Do you want to get fit? Build a business? Date more attractive people?
Then, you should consider finding a virtual accountability partner. By having someone checking in with you via email or Zoom, your goal adherence goes up — a lot.
Learn about the best places to find your accountability buddy, why you should prefer strangers, and how you can be a great partner yourself.
- What Is a Virtual Accountability Partner?
- Why You Need One
- How To Go About Finding a Virtual Accountability Partner
- Virtual Accountability Partners vs. Accountability Coaching
What Is a Virtual Accountability Partner?
A virtual accountability partner is somebody who holds you accountable when it comes to your goals. They provide feedback and offer encouragement. In turn, you hold them accountable for their goals.
Typically, you will check in with each other on a daily basis. For example, you might email each other daily about what you did today to get closer to your goal. If you want to get fit, you might write, “I went to the gym today and worked out for an hour.”
Your virtual accountability partner will acknowledge what you did (“Great job”) or admonish you to try harder (“Why did you skip the gym today?”). You will do the same for them.
Another way to go about it is to have weekly accountability calls. You connect for half an hour on Zoom and talk shop — what is going well, what is not going well, and how you could both improve.
These two approaches can be combined, which, from my experience, is the most effective way of going about it. During your weekly calls, you get clarity about what you need to do. And with the daily check-ins, you connect that vision to action.
Why You Need One
Accountability is not some self-help hoax. It is proven to work.
A study by The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) found that if you are just pondering a goal, your chances of succeeding with it are a meager 10 percent.
But if you communicate your goal to another person, your chances of succeeding with it go up to 65 percent.
Yet, if you add in ongoing accountability meetings with that person, your chances of success increase to a staggering 95 percent.
In essence, by having a virtual accountability partner, you are almost guaranteed to succeed.
How To Go About Finding a Virtual Accountability Partner
Here is how to find a virtual accountability partner and get the most out of the relationship.
1. Define Your Goals for the Relationship
Contemplate what you want out of the relationship with your virtual accountability partner.
The first step is to define your goals. What exactly do you want to be held accountable for?
The more specific you are, the better. If your daily objective is to do 100 push-ups, that is easy to track for your accountability partner. But a general goal like, “Get fit”? Not so much.
You also need to think about your level of commitment. Are you planning to invest much time and thought into your accountability project? Or is this something you want to keep as streamlined as possible because you are already drowning in commitments?
It is crucial to get clarity here and even more crucial to communicate your expectations to your future accountability partner. If there is a crass mismatch of expectations, it won’t work out.
In the same vein, think about your preferred check-in frequency. Do you want to have a weekly call? A bi-weekly call? Daily check-ins via email?
Again, you and your accountability partner must be on the same page here.
2. Try Apps
One way of finding a virtual accountability partner is through apps.
There are essentially five types of accountability apps:
- Matching apps
- Coworking apps
- Paid coaching apps
- Commitment apps
- AI apps
Matching apps are the traditional option. People who are looking for an accountability partner join the app and then get paired with another person, usually based on their type of goal.
Apps to check out:
With coworking apps, you join a virtual coworking space. Everybody sits down together at the same time to get some work done. By looking at your “colleagues” on your smartphone, you feel obliged to get busy, too.
Apps to check out:
- Flow Club
Paid coaching apps pair you with an accountability coach. This person will typically check in with you daily to see if you are doing what you said you would do.
Apps to check out include:
- Boss as a Service
Commitment apps force you to stick with a promise you made to yourself. Typically, you have to lay down a certain amount of money beforehand. You only get that money back if you accomplish your goal.
Apps to check out:
AI apps will act as your virtual accountability partner, except for it’s not a person at the other end but an algorithm.
Apps to check out:
I am not a fan of this last option. When you know you are not talking to a real person, there will be no peer pressure. It will be much easier to bail out.
3. Try Groups
Other good places to find a virtual accountability partner are groups, namely Facebook and Reddit groups about self-discipline, habits, and accountability.
However, understand that most people in these groups are lurkers. They will just be reading what other people are posting about but never do anything.
To give you an idea — if a group has 1000 members, maybe 2 percent might be willing to take action and join into an accountability arrangement with you.
But to cooperate with these outliers, you must first be noticed by them.
The way to do that is to post valuable content in the group. Talk about your struggles and your learnings. Reflect on wins and losses. Share little tricks to increase self-accountability.
Do this for long enough (and keep the quality up), and the few action-takers will start to get interested in you. They will now consider partnering with you because you have already proven you are not just a talker.
But skip this step, and you will have a much harder time finding someone suitable. Only those with few options themselves will be open to partnering with you. But such low-quality relationships won’t do much for your accountability.
4. Use Social Media
You can utilize your existing network on social media for accountability. In a sense, you are recruiting not just one virtual accountability partner but an army of them.
For example, in an initial post on Instagram, you might state:
“From today on, I will work out every day. I will do at least one set of a bodyweight exercise to muscle failure. If I am feeling good that day, I might do more. I will document what I do every day here on Instagram. If I fail to do so, please feel free to ridicule me.”
Note that this statement details what exactly the criteria for success are — one set of bodyweight exercises to failure.
Also, note that it specifies the mode of accountability — daily check-ins on Instagram.
Finally, you invite people to punish you should you fail.
The advantage is you can start doing this right away. There’s no need to look around for the right accountability buddy.
The downside is that if you start slacking off, your social media connections might follow up on you once or twice (“No check-in today? What happened?”), but then they will stop.
There is not enough of an incentive for them to do otherwise. It’s not a one-on-one relationship they are invested in. They are not getting anything out of it regarding their own accountability.
5. “Hire Fast, Fire Faster”
There is a useful maxim in the professional world — hire fast, fire faster. Even though you are technically not hiring anybody (unless you are getting a coach), this still applies to finding your virtual accountability buddy.
Understand — it is unlikely that you will get it right the first time. With any relationship, business or otherwise, it usually takes several tries to find the right fit.
You can do all the research you want — unless you have actually worked with somebody, you will not know what they are like. Your accountability partner might seem like a perfect fit on paper, only to then turn out to be a lemon.
“Hire fast, fire faster” takes care of this. It forces you to test people, and more importantly, it forces you to not hold on to people irrationally. This way, you quickly iterate until you find your ideal virtual accountability partner.
6. Become a Giver
If you struggle with finding the right accountability partner, it is probably because what you want and what you are willing to give don’t match.
You need to give value before you can receive it. To work with the best, you must first become the best accountability partner you can possibly be.
Here is what that might look like.
Work on your listening skills. Often, the other person just needs to talk themselves out; the answer they seek is already within them. But for this to work, they need a great, non-judgemental listener.
Don’t push your agenda. People have different goals, values, and needs. Just because a certain process worked for you doesn’t mean it will for everybody else. So, don’t impose your way of doing things on others. You can give feedback, but they must decide what to do with it.
Celebrate wins. When your accountability did something well, react enthusiastically. Praise them. Show your excitement. They will bask in their glory and want more of it. This positive emotional feedback loop will encourage them to choose the right action again next time.
Be a role model. Nothing is more inspiring in an accountability partner if they follow through and constantly improve. If you become that person, you will have your pick of accountability partners. They will want to be associated with you as you inspire them.
7. Friends vs. Strangers
Many people go looking for an accountability partner among their friends and family.
That is a mistake.
It will be much harder to give and receive honest feedback from someone you already have a relationship with. You will both be too concerned with not offending each other. Since you are already aware of certain sensitive topics that should not be brought up, you will avoid them altogether.
But this is not helping anyone. This leads to stagnation, not improvement.
Strangers will not be so overly careful. They are likelier to tell you as it is since they have nothing to lose.
The bottom line — always prefer someone new over someone you already know.
8. Match of Interests vs. Determination
When picking a virtual accountability partner, most people will go with somebody who has a similar goal to theirs. So, if they are trying to get fit, they will choose somebody who also just signed up for the gym.
I would caution against that. While matching interests can help, they are less important than you think.
It is much more crucial to partner with somebody who is committed to the process:
- Somebody who will make time for weekly check-in calls and show up on time.
- Somebody who will reliably check in with you daily via email or text message.
- Somebody willing to do the hard work of improving themselves.
If this person’s goal happens to be something other than fitness, who cares? They will be much more useful to you than an unreliable accountability partner talking about getting ripped.
9. Don’t Get Sidetracked
It is tempting to turn your accountability sessions into a nice chit-chat session.
And while it’s great to be friendly with your accountability partner, this is not what you are here for. You are on a mission to reach your goals. And for that, certain difficult conversations need to happen.
A great way of making sure they do is taking notes before each accountability call you have. Have an agenda of things you want to talk about. Make sure to include to prioritize your sticking points, i.e., what is holding you back.
Make this agenda the center of your calls. You can still chit-chat a little bit before and certainly after. But the agenda takes the spotlight.
10. Take Care of Scheduling
Assuming that you are both busy professionals and maybe also have families, it might be tricky to squeeze your weekly accountability calls in.
The best workaround is to have a weekly jour fix — same day, same time. This way, you don’t have to waste any mental energy on setting up the appointment.
The second best option is to use an online scheduling tool. You can share your Google calendars with each other and give the other person permission to add appointments.
Or you can use a scheduling software like Calendly, where one person (usually the busier person) picks the dates that would work for them. Then, the other person can book whatever
option works best for them.
Virtual Accountability Partners vs. Accountability Coaching
Finding a virtual accountability partner takes time.
Most people you talk to will turn out to be duds. They talk a big game about how they want to get or start a business, but then they will be late to your next accountability call or not show up at all.
This means you must try out several people until you find someone committed to the process. It might take you months.
Going with a paid accountability coach doesn’t resolve that problem — there are plenty of bad coaches — but it can at least speed up the process.
You don’t have to look around for long. You can write a coach and set up a meeting, often the next day. If they turn out to be bad, you fire them and get the next one. This allows you to iterate faster.
Also, by looking at their website and their testimonials, you can quickly get an idea of how professionally they come across. That is usually a good indicator of how they will behave during the coaching process.
Paid accountability coaching has another distinct advantage — the spotlight is on you. Unlike working with a virtual accountability partner, you don’t have to split your time between giving and receiving feedback. Your coach’s only job is to help you along.
Finally, there is a fundamentally different dynamic with a paid coach.
If you work with a virtual accountability partner, you talk to each other at eye level. You are helping them; they are helping you.
But with a coach, there is a little bit of a power difference. They are the coach, and you are the coachee. Hence, you expect them to guide you and even admonish you sometimes.
This power difference works in your favor. You are more likely to go through with certain habits if you know there is an authority figure looking over your shoulder. You will try harder.
I am not saying having a virtual accountability partner is bad. I have a fantastic one right now, and I have had bad coaches in the past.
Also, I am biased — I offer paid accountability coaching myself.
All I am saying is that if your search for a virtual accountability partner is not fruitful, also try the coaching route. Accountability is too powerful of a tool not to utilize it.