What’s an accountabuddy?
That would be a buddy who will keep you accountable to a task that you want to achieve. Go write that novel! Paint that painting! Compose that piece! Code that website! Learn that language! Make that recording! Finish that product!
I designed this concept in December as a 2013 resolution to keep myself on track to finish compositions; I have since refined it to the following steps after being one week into the system myself.
1. Consider a complex work that you have always wanted to start or complete, but for whatever reason never got around to actually doing it.
(It could also be a work whose completion date you have already determined for yourself, but for which you would like an extra push to really get things rollin’.)
Find someone who feels similarly about a project of his/her own, and would be down to partner up with you to encourage each other on long-term (perhaps for life?!).
2. Meet up weekly to evaluate progress.
Decide how to meet up (online, in person, etc.). For my current accountabuddy: we meet on Skype, and would probably resort to the phone in case Skype doesn’t work for any reason.
3. Mutually agree on what that “progress” is.
I strongly believe that any progress should be TANGIBLE. This means it is a raw file or physical portrait of activity. Ideas are next to nothing if they are never used. To me, any acceptable form of progress is an MP3, a PDF, a JPG/PNG, an MP4, or any other raw file. “Oh, what has changed since last week is that I have decided to do ” – nope! What have you DONE to bring yourself an obvious step closer to your goal (even if that step be a little one)? Zat eez de qvestion. (So for me, basic tangible progress can almost always be sent as an e-mail attachment.)
4. Mutually agree on what an “acceptable” to “significant” amount of that progress would be.
We can’t always be making just baby steps. And yet if my accountabuddy wants to finish a painting (and I’m not a painter), then I have no way of deciding whether any given progress she has made is acceptable or significant. For all I know, painting some inches of detailed grass blown about by wind could be a colossal achievement in a week (especially for a perfectionist like me! Haha), but she might have been able to complete it in a mere few minutes. I don’t know. I can’t gauge progress in her specialized realm. So what do I do?
Here is the solution: both of you pace yourselves individually.
You wanna finish your work and your accountabuddy wants to finish his/hers. Let your own motivation be the spur, and just have your accountabuddy tell you what you should expect from him/her by each next week. You do the same: tell him/her what he/she should expect of you by each next week. Can you finish writing your choral work given its current, half-finished state? Only you know that, according to your own abilities and available time this week!
And as you learn more about the nature of your accountabuddy’s absolutely fascinating craft as he/she describes it to you enthusiastically over the weeks, then you can get more of a feel of what a gigantic achievement of him/her WOULD be to make, versus a small one in any given week; months later into accounting for each other, you can correct him/her if he/she starts slacking.
This monitored self-pacing is IMPORTANT. You two know what is going on in your own lives from week to week better than anyone else. You also know what you want to achieve (at least, here’s to hoping!). So really, all that you are doing is setting goals for yourself in the comfort of your own complete control over what each of those goals are from week to week, while you yet tensely put your wallet at stake for not reaching them. What? Did you just read “wallet?!” Heeeere’s the slammer:
5. Hit ’em haaaard for slackin’!
Each party must really feel the pain from being lazy. On any given weekly meetup, if one person has little or nothing to show in comparison to the other, then that person:
* treats the other person out to lunch or dinner.
* sends the other person $15 via PayPal.
* does something similar.
These are just examples; both of you agree on what the penalty ought to be. And if both of you continually show each other nothing for weeks on end… then ditch that slacker and find a more awesome accountabuddy!
Aaaand that’s it! Complete your work over a course of weeks or months, and move onto other works. After the basic rules of work have been set up, clarify them with additional modifiers, such as
- contract length (you formally agree to hold each other accountable for two months or a year or however long), or
- rest time (for every three months, a person may take two entire weeks off from having anything to show; or something like that), or
- limits (penalties should have a fair bite, not being too harsh nor weak, and should be appropriate according to each party).
One modifier that I would suggest is no penalty for the first time that each person fails to deliver, so that both of you can safely get a feel for pacing and understand what amount of work can be appropriately expected. I might also state that a penalty for every single week with no progress could be a bit extreme. Tailor the system to both of your agreed individual needs for maximum effect; you could alternatively decide that penalties will be issued for anyone who fails to provide a great deal of work for two weeks in a row, perhaps.
And here is a second possible (and probably crucial) modifier.
You might quip: “But Josh, I’m giving myself a good deal of work. I know I can handle it, but I think my accountabuddy is hardly setting comparable goals. I feel like my accountabuddy is more like a leech, waiting for me to slip one week so that he/she can get a free lunch. This self-pacing isn’t fair for both of us!”
To that I say: Who cares about fairness? Wasn’t the sole purpose of the program to get YOU to finish YOUR works? Why do you care about the other person’s progress so much? You can only influence his/her level of interest in his/her OWN project so much. You certainly didn’t sign up to watch your accountabuddy finish his/her works! Focus on the awesome fact that you are making progress in your project. That should be worth more to you than a few dollars lost out of your own laziness (especially because you are setting your own pace; c’mon, get with the program!). And you will be leaving the other person in the dust with the awesome progress that you are making in your work as it stockpiles from week to week.
But this could indeed still be a valid point, which is why I might suggest laying out a modifier regarding appropriate grounds of termination of the contract (i.e.: no l33ching!). Always do your utmost best to avoid binding yourself to a system that does not work.
So basically, what I’m saying is: screw teachers and institutions with regards to getting your portfolio ready, your recital program whipped into shape, or whatever other project you have on hand to complete. Do it yourself, with the aid of a like-minded accountabuddy, to whose project you also hold him/her in check. Use Google. Ask friends for help. Do whatever it takes to get things done weekly and push forward in your dreams while helping another friend reach his/her own (and possibly enjoy a free lunch on the way. Mwahaha)!
In short: I hate school, the destroyer of REAL motivation.