How Two Grad Students Built an Accountability Relationship Online

I’ve noticed that, in grad school, there can be a disconnect between setting goals and following through on those goals.  Most of us love to plan and organize and make to-do lists. You probably spend Sunday evening or Monday morning setting goals and intentions for the week ahead.  I do!

But how many of those tasks do you actually get done each week? 75%, 50%, or 10%?

Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to actually follow through on those goals.  Especially, when you have so much unstructured time and no hard deadlines. It can be too easy to procrastinate.

Related Video:  The Only Way to Beat Procrastination

I believe that one way to actually follow through on those goals and responsibilities is through accountability.  I just wrote a blog post all about the 3 ways you can get started with accountability in grad school.

Today, I want to focus on the first step:  getting an accountability partner. I believe that accountability partners are essential for healthy and realistic productivity in grad school.  I believe in it so much that it is a major pillar of my group program, The Productivity Accelerator for grad students.

I first ran this 2-week program in February and 10 amazing grad students joined the program.  In the program, I paired each grad student up with an accountability partner. In this blog post, I will be highlighting one of those partnerships.

How Two Grad Students Built an Accountability Relationship Online | The Academic Society | Grad School Tips

Meet Mary and Katherine.  Mary lives in Florida and Katherine in Hawaii.  I recently discovered that they were still meeting as accountability partners even after the Productivity Accelerator had ended.  So I asked them to share their story.

Mary’s POV

We met each other through the productivity accelerator through zoom and then we maintained conversation on Facebook messenger! We mostly used Facebook to video chat once a week or every two weeks to touch base on our goals, and then we chat throughout the week on Facebook.

I have never had an accountability partner before, and after that I feel like I have a support system from the complete other side of the country. Before I felt overwhelmed and I was hesitant to speak about what was overwhelmed me.

But we share our own stories, I feel like I learn so much on how to tackle these everyday issues of being a grad student, including academic life, research, friendships and how to navigate interpersonal challenges in this environment that can be very high stress.

After this partnership, I felt more motivated and focused. Also, talking through issues like imposter syndrome helped me feel like graduate school is actually where I belong at this moment in my life. I realized that I am not alone, and that we are all trying to find our paths.

Related Post: 3 Must-Haves for Ultimate Accountability in Grad School

Katherine’s POV

Mary and I meet on Facebook Messenger. Every week, we message each other to check in, asking each other about our upcoming goals, challenges, and any major events we have going on. We also send each other encouraging messages throughout the week, especially if we've already communicated that we could use the extra support that week or on a particular day. We constantly remind each other that we've got this and that we can and will meet our goals!

Messaging has been a great way to articulate our goals clearly, set up that accountability relationship, and facilitate a space to both celebrate our successes and share in our struggles. In addition to messaging, Mary and I also have met a few times using video chat. For example, we've met on two occasions via video on a Saturday morning (my time)/afternoon (Mary's time) to do a co-working planning session. The opportunity to chat face-to-face has been especially beneficial for me, as I appreciate getting to feel like Mary and I are just sharing a coffee at the coffee shop and chatting organically that way (despite living on opposite sides of the US!).

It's also been a great way to set aside time for scheduling and organization, as well as providing a space to really talk through things we might be challenged by in the upcoming week and both give and receive advice on the matter.

I have never had an accountability partner before and I am loving it so far. Mary is fantastic – she's super smart, hard-working, and I can relate to so many of the joys she finds in her research as well as the struggles. Whenever we chat over video, we always end up exclaiming, "I'm the same way!" or "I feel you on that!" It's both validating to know that someone else goes through the same things that I do or thinks about their grad work in the same ways, but it's also a cool experience to voice that validation for someone else.

Before having an accountability partner, I struggled to find peers to talk to about my weekly goals, schedule, and struggles. I didn't have those connections in my grad program itself when I first joined Toyin's Academic Society (almost a year ago now), although I have been working to build some relationships of that nature here in Hawaii.

Personally, I have a hard time being motivated by internal accountability and often struggle to set and stick to deadlines that are only formulated between me, myself, and I. However, since having an accountability partner who I can relate to on so many levels, who really encourages and inspires me to be the kind of grad student I want to be, and who is in a field and university distinct from my own, I've been able to better set my own goals, deadlines, milestones, and actually meet them! Being part of a supportive community is so important in grad school – having those peers who you feel like are always going to be "on your side" and encouraging you – and, even more directly, it can make a huge difference in your own self-confidence and sense of belonging knowing that there's at least one person you can always reach out to to talk through your experience with.

Mary and I have only been accountability partners for a little over a month now, but there have already been so many benefits as a result of our partnership. In a more general sense, I feel like I have someone I can relate to in grad school – which was something I lacked before – and who I can share openly about my experience with, including but not limited to goals, accomplishments, and challenges. I have also felt more motivated to support others as well, through listening to and validating Mary's experiences.

I very much appreciate the space we've created through our partnership where we can have a mutual exchange of advice and ideas. One surprising benefit of having a partnership with someone who is not in my program/at my university is that I was able to tell Mary about an interpersonal problem I was going through with a peer in my own program and discuss that situation openly. Mary really listened to what I was experiencing and validated the upset I felt due to this other student's actions as real and nothing to be ashamed about.

Given her support, I was able to communicate how I felt about the situation with the other student involved and actually ended up having a meaningful conversation with that person about the impact of their behavior, which is a benefit I couldn't have foreseen but which has made my interactions at school so much healthier and uninhibited! (I want to mention this benefit in particular, as I don't think we're often willing, as adults, to articulate issues we're having with others, given worries about shame or embarrassment, and I want to be someone who IS open about these things and able to create a pathway for others to feel safe and accepted if they need to address any issues as well).

Ultimately, I am grateful that Toyin had the foresight to pair Mary and I as accountability partners during inaugural Productivity Accelerator, and I can't wait to see how our partnership develops as we continue on with our grad school goals.

Isn’t their story amazing?  I was blown away that my program would foster such a lasting relationship and friendship! You can hang out with them and other grad students in my Facebook community for grad students!

So, are you interested in building an accountability relationship with another grad student?  I offer the Productivity Accelerator 2-3 times a semester. And I want to invite you to join the waitlist to be the first to know when the program launches again.  The doors may be open now!