Monday, August 11, 2014

Finding Your AC Partner

Recently, Patrick sent in a question not so much about the AC method, but about how to go about getting your own AC partner.

That’s a great question, one Luisa and I tackled in the workshop we taught at a recent writers conference. For those who weren’t able to attend the class, here are our basic guidelines for seeking out the right accountability partner for you.

First, look for the following four qualities:

#1: Work Ethic
You and your AC partner should have similar work ethics. Having similar interests and goals (such as both of you being writers, as Luisa and I are) can be useful, particularly in situations of commiserating over problems or in helping the other person find solutions and in breaking goals down into realistic pieces.

But you don’t necessarily need to be in the same field or have the same interests, provided that you both are determined to reach your goals, whatever they may be, and you’re both committed to daily taking the steps necessary to reach the goals.

Unbalanced levels of work ethic will spell disaster for an AC partnership.

#2: Fluency in E-mail and Texting
The AC method relies on the modern technologies of e-mail and text messaging. Those are how you and your partner will share your to-do lists each day and how you’ll then report on your progress throughout the day.

One of the pillars for the success of the AC method is the power that something as simple as instant reporting and feedback can have on keeping both partners moving forward to cross off the next thing on the list.

We’ve see AC partnerships fizzle and die when one partner simply doesn’t like to text, forgets to keep their phone with them regularly, or otherwise doesn’t use texting technology.

In a similar way, the method cannot work if both partners aren’t sending their lists via e-mail regularly.

Finding someone who e-mails and texts with comfort isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be successful partners, but the reverse just may be true: someone who isn’t comfortable with the technology is almost certainly not the partner for you.

#3: Positivity, Support, and Patience
No one is perfectly happy all day long, every day, all year round. We all have our ups and downs; that’s a natural part of life. For Luisa and me, it’s also a reality that’s a result of clinical depression and anxiety disorders.

That said, we are both very much aware that we get more done and are far more likely to succeed when we’re supporting each other. When I’m having an off day, I can vent to her, and she’ll send me motivating texts back. I do the same for her in return.

If something falls off the list over the course of the day, we don’t nag each other about it. We give each other the benefit of the doubt, keep cheering, and encourage each other to simply try again tomorrow.

In a similar vein, we rarely give each other direct advice unless it’s asked for. Sometimes we may offer a suggestion, such as I wonder if X would help or Have you considered Y? It’s been useful for me. But typically, unless one of us asks for suggestions, the other keeps her mouth shut and instead waves her pompoms and cheers the other on.

We have been close friends for many years now, and we know each other very well. As a result, we can offer some unsolicited suggestions or advice here and there; we know when the other may be receptive to it—and we know when to clam up. If you’re just getting going with your AC and you’re sure you have the answer to all of their problems, your best bet is to sit tight until asked for your opinion.

#4 : Trust and Honesty
An AC partnership is one based on trust and honesty; I have to know that when I do ask for Luisa’s opinion that what she tells me is her real opinion. That goes for suggestions for improvement as well as for times she cheers me on. A meaningless congratulations wouldn’t keep me motivated, but Luisa doesn’t send meaningless congratulations. She’s genuinely happy for my achievements, as I am for hers.

Write down at least five people you know who have a similar goals as yours, whether that’s in scope, industry, or based on some other factor.

Now looks at the four other elements.

CIRCLE those on your list who share a similar work ethic.

UNDERLINE those on your list who are comfortable e-mailing and texting.

PUT A STAR by those you know to be positive, supportive, and patient.

PUT AN ARROW next to those who are honest and trustworthy.

Do you see a pattern emerging? Who on your list is the best fit for you?

Start there. Buy them the book to introduce them to the concept of AC partnering, and then give it a shot together.

If you are eager to have an AC partner who is in the same field as you are, start out by going places where people in that industry hang out. For many trades, that means attending local conferences, clubs, and other meetings. It may mean finding a Yahoo or Facebook group and interacting with people there to find potential friends and AC partners.

Many of the AC partnerships we’ve seen develop since sharing our method have come about in those very ways, specifically, writers meeting each other and connecting at writing-related events, becoming friends, and deciding to give the AC method a shot. Very often, the partners have been, as Luisa and I are, in different time zones. In at least one case, the partners are in different countries (although the same continent) as well.

Hang out with your people, even if “your people” tend to be introverts. Remember: Even an introvert can e-mail and text with ease.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My Curtains Nemesis Conquered

by Annette

When Luisa and I were preparing to teach a workshop about our Accountability (AC) method at the recently Storymaker's annual conference, I mentioned something to her that she said I totally needed to mention in class.

Of course, I forgot to until about two hours after it was over. So I'm mentioning it here on our blog. I think it highlights just how effective the method is.

In particular, how effective the journaling method is for me (see Chapter 7 of Done and Done, pages 33 to 38).

Some back story:

We moved into this house just over ten years ago. At the time, we had blinds on most of the windows in the house, but I didn't want them in the master bath. That room is on a corner of the house, and the windows are in the corner, on both sides, with the tub taking up the corner itself.

I had a feeling that opening and closing the blinds every day, which would require leaning over the big corner tub, would be a royal pain, so I opted to sew sheers and curtains that were both decorative and practical: they'd preserve some privacy while allowing enough light in during the day. In other words, no constant reaching to open and close blinds and risking a fall into the tub (because yes, I'm short).

Those curtains and sheers stayed there. And stayed there. And stayed there. Being in a relatively untouched spot (especially from little kids), they didn't get particularly dirty. But as the years wore on, they grew very, very dusty. And I knew I needed to wash them.

That required getting up onto the edges of the tub and dealing with all of the hardware, and planning it so they could be washed, dried, and rehung during a time when we didn't need them up.

And that meant the job never got done.

To make matters even more obnoxious, when they never did quite fit right on the hardware; I needed to sew a bigger sleeve for the bars to go through. So they'd hung upside down for a decade. No one but me knew how they were supposed to look, but they always bugged me.

That's where my journal system comes in. I finally wrote the chore down as a to-do list item: "Wash bathroom curtains."

They didn't magically get done, of course. For that matter, I'm pretty sure they stayed up there, getting dirtier and dustier, for another month or two.

Eventually, however, as I reviewed my journal and list of things I needed to get done, that line kept bugging me. I needed to be able to cross off that item so I could mark off the whole page already.

So I put the curtains on my to-do list e-mail that I sent to Luisa the next day. To be honest, I think it stayed on my list for a few days (that's the nature of Resistance, especially if you've put something off for a long time already. Inertia is a beast).

But the time finally came when I simply couldn't stand to not wash the curtains. The chore was in my journal. And it was on my to-do list. My AC partner was counting on me to get it done and report back.

SO I DID IT. I washed them, dried them, and sewed them up. The entire process didn't take me long, of course, something I already knew would be the case, even though I'd put the job off again and again.

When I hung them back up, they looked great: not only were they clean again, but they looked just as I'd imagined them when I first sewed them more than ten years ago.

And it felt so good!

Intellectually, I'd known for years that I'd be so glad when I fixed and washed the curtains, but I never made time for it. Not until I had my AC partner and my journal method, both of which helped me get it done.

Do you have a chore that's been hanging over your head? Take a shot at the journaling method. Between that and your AC (you have one, right?), you may be stunned at how much satisfaction you gain from doing a simple job that's been niggling at the back of your mind for far too long.

Whatever your "curtain" chore is, write it down. Send it over as part of your list.

Get it done! Let us know how it worked for you!

Leave a comment below if you have an experience you'd like to share about the AC method, and we may invite you to be a guest poster. (Be sure to include your e-mail address so we can reach you.)

And as always, if you have any questions for me or Luisa about the method, leave a comment! We love to hear from our readers!