Ever felt utterly buried and like your mind is about to implode by the number of things you need to do that you never get started with?
Staying productive is easier said than done, particularly for people with ADHD.
But we already know that, folks!
So how do you crank your productivity gears up and find consistency for your neurodiverse brain?
I can't keep this one a secret. It has shifted my whole life:
Having an ADHD accountability buddy.
- Motivation: tick ✅
- Accountability: tick ✅
- Avoid overwhelm: tick ✅
- Stop feeling alone: tick ✅
How do you get yourself an ADHD accountability buddy?
Like most things in 2023, looking online is a fabulous place to start…
What Is a Virtual Accountability Partner?
A virtual accountability partner, aka ADHD accountability buddy, aka accountabilibuddy, is a person (or group of people) you "buddy" up with to work on tasks, projects, or goals.
Your buddy will usually crack on with their own tasks while you work away. They'll leave you to it, so they're not there to do the work for you, help, engage or interfere with your work.
That isn't to say they won't if you want them to. But the best method is to treat them as a passive accountability partner who keeps you honest and helps you stay on track.
You can take your pick of the crop: a trusted friend, family member, or coworker with whom you feel comfortable and safe. It's handy if they share similar goals, deadlines, and task difficulties.
How do is it work?
You check in with your buddy regularly, providing updates on your progress and discussing any challenges encountered.
It's like having a gym partner encouraging you to stick to your exercise routine. They don't lift the weights for you; instead, they help you get out of the door and start.
An ADHD accountability buddy motivates you to get started, stay focused, and ultimately accomplish your tasks and goals.
A brain gym partner, if you will.
Benefits of Having an ADHD Accountability Buddy 🚀
Having an ADHD accountability buddy offers many benefits, including support, motivation, and structure - all crucial for managing ADHD symptoms.
One mega-useful aspect is the Hawthorne effect, where individuals alter their behaviour when they believe they're being observed, leading to increased productivity.
And then, of course, there's mirror theory and mirror neurons - our brains always look for connections to make their life easier, even when we're not entirely conscious.
Remember the last time someone yawned in the same vicinity as you? You weren't even tired but found yourself yawning nonetheless?
Scientists theorise that our mirror neurons are responsible for this behaviour. These brain cells fire up when we observe an action performed by someone else, prompting us to mimic that behaviour subconsciously.
In the context of accountability buddies, seeing someone else plodding along with work can activate these neurons.
Your concentration gets fired up (or simmered down, depending on how you look at it), prompting us to instinctively "mirror" their focus!
Your accountability buddy also acts as an 'intentional body double,' providing a subconscious (good kind of) pressure that encourages you to work on your tasks.
This legendary partnership can alleviate ADHD struggles with self-regulation and executive dysfunction, promoting task initiation and goal achievement.
Check out some of the other benefits associated with body doubling:
- Done and dusted 🧹: It's WAY harder to slack off if you have someone checking on you. An accountability buddy can kick you (not literally) into motion and help you start (and complete) those all important tasks.
- Time, it's handled ⏲️: Your buddy can help you set, keep and meet deadlines.
- It all becomes clear 💡: Regular check-ins and discussing tasks, goals and progress with an accountability partner can add a TON of clarity so you can focus on what matters.
- You're not alone 🥰: Having someone share words of wisdom and support is as vital as having someone to celebrate the wins with. Accountability partners and groups can create this perfectly supportive environment.
Why Does Accountability Work? 🧪
We already mentioned the Hawthorne effect and mirror neuron theory, but here is some more science for you.
When we have someone to whom we are accountable, our brains perceive it as a social contract and are much more likely to follow through on our commitments.
The mere presence of people promotes a state of focus, increased effort and performance.
According to a study published in the American Society of Training and Development, the probability of achieving a goal increases from 25% to 65% when you share that goal with someone. It shoots up to 95% if you have a regular accountability catch-ups with that person.
This is because, at our core, we are very social creatures, hardwired to perform at our best in the presence of others.
For centuries our survival depended on being part of a tribe. While today we don't risk being eaten by wild bears (very often!), if we neglect our responsibilities to others, our brains still react to social cues in a very similar way.
Committing to others creates a social contract that our brains take seriously and are more likely to follow through on.
Our brain interprets accountability as a reward, releasing dopamine when we successfully complete our tasks and feel the satisfaction of meeting our commitments.
This reinforces the behaviour and motivates us to remain accountable and achieve our goals.
For example, studies indicate that diets with an element of accountability help people lose more weight for longer.
Other health outcomes (e.g. overcoming addiction) are also positively impacted by accountability.
Research has found that people who participated in an accountability group are more likely to adhere to treatment plans and to make positive lifestyle changes.
Work and academic performance are also impacted!
Studies have found that employees who participated in an accountability group had higher task completion and performance levels than those who didn't.
Students who participated in accountability groups had higher grades and were likelier to complete their coursework.
Things to Know Before You Engage With a Virtual Work Buddy 💡
Before jumping in and assigning an ADHD accountability buddy, establish clear expectations.
Here are some tips for fostering a productive and harmonious virtual coworking:
🎯 Clearly Communicate Goals and set expectations:
Define your goals within a specific timeline and discuss this with your partner.
Agree on how frequently you will meet, how long the sessions will be, and the level of commitment expected.
📅 Regular Check-ins:
Schedule recurring check-ins to discuss your progress, challenges, and strategies for improvement.
Add them in your calendar and try to show up for each session.
Be honest and transparent about your progress.
If you've encountered obstacles, share them.
In turn, be an active listener when your accountability buddy is sharing.
📅 Prepare for each session:
Once you have found the right ADHD accountability buddy, preparing for each session is essential.
Take the time to reflect on your progress, setbacks, and upcoming tasks.
This will help you stay on track and prepare you to receive valuable feedback.
Importance of Finding the Right Accountability Buddy 🔎
Finding a compatible and understanding accountability buddy is crucial for a successful partnership.
Shared experiences, empathy, and effective communication are vital!
Ideally, your accountability buddy should share your values, including work-life balance, professional growth, and self-care.
Ensure you're on the same page, or it might be a rocky ride!
While a romantic partner or close family member may not be the best choice due to the weaker accountability benefits and the potential of creating an unhealthy dynamic, a meaningful relationship is vital.
They could be a close friend or a coworker with whom you've developed trust and rapport.
Sometimes, making a new buddy with ADHD or someone who understands the condition, like an ADHD coach, maybe a better fit!
An ADHD accountability buddy can be a game-changer for managing ADHD symptoms, boosting productivity and promoting personal growth.
But remember, the right buddy can make all the difference.
Look for someone who is reliable, understands ADHD, can keep you on track, and is not shy in providing feedback.
Where can you find an accountability buddy?
We don't want to break your spirits too soon, but finding an accountability buddy is NOT easy!
I mean, try aligning your schedule with your best friend on a weekly basis - work, life admin, and family commitments all become roadblocks to your plans.
The same is true for finding someone to hold you accountable.
That is to say if you're trying to meet up in person because adding a commute to the mix is just an extra task to overcome and makes scheduling WAY more complicated.
But don't lose hope!
Online communities are a fabulous place to start when hunting for a buddy.
Folks on these platforms are familiar with the concept, know how to rock the accountability, and be friendly and understanding.
Associations like ADDA (Attention Deficit Disorder Association) or CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) provide forums to connect with other ADHDers and people familiar with the condition.
Sometimes, this is a lifeline as it can be extra frustrating explaining ADHD symptoms to someone who doesn't understand. That is not always the case, but there's unity and connection in finding folks like you who get it.
It's why I love the Deepwrk's body doubling website and our thriving community of ADHDers who get it and love being accountability buddies.
Come and say hi!
Set Clear Goals and Expectations 🎯
Having an accountability partner is only part of the equation (yup, sorry more tasks - but good ones!)
Setting clear, achievable goals and explicit expectations for the partnership is crucial.
Ensure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound), as this framework can increase their achievability and clarity.
Instead of saying: "I will write a blog post", say "I will go to Starbucks and write 250 words in the next hour"
Discussing and aligning what you both expect from the partnership is also beneficial.
Clear communication about your goals and mutual expectations can go a long way in ensuring the success of your accountability partnership.
Agree on Communication Methods and Frequency 🗣️
Open and frequent communication is the bedrock of any successful accountability partnership. To be honest, it's the bedrock of life!
From the onset, agree on the method and frequency of communication that suits both parties.
Daily check-ins via messaging apps, weekly video calls, body doubling / co-working sessions can be done.
Whatever method you choose, ensure it promotes effective communication, fosters understanding, and, importantly, feels comfortable for both of you.
Determine Accountability Strategy and Consequences 🥕
Now then, how do you stay accountable?
Body doubling can be highly effective when you and your accountability partner work in the same physical (or virtual) space.
The presence of another person can often apply the right amount of pressure to stay focused on complex tasks. You'll boost your dopamine, you'll feel motivated, and you can share each other's epic vibes while you plough through your to-do list!
Consequences can help maintain discipline, but we should treat them with sensitivity.
You choose YOUR consequences.
They could range from minor things, like admitting you didn't meet your goal, to more significant actions, like donating to a charity if a deadline is missed.
The key is to keep consequences motivational, not punitive (us ADHDers like to push back too much!).
Establish Mutual Respect and Open Communication 💜
Respect and open communication means understanding each other's differences, strengths, and limitations and being considerate of them.
Individuals with ADHD often struggle with self-regulation; it's essential to approach this relationship with empathy, recognising that productivity might look different for each person.
Open communication involves expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs honestly and clearly, without fear of judgment or misunderstanding. It could be as simple as defining what productivity means to each party or as complex as discussing specific challenges and setbacks.
Tips on Fostering a Supportive and Non-Judgmental Environment
A supportive and non-judgmental environment is vital for an ADHD accountability partnership.
Here are a few tips to help create such an environment:
- Understand ADHD: Knowledge is power. Understanding ADHD, its impacts, and its unique challenges can promote empathy and patience, and this understanding can form the foundation for a supportive relationship. 🧠
- Celebrate Small Wins: Progress can sometimes be slow, and it's important to celebrate every step forward, no matter how small. Celebration encourages motivation and makes the journey seem less daunting. 🎉
- Avoid Comparisons: Every person's journey with ADHD is unique. Avoid comparing your productivity levels or accomplishments with those of your accountability buddy. ⛰️
- Harness a Positive Environment: Be optimistic and supportive. Encourage your buddy when they make progress and offer comfort during setbacks. 🤗
⏰ Regular Check-ins and Troubleshooting
Check-ins are a core pillar of an ADHD accountability partnership.
Regularly scheduled meetings or progress updates can keep both partners accountable and aligned with their goals. These check-ins allow both parties to discuss progress, share challenges, and brainstorm potential solutions.
These meetings can also serve as a form of 'intentional body doubling,' which can motivate individuals with ADHD to act and make progress on their tasks.
Troubleshooting is another vital aspect of this partnership.
Effective methods for identifying and addressing obstacles or setbacks include being honest about your struggles, breaking down large tasks into smaller, more manageable steps, and creating and maintaining routines.
Remember, this process is not about finding fault or assigning blame but finding effective ways to overcome challenges and achieve your goals.
Use ADHD Productivity Tools 🧰
Don't put all the pressure on your human brains, buddies!
ADHD productivity tools can provide invaluable assistance.
For instance, RescueTime helps track how you spend your time and sets personalised management goals, proving particularly useful for those with difficulties with time management, a common challenge among individuals with ADHD (don't remind us…or, actually, do!).
Another excellent tool is Asana (regular readers know my affinity for this lil app), which is ideal for adults and particularly beneficial for organising tasks and projects.
Similarly, Trello is highly effective for visually getting those tasks in a row, making it easier for users to stay on top of their workload.
Or you can try a tailored-made ADHD coworking platform like Deepwrk.
If you live in the UK, the government’s Access to Work ADHD scheme can cover the expenses for some of these tools.
Buddy Up 👯
Finding an ADHD accountability buddy can greatly help people struggling with self-regulation, motivation, and task completion.
By championing a supportive and non-judgmental environment, partners can help each other overcome challenges, celebrate wins, and stay focused on their goals.
Don't overlook or skip check-ins; effective troubleshooting methods can further streamline this journey and get you well on your way to success!
Frequently Asked Questions ❓
Q: Who can be my ADHD accountability buddy?
A: Your accountability buddy can be a trusted friend, family member, or coworker. Most importantly, they understand your challenges and are supportive and respectful of your journey.
Q: How often should I have check-ins with my ADHD accountability buddy?
A: The frequency of check-ins can depend on your specific needs and preferences. Some might benefit from daily check-ins, while others might find weekly or bi-weekly check-ins more useful.
Q: How can I foster a supportive and non-judgmental environment with my ADHD accountability buddy?
A: Understanding ADHD, celebrating small wins, avoiding comparisons, and creating a positive environment are ways to be supportive and non-judgmental.
Q: How can I troubleshoot obstacles or setbacks with my accountability buddy?
A: Being honest about your struggles, breaking tasks into smaller steps, and maintaining routines can help troubleshoot and overcome obstacles.