Struggling with productivity is no rare phenomenon, everyone faces it sometimes, whether it's for school, home, or work goals. Also, being productive means different things for different people – for some, it's getting all work done efficiently and on time, for others, it's getting chores done, even those that you really don't want to do. But no matter what it is you want to achieve productivity in, the keys are the same -- focus, consistency, and commitment.
Of course, managing these is easier said than done, particularly if you're living with conditions like ADHD.
ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition in which a person has difficulty focusing, is overly active, displays impulsive behavior, or is distracted easily. Multitasking, sticking to routines, and overcoming sudden challenges can get overwhelming when you have ADHD.
In case you're panicking -- a note of caution! ADHD has to be diagnosed by a qualified healthcare professional. Even if you feel you display all of its traits, never self-diagnose -- and definitely do not listen to WebMD!
Now, if you do know officially that you're living with ADHD and that's why you're struggling with productivity, you're likely looking for something to help you get on track.
How about an accountability buddy?
Accountability partners or accountability buddies are people (or systems) that help you get your work done, keep distractions at bay, and make sure you're making progress on your goals. For those living with ADHD – adults or children – the right accountability partner is someone who understands what they struggle with and will specifically support them to overcome that hurdle.
Why those with ADHD need an accountability buddy
Helps with executive function
If you were to look at ADHD from a neuroscientific point of view, two things pop up -- low dopamine levels and lack of self-regulation. Basically, dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in reward, attention, and motivation, among other functions. It's crucial for regulating mood and motivation. Its transmission levels can be affected when you're living with ADHD, which can make it difficult to commit to a task for a considerable amount of time.
Similarly, self-regulation is the ability to manage your behavior, emotions, and thoughts, adapting them to the demands of a situation. It's what makes you stick to one task at a time without getting distracted. However, people with ADHD often have challenges in self-regulation, which can manifest as impulsivity and difficulty delaying gratification. The result? You keep succumbing to distraction. Or chasing new shiny objects, when your current task list is half-done. And this way, we seldom complete anything.
With accountability buddies and accountability partnerships in general, you can overcome these limitations by having someone keep you motivated and help you with regulation.
Balance Routine and Novelty
For ADHD adults and children alike, sticking to one routine can be difficult because there are always newer, more dopamine-inducing things to chase. And then, plans of course, just seem to go out the window.
Once you’ve gone through the hard part and managed to make something a habit, it no longer feels fun, and so you want to put it off and try something new again. This cycle can go on and on forever. An accountability buddy will help you to first establish and maintain your routine and then stop it from seeming boring by adding in some novelty.
Break the cycle of hyperfocus and burnout
Just like the novelty-routine cycle, people with ADHD may also go through phases during which they find themselves being able to focus fully on something, say if there’s a project due in one hour. So then, it becomes tempting to keep everything to those last few hours before the deadline, when you get them all done in a panic-fueled, caffeinated state of furious focused work.
But what this will do is overwhelm you for that one day of deadlines. If you have many such days in a row, all those all-nighters can burn you out quite quickly and do some serious damage to both your mental and physical health.
So if you know you are being held accountable, you can break this cycle and start to work on making progress every single day rather than relying on your sudden enthusiasm at the last minute.
How an accountability partnership helps
Motivation through the Hawthorne Effect
The Hawthorne Effect, named after a series of scientific behavioral studies in the 1920s, is essentially a theory that suggests you modify your behavior when you're being watched. If you have a bad habit of slouching, you may find yourself sitting up straighter when in a classroom, or even in public.
In the same way, if you know your accountability buddy is peering over your shoulder to check your work -- literally or figuratively -- you’re likely to get more serious and deliver what you have promised them.
Have you ever tried one of those exercise routine videos where you follow the dude or lady in a leotard and match them in energy, movement, and style? If yes, you know it’s not just really fun, but also a great way to make yourself do something.
If you’re in agreement with your accountability partner to help each other stay focused and stay on track for your personal goals—i.e. a two-way accountability partnership—the mirror effect will work well for you. Seeing your accountability buddy achieve things will not just create expectations for you but also push you to work harder.
Intentional body doubling
Body doubling is also a great way to make a two-way accountability partnership. What's body doubling? It's when two people work simultaneously on their own thing. The idea is that watching someone else work will subconsciously add pressure on you to do what you're supposed to be doing at that time.
Where to find ADHD accountability buddies
Join Boss as a Service!
Not surprisingly, this is our favorite tip! But seriously, if you're looking for an accountability partner who's serious about this -- who won't give up on you in a week or two, and most importantly, who doesn't flake themselves - check out Boss as a Service. We give you a "Boss" - a real person who will check in on you and make sure you're following through on your commitments.
Ask friends or family
Ask your most trusted family member or friend to be your accountability buddy to keep you on track for your goals and to support you through your struggles. An advantage of this strategy is that they know you well and are aware of how you function, so will be able to help you find specific areas to work on.
But be a little wary -- mixing work and life doesn't always work. Make sure this new partnership does not interfere with your personal dynamics, and if you think it is doing so, reassess your system. This is also why we recommend a professional instead of a family member!
Go for ADHD support or networking groups
Your accountability partnership could benefit if you have someone who knows exactly what you are going through and you both can resolve your challenges together. So join an ADHD support or networking group to find someone who matches your vibe and see if you'd like to work together.
Check out body-doubling tools
Some accountability services, like Caveday and Focusmate, are built on the very concept of body doubling. These virtually connect you with other productivity seekers from around the world so you can all keep an eye on each other while getting your own things done. Book a session to see how it helps!
Another associated concept is that of pair programming – programming together. Having a partner can anchor one's attention, acting as a real-time reminder to return to the task at hand if the mind begins to wander. Not a programmer? No worries – non-programmers can benefit from a similar approach in various tasks. Partnering with someone in tasks such as studying, brainstorming, or even mundane chores can provide motivation, structure, and accountability. It's like having a real-time sounding board, which can be invaluable for maintaining concentration and ensuring productivity.
Try Accountability Apps like Stickk and Beeminder
Accountability apps are all the rage in productivity tech these days, with a lot of different features designed to keep you focused and on track. Beeminder and Stickk, for example, penalize you if you don't complete your goals.
Try project management tools
If you feel like you don't need a person to hold you accountable, and a tool can go a long way in adding accountability, many project management tools are designed to bring structure and measure progress on your projects. Some popular ones to try are Trello and Todoist, in which you can feed your exact goals, and how you want to achieve them and track your progress as you go along.
And here are specific ADHD apps to help you plan, organize and focus.
How to work with your ADHD accountability buddy
Schedule your check-in and ensure someone’s keeping track
Once you're in agreement with your accountability buddy about how you guys want to work together, keep the check-in process consistent. Decide a regular date and time and a fixed environment where you'd both feel comfortable meeting, like your favorite coffee shops, or on Zoom every Thursday at 5 p.m. and make the check-ins a habit.
Also, it would help to make and share a Google doc where you record your discussions and progress as you go so you're always on the same page.
Share progress and completion of goals outside of meetings
If you've had a breakthrough or thought of something important to make a note of, don't wait till your next check-in to share it with your accountability buddy. Drop in a message right away for some instant motivation!
Try out productivity and time management techniques together
If you're trying some new management system like time boxing or habit stacking but are scared to do it alone, ask your accountability partner to start it with you. You can track your and each other's progress and methods to help in learning the best practices.
Be transparent and honest
Be as honest about your shortcomings as you would about your triumphs. The whole point of any accountability system is to push you with support, motivation, and tough love when needed, so you need to be upfront about all the progress you are or aren't making.
Even if you're feeling like maybe the partnership can be improved in some way or just isn't working the way you hoped, tell your partner directly so you can decide the next steps together.
How BaaS works as an accountability partner
Boss as a Service is a great accountability partner! Our real, live bosses also have some specific methods to help you if you're living with ADHD.
For instance, we make sure you're making a goal list, rather than just doing things as you remember them And once we have that list, we're tracking each one and bugging you (nicely, of course) till it's all crossed off!
Another USP is that BaaS works with proof, so we don't just take your word for it, but demand to see the progress you've made – and if you're thinking about faking it, hey, you might as well use that energy to actually finish the job!
Our bosses are also not shy about asking questions and calling you out if you're avoiding or procrastinating on the important things in lieu of other goals!
Finally, if you're trying out apps like Beeminder, Trello, or Focusmate, we'll help make sure these are maintained well and take over their management for you!
Living with ADHD can make productivity a challenge, but with an accountability buddy, you can do anything you put your mind to!
Here are some more articles you might like, if you're trying to figure out how to be productive with ADHD.