It’s that point in the semester again, LifeSci! The school year is coming to a close, and it seems as if those endless final assignments, exams and job applications are all that loom on the horizon. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll find that sometimes (or perhaps oftentimes if I’m being 100% honest with myself), those motivation levels somehow decide that these conditions make for an excellent time to bungee jump.
Except for it’s not. Not in the slightest.
This is the home stretch and only relatively consistent work is going to get you through it. Constantly fluctuating motivation levels are not going to be helpful, and this is something you will need to regulate.
But no one ever said that you needed to do it alone!
And that brings me to introduce to you the concept of an Accountability Buddy.
WHAT is an Accountability Buddy?
Essentially, your accountability buddy is someone that you feel comfortable sharing your SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, Timely/Tangible) goals with, and who then checks in with you at agreed upon time intervals (at minimum weekly) to receive a report on your progress. Generally, this is a two-way street, and so you will also perform this role, in turn, for your buddy.
As an individual prone to distraction, having an accountability buddy truly has helped me stay on track, not only throughout the semester, but especially nearing the finish line.
WHO should be your Accountability Buddy?
This buddy can be a friend, a classmate, a team member, a mentor, etc. However, there are a few factors to consider when selecting a buddy.
For one, your buddy should be a person who will not accept, and to whom you will not easily make, flimsy, “the dog ate my homework” excuses. If this person is going to help you to hold yourself accountable, there must be a degree of a “no nonsense” attitude.
That being said, this arrangement is supposed to help you and alleviate long term stress. This person should NOT be someone who is going to admonish you. Speaking from experience, there is often more than enough self-generated shame and disappointment that occurs when we fail to meet deadlines or micro-goals. The last thing anyone needs is an external force amplifying this negative self-talk. Instead, your buddy has got to be someone who can facilitate a healthy conversation with you when you come to an impasse with a goal. Together, you take a step back, evaluate the situation, and discern actionable next steps to get you back on track.
Keeping this in mind, it is most important to find a buddy who you find empathetic, uplifting, and perceptive. This is why people whom we’ve built rapport or relationships with are often great candidates, however, as long as these criteria are met, your buddy can be anyone.
HOW and WHEN should my buddy and I stay accountable to each other?
The wonderful thing about this arrangement is that you can adapt it to fit the needs of your schedule. It is simply important to make sure that you are making time regularly to discuss progress. I think that the generally agreed upon optimal frequency would be at least weekly, but you can most definitely incorporate daily check-ins, and perhaps more detailed monthly conversations. Do keep in mind that these check-ins can be calls or texts, and can be as short as 5 minutes, or as long as 30-45 minutes. You will figure out what works best for you and run with it. It can also be helpful to utilize visual aids like excel spreadsheets to communicate goals and checkpoints. A very simple template that I’ve made and used can be found here.
Another practice that you and your buddy may choose to incorporate may be Zoom call productivity sessions. My buddies and I will set our goals at the beginning of a 2-3 hour call and unmute at 30-45 minute intervals to track progress. This has been extremely helpful for us, as having the “presence” of someone as you’re working, and the desire to have “good news” to report at the scheduled break time, are considerably motivating.
There are also a plethora of available apps that you can use to hold each other accountable as well. One that I have personally used would be HabitShare. This app allows you to set multiple daily/weekly/monthly goals that you can share with your accountability buddies who will then be able to see if/when you have completed a given task. It’s very intuitive to use, and getting notifications that your buddies have been hitting their targets can help propel you to do the same!
One last thing: you may have noticed that I’ve added a plural - “buddies” - into the mix. Having a few (I would say no more than 3), as opposed to a singular, accountability buddy can be helpful if you find that you need more frequent check-ins, as it may be wiser to spread that commitment, and even more-so with regards to specific projects. For example, perhaps you have different buddies for different classes, or perhaps one for your academic life and another for fitness goals. Again, it’s all about determining what works best for the parties involved.
An accountability buddy can really help you stay on track. Especially given the lack of IRL interactions that may previously have served as adequate reinforcement of positive habits (e.g. studying in a library or coffee shop). Perhaps this can be a strategy that you can use to help you with exams over the next few weeks, and further, with any personal projects or work tasks that you may have this summer!
By Abi Sudharshan - LSS VP Academic 2020 - 2021