Productivity & Motivation

Late Nights and Limping: About How Accountability Partners Push You Farther Than You Thought You Could Go
Late Nights and Limping: About How Accountability Partners Push You Farther Than You Thought You Could Go

I’ve got accountability on the brain. Here’s the story.

I’ve worked some long days and late nights this week. On Tuesday, I “clocked in” around 7:30am, and worked pretty much straight until 11 o’clock at night. It was good, I was productive and got a lot done. There are two reasons why this is interesting:

  1. I usually don’t have the stamina to stay focused for that long. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no slouch, but working for fifteen straight hours is just a tad over the top.
  2. On the rare occasion when I do push myself to work such crazy hours, it’s usually because there’s a looming deadline that I have to meet. In this case, there wasn’t any.

And despite all that, I was uber-productive. Are you wondering why?

Here’s the short version: I blame my girlfriend.

And Now For The Long Version…

The long version is that she’s been really busy at work this past week. They’re delivering a big project, so she’s been working super-late to meet the deadline.

In the interest of spending some time together, we thought it might be nice to do some work together (after all, as an entrepreneur, I have the dubious privilege of being able to work at any time of day or night if I so choose). So she came over around 5pm, got setup with her laptop and the extra monitor that my assistant usually uses, and dove in.

Not wanting to appear less diligent than her, I did the same.

Now again, it had already been a long day. I was tired, and there was no urgent deliverable that I was working on. Under normal circumstances, I might have pushed myself for another hour or two at the very most, before deciding to call it quits.

But somehow, having someone that you care about impressing sitting just a few feet away can do wonders to keep you focused.

This isn’t the first time that this happens. Actually, I think I got off easy, because the last time I ended up limping.

The Marathon

The last time I had reason to credit her for my sticking to a goal that I otherwise would have abandoned was on September 5th, when we ran the Montreal Marathon. This was the first time I ever ran a marathon, and in case you haven’t yet had that particular excruciating experience, I’ll give you a quick run-down of what it’s like:

  • You get started, and the weather is nice, and everyone is excited, and your body says, “Okay, sure, let’s do this.”
  • At about the 10k mark, you’re still going strong, and your body says, “Okay, so this is a long one – no problem, I’m game.”
  • At about the 20k mark, there’s no sign of stopping, and your body is saying, “You’ve got to be kidding. I didn’t sign up for this!”
  • At about the 30k mark, you’re still going, and your body says, “I don’t think so – enough is enough!”
  • And at about the 40k mark, for the last couple of kilometers, your body says, “Fine. Be that way. I’m not fighting you anymore.”

My legs seized up around the 30k mark, and I fast-walked/limped most of the rest of the way. My time was almost six hours, which is terrible; a decent time would be four hours, and the best people do it in close to two. For the record, she finished before me, and I’m very proud of her!

The interesting part is that there were extended stretches during those last ten kilometers when I had real doubts about whether I would be able to walk again. And despite that, it never even occurred to me that quitting could be an option. Not because I’m such a go-getter, but just because she was right there running with me, and there was no way that I could give up if she would know about it.

The Point Is That Accountability Keeps You On Task!

Of course, this isn’t the only time that I benefit from having an accountability partner.

If I had tried to build Firepole Marketing myself, I never would have gotten around to doing even half of the work that I squeezed in during this past year, because I wouldn’t have had to worry about disappointing Peter. Both Peter and I are accountable to our readers and students – otherwise, neither of us would have gotten as much done.

We’re accountable to our colleagues, and family, and clients, and friends. These are all people whose esteem matters to us, so we tell them about our plans, and then we know that we will be held accountable. Not that they would probably even say anything, in most cases, but we care about not letting them down, so we stay focused.

That’s why we advocate accountability partners for our Firepole Marketing students – because we think it will help them get more done, too.

What about you, what do you think? Does an accountability partner help you get things done? Or do you prefer to keep your goals to yourself until you reach them? Do you share your goals with everyone, just some people, or nobody at all?