Remember when you were a little kid and you went on school field trips to the zoo or museum? Each person was assigned a buddy, someone to keep track off so that no single person wondered off, got lost or left behind. You could be sure that you didn’t miss the bus, unless of course you both decided to bunk off and make your own adventure. But even then, at least you wouldn’t get into trouble alone.

As an adult, I often find myself getting lost or getting behind in the passion/side projects that I’d really like to see move forward. Even armed with a plan and productivity software, like Trello, it’s still easy to lose you way. I realized that what I lacked was a companion, like I had on the trips of my youth. It’s for this reason that I started making “Accountabili-Buddies”, people who come along the journey.

MyBuddy
The kind of buddy you want

How Does It Work?

Schedule a periodic meeting (no more than 30 minutes) in which the two of you can review your progress. You can do this in person or over the internet depending on your location. During the session, each person will state what they have done and what they plan to do before the next planned session. You can also use this time to demo something that you’ve been working own and get feedback or talk through challenges. If you’re familiar with Agile practices, this may sound a bit like a standup or sprint review. It’s quite similar, albeit a bit less formal and one-on-one. I prefer this to having a larger meeting such as a mastermind group as it allows each person to be more completely involved and not get “lost in the sauce” of a larger group.

Does it have to be someone in my field?

Not necessarily. You don’t work in the same industry nor have the same goals. At the museum or zoo, my buddy and I weren’t always interested in the same thing. I may be into butterflies or Impressionism but my buddy isn’t. It doesn’t matter. The point is that we’re there to support each other. You can work out what to see (review) during the sessions. That may ebb and flow based on what each person is working on at the time. I’ve found that getting a different perspective is helpful in how I am viewing my work. For example, I used to have a weekly session in Medellin with a friend with a project management/design background. He helped pull me out of a “feature-based” approach by challenging with questions about the “story” behind each screen. It was a nice reminder that even though I was the first user of the app, I wasn’t the only one and that I was bringing assumptions into the user experience that I needed to question.

Where Can I Find A Buddy?

Reach out to people in your social or work circle and ask if they are interested. It could be someone whose work you admire or who’s opinion you value (regardless of domain). It could even be a friend that you’d like to communicate with more often. Having an Accountabili-Buddy is great way to keep communication lines open with people you value. Be creative in thinking of people that may work as well as the projects that you bring into sessions. You’ll be surprised. I’ve had 5 different buddies in the last 3 years, each starting with different goals and rooted in various projects.. I still meet weekly with two of them via Google Hangout/Skype/Zoom. With one of them, we have each worked on 3 separate projects this year alone.

Respect the Calendar and the Clock

Make a point to respect the meeting time and each other. When I place this time on my schedule, I don’t move it unless it’s absolutely necessary. It reinforces in my mind the value that each session brings. That being said, it’s important to be understanding when things come up. Everyone has their respective responsibilities that require attention. It’s not lost on me that I have the luxury of a more flexible schedule than most and am able to reschedule when needed. Sometimes, you may just have cancel a session and that’s OK too. Just don’t make it a habit. If a timer frequency isn’t working, simply adjust it. It’s more important to be consistent than dogmatic about how you started.

Honesty is Critical

The most important ingredient to successful sessions is honesty. We need to hold each other’s hand but also hold each other’s feet to the fire. Just remember that the purpose is in support of our goals. We all need it, even when it doesn’t appear that way externally. Challenge your buddy to keep moving forward but balance it with encouragement along the way. Nudge, don’t push. If a project isn’t working, suss out if the problem is you need to move on or simply to “push through the dips”. A supportive and objective ear is valuable in discerning the difference. Don’t be afraid to express your opinions. I’ve gone back to the drawing board after I was told that a particular implementation was hard to understand or just “ugly” (my buddy didn’t use that word but I could tell from the delivery). I appreciated it because it saved me from shipping something that wouldn’t have been as well received. Don’t let your buddy go out in a ridiculous looking outfit. These sessions should be a sounding board, not an echo chamber.

ChuckyDoll
Don’t be this kind of buddy

Periodically Reevaluate

Life happens and there’s no point in having another meeting that brings stress or comprises your valuable time. You probably have enough of that at work/home. These sessions should be things that you look forward to. If you find that they aren’t providing value, joy and/or satisfaction, don’t be afraid to stop doing them. Being honest with your buddy, especially if this is a friend IRL, is far more important. You can always find another buddy or pickup sessions again at another point in the future.
Give Accountabili-Buddies a try and see if it helps you move toward completing something that you’ve been wanting to accomplish.

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