ADHD Adults Thrive with Accountability Partners
Have you ever enthusiastically started a project only to lose interest halfway through? How many times have you told someone you’d do something only to bail on them at the last minute? Or how often have you had to rush to complete a task by the deadline because you procrastinated getting started…again?
If you’re an adult with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the answer to all of the questions above is most likely “A lot.”
Accountability and Dopamine
Many ADHD brains struggle to produce regular levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the part of the brain in charge of pursuit, interest, pleasure, and reward. Low dopamine weakens executive functioning skills like self-control, flexible thinking, and working memory – all things necessary to start work and see a project through to completion.
It’s no wonder people with ADHD struggle to be productive – their brains can quite literally not show up on time, and work against them!
But just because there’s a scientific explanation it doesn’t mean you can let your ADHD become an excuse for poor performance. Your business has deadlines. The house still needs paint. The budget reports must be filed on time. Your buddy is still moving next Sunday, and you will always need to get your brain back into focused work once you take a break. So, staying productive is essential to ongoing success with ADHD. So, how do you do it?
The answer? An accountability partner!
Your Crash Course in Accountability Partnerships
What is an accountability partnership?
In an accountability partnership, each of you works together to keep the other accountable for their goals while regularly checking in on task completion and project progress. An effective accountability partner doesn’t have to work on the same goal, but it can really help to work toward a similar objective (losing weight, launching a business, passing a big exam, or getting organized).
Your accountability partner can be anyone you choose who’s willing to work with you to achieve your mission. It should be someone with whom you will have regularly scheduled check-ins, share updates on your successes (and failures), and transparently support each other throughout the process.
How do I choose an accountability partner?
A good accountability partner should be someone who is supportive and helps you feel good about your effort. That doesn’t mean you need to be best buddies; it just means you should feel comfortable communicating and sharing your successes and struggles. (Accountability partnerships do require some level of vulnerability.)
Your accountability partner should also share some of your core values. Before choosing a partner, you need to decide what’s important to you. If one partner prioritizes their career and the other prioritizes time spent with friends and family, for example, it might not be the best fit, no matter how similar your objectives might be.
I found my accountability partner. Now what?
Once you’ve found an accountability partner, it’s time to set some hard and fast ground rules. This is a partnership, after all, and partnerships don’t work without structure.
Rules will set boundaries around your work. Without them, the romance of an early accountability partnership can quickly fizzle out. So, be sure to decide when and how often you’ll communicate, and for what period of time you’ll work together. Regularly scheduled check-ins work best. Add these to your calendar as recurring events and set reminders.
Create a ‘container’ of time that you’ll explore working together, and then meet to discuss how it’s working, and if it’s still helpful. With a limited timeframe, you’ll be more opt to stick to regular check-ins.
Next, figure out how you’ll handle the check-ins. A phone call? A Zoom chat? A standing coffee date? Depending on your needs, this may change later, but it’s a good idea to set a default communication channel that works for you both.
Finally, you need to decide on a structure for your check-ins. Remember, this is different than a friendly chat; it’s work. At a minimum, each person should be prepared to give updates on things discussed at the last check-in session, share where they are now and what challenges they’re facing, and state what they’ll do by the next check-in. Once one person shares, the other should have an opportunity to give feedback, ask questions, and/or provide encouragement. Then switch turns. This is a lose but helpful structure to keep you on track and out of the weeds of becoming too personal.
5 helpful tips for accountability check-ins
- Use a timer. The ADHD brain loves to take off on tangents. Setting a time limit forces you to stay on track and be more concise.
- Take notes. When your partner is talking consider taking notes. Notes improve working memory, create a written record or log, and help focus your agenda.
- Create a shared workspace. Consider using Google doc, Dropbox file, or OneNote notebook where you can communicate between check-ins.
- Mind your timeframe. Be mindful of each other’s time. If you absolutely need to cancel, do so as far in advance as you can and reschedule immediately. It’s all too easy for a fantastic accountability partnership to fizzle out when no one is making it a priority.
- Be supportive. You’re both working toward the same goals and facing the same challenges. Cheer your partner on when they’re doing well and give them grace if they drop the ball.
Accountability Works – But Why?
There is plenty of scientific proof that we perform better when we know someone’s watching. Mortality rates for Medicare patients went down during hospital inspections. More people voted when told that they’d be contacted afterward to discuss their experience at the polls. Hand-washing compliance increased by 55% when medical professionals knew they were being observed.
Body doubling is a well-known technique to help ADHD students and adults start and complete projects. The technique triggers several essential behaviors necessary to start work: precommitment, intention, implementation, social pressure, accountability, specificity, and activating certain neurotransmitters through behavior. It creates an environment that mechanically works to produce the result. With ADHD, body doubling helps because it forces you to choose a project, set aside a specific time to do the work, start, and check in with someone else when your work bout is complete.
An accountability partner can offer to work with you simultaneously, either in the same room or virtually. Having another person in the same physical or virtual helps anchor your ADHD brain’s busy, never-ending thoughts and ideas. In this way, you’re able to stay in attentional mode. Another benefit of body doubling for ADHD is that it’s cost-free. (Check out this body-doubling service.)
In short, when you know you’ll be held accountable for your actions, you’re more likely to focus and work harder. This is why deadlines and exams work. This is also the very reason hiring a coach, or establishing an accountability partner works well to help ADHD adults leap the dreaded motivation gap to get tasks started and stay focused.
Comparing Two ADHD Scenarios
Imagine your goal is to write the next great American novel. You spend an entire weekend holed up with your laptop, feverishly typing page after page. It’s good – maybe even amazing. Then you hit a snag, lose the plot, and leave it to rot on your hard drive in perpetuity. (Setbacks are notoriously hard to overcome with ADHD).
Now, imagine you share your goal with your accountability partner. You meet once a week to discuss your progress. They ask what chapter you’re on, or how many pages you intend to complete by next week. Maybe they offer a suggestion that unsticks your writer’s block or solves your plot problem.
Suddenly, instead of having the shame of a dead book clogging up your computer, you wake up motivated to keep working toward your goal. You get regular feedback, make progress, recognize your effort, and are on the way to achieving once-impossible goals.
That’s the difference an accountability partner can make. And it’s the difference that you, as an accountability partner yourself, can make in someone else’s life – which is a reward in itself!
Two Heads Are Better Than One!
Productivity and ADHD can be used in the same sentence! By enlisting an accountability partner to help support what you want to do, you’ll take positive steps to set yourself up for success – and help your partner in the process, free of charge!
If you’re tired of being a prisoner to your ADHD symptoms, reach out. Together, we can break those chains. Book your free Discovery Call today!