Do you have something big you want to accomplish but haven’t? Do you have trouble sticking to a long-term goal?
Last month, I wrote about finding inspiration when you are creatively stuck. One reader wrote me that she has no problem finding inspiration. “I’m filled with creative visions. My problem is always follow-through, especially when the going gets rough.”
As a writer, I relate to this predicament. Ideas come easily to me. The beginning stage of writing a novel is kind of like falling in love—everything is new and exciting. Possibilities abound. But sticking with it through the long haul inevitably means experiencing frustration, disappointment, and dry spells. And yes, sometimes loneliness and despair.
Whether you’re trying to write your first book, save for retirement, lose 20 pounds, or train for a marathon, staying on track is the hardest part. Meeting any long-term goal requires continual motivation, discipline, and fortitude. Let’s be honest–who has an abundant supply of these traits?
If you recognize yourself here, then you may benefit from an accountability partner. An AP is a trusted individual who holds you responsible for achieving your goals. In working with an accountability partner, you identify goals, then come up with a short-term plan of action. You then report your progress through regular checkpoints via email, phone, Skype, or in-person.
An accountability partner can also offer:
-Advice and perspective
-Ideas and resources
-A listening ear
–Support and motivation
Sometimes, an AP is just a kind soul who volunteers 15 minutes a week to keep you on track. Then there’s the reciprocal partnership in which you serve as each other’s AP. Psychological research backs up its effectiveness. Just finding a partner with whom to share your goals increases the likelihood that you will achieve them. It’s a lot more fun to take a daily power walk with a friend than go at it alone for 45 minutes. Knowing you must check in with your weight-loss buddy each week makes it easier to pass up that chocolate donut. Reporting your daily word count to a fellow writer keeps you glued to your laptop (and off Facebook).
By working with an AP, you are harnessing the power of positive peer pressure to motivate change.
Tips for finding an Accountability Partner:
Look to a trusted friend, neighbor, co-worker, classmate, or family member. If you’re a writer, try posting a request on a writer’s forum. Check out local writer’s groups. Network at a writing conference.
Tips for Making it Work:
—Know what you want to get out of the partnership.
—Find a partner who is looking for similar goals/results.
—Find a partner who is in a similar place of experience.
—Decide on the method and frequency of communication.
—Be willing to invest equally in the relationship.
I recently found my AP—or I should say, she found me. Connie and I live 800 miles apart. We email and talk on the phone. We share goals and next action steps. We identify challenges and offer each other feedback. Why is it always easier to help someone else with her problem areas? Though we are working on different types of writing projects, the process is similar. We both must make time for our writing and avoid distraction. We both need to track our word/page count. We both must troubleshoot and problem-solve.
Since I have a lot more writing and publishing experience than Connie, I’ve had to identify the areas in which she can best help me. I won’t be looking to her for critique—I’ve already found someone for that. Rather, it’s the act of stating my goals out loud to another human and reporting my progress that matters. If I don’t complete my stated goals, Connie helps me figure out why. Her coaching background offers me techniques for deciding which projects I should invest my time in. In turn, I suggested that we each track our time and keep a Got Done list. Already, I’ve noticed an uptick in my productivity.
This new relationship is a work-in-progress. The only challenge so far is that Connie and I really enjoy talking to each other, so phone meetings go off in many directions. Maybe this just means that, in addition to finding an AP, I’ve made a new friend.