in gratitude.
On the other hand, mixing personal life and professional relationships can be tricky. Because you know them beyond the scope of accountability and work, it can get overwhelming for you to share big commitments, ideas, and tasks with them. Similarly, they might feel reluctant to push you too hard owing to your personal equation with them.
Also, since they are committed to helping you out for free, maintaining access to a strict schedule becomes challenging for both of you if their priorities start to differ.
After all, our families and friends have their own lives going on, and we can't expect them to make being our accountability partner their primary focus. We've often noticed that even if it works well in the beginning, it ends up petering out as your accountability partner gets busy with other things in their life.
The most important con of all -- asking your friend or significant other to be your accountability partner can wreck your relationship with them. After all, the job of an accountability partner is to call you out occasionally. Not only do friends and family hesitate to do this, but when they do do it, it can come off as personal criticism, due to your relationship with them. We've heard way too many stories of this request causing too much friction, leading to relationships -- so bear this in mind before you approach your friend or partner to help you stay accountable!
A friend or a support group
One more option would be to join an accountability group and keep each other accountable. But this is our least favorite option -- simply because this accountability structure is only as strong as the weakest link. If you've tried this, you might have seen this play out yourself -- the first few days, everybody is enthusiastic, and the group is buzzing with updates. Slowly, the momentum starts to fizzle out. And one day, someone in the group disappears. This is a cue to the rest of us to start flaking as well. I won't lie, when I've been part of such groups, I've often been waiting for someone to drop off, so I can do the same without feeling too guilty about it!
Hire a professional accountability partner!
A professional accountability coach or partner: Yes, they exist! And our sole job is to support and ensure your work gets done. So hiring an accountability coach — who can help you set goals, accomplish them, create them, monitor progress, keep you motivated, be accountable, and most importantly ensure you win more than you fail — is a great approach to try!
Want to dig deeper? Here's how to find an accountability partner.
Finding the Right Accountability Partner App
Thankfully for us, productivity platforms and accountability apps are all over the internet today. Accountability apps also take different approaches to personal accountability — from hard accountability, to having a negative consequence attached to defaulting. Here are a few accountability apps you can try out:
Beeminder: Beeminder puts your money where your mouth is — literally! It's based on the principle of commitment contracts. Basically, you make a deal with Beeminder that you'll stay on track to your goal, and allow them to charge you real money, if you go off track.
Beeminder is great for you if you love data and graphs, nerdery, commitment contracts, and a scientific way of approaching goals.
Beeminder "makes the important urgent" by charging you if you stray off the track, rather than penalizing you on the deadline, if the goal hasn't been achieved. This ensures you actually do the small things every day that go toward gradual results, instead of procrastinating till the last moment and then rushing to complete it just before the deadline.
(BTW, Beeminder are our great friends, and we have a nifty integration. How it works is, your Boss can control your Beeminder goal on your behalf, and if you go off track, we will rat you out to Beeminder, who will then charge you! Learn how we work together here.)
stickK: Stickk is an accountability platform that helps you identify goals and set up a commitment contract to stick to your plans and get them done. While setting up the goals, you also have to list out what you need to do to succeed and how you can get there. You can also choose to work with a referee who will monitor your progress or include a financial obligation to pay money if you fail to achieve your goal. (Hint: if you're also working with BaaS, you can add us as the referee!) By including these professional clauses to complete the goal journey, stickK ensures discipline from the get-go and sets you up for productivity!
Stickk is great for you if you want to get started with commitment contracts quickly!
Coach.me: A multi-service accountability app and platform, Coach.me has a free version of the habit tracker app that lets you enter and check progress on recurring habits—exercise, diet, reading, writing, etc. The accountability app also connects you with specialized accountability coaches who will work with you on your goals!
Coach.me is a great choice if you'd like a full-fledged coaching experience.
Asana: For the more self-driven, Asana is more of a work management tool, a website where you can organize all the steps of a particular project and update it as you go along. But what makes it even better is that you can share these projects with your co-workers, so you can all track each other's progress and ensure work is being done as scheduled.
Boss as a Service: Boss as a Service (that's us!) is a true-blue accountability partner service! You're assigned a Boss, who tracks your goals with you, and makes sure you're on track towards achieving them.
The best thing about BaaS (in our admittedly biased opinion) is our flexibility. We can work together on personal goals, or work goals. We can work together on a rhythm that works best for you – every day, or less often.
We ask for proof to make sure you've actually completed your todos. And when you start slacking off, we push you and follow up till we resolve them. Your Boss is there to give you a little push if you're not giving it your best!
How to get started with an Accountability Partner
So now you have to decide which kind of accountability partner you want, and then get started! Here are a few tips on how to get started with your accountability buddy:
Talk about your goals
Whether it's with yourself or others, have a discussion on what it is you want to accomplish and achieve. Starting small by building habits or getting daily todo lists checked off is great, but you need to think about the big picture and figure out what you want your life to look like long-term. Start by thinking about what your end goal is – whether it's to lose weight, or switch jobs this year, or finally finish your book.
Establish the discipline
Do you work better with a strict boss, who'll show you no mercy, or an encouraging one who will give you more gentle nudges? Figure out what you want your relationship with your partner to be like and make sure you both are on the same page.
Set up check-in points
Whether you plan and work from day to day or every week, you need to decide regular periods to check in and share progress. These don't always have to be to plan the future—weekly reviews are also a great idea and a powerful way to keep track of how far you've come!
Partnering up is a great way to overcome what's stopping you from achieving your goals – whether it's fear, or procrastination that's holding you up.
Do some research, find an accountability partner that suits you, sign up today, and take a step towards breaking bad habits and achieving your goals!