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Zapping while zooming: How an accountability buddy will supercharge your productivity

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

A while ago, client of mine wanted to zap his household paperwork and was exploring approaches which had worked well for him in the past.

Working from these he has now developed the wonderful idea of a ‘muted zoom’ and it works like this;

He has a regular weekly appointment with a friend who can’t bear tackling paperwork either. The appointment is for the length of a free zoom (40 minutes) at lunchtime on a Tuesday.

This suits them both and they guard this time jealously. They use the chat function to share their to-do lists in some detail and do all they can to avoid distracting each other (he tells me this is the tricky bit, given they have an identical, visual sense of humour!).

The paperwork gets done and it works like magic!

But why should this be, and how could you use these hacks to your advantage?

1. By planning the time and duration beforehand

One of the reasons we procrastinate is because we perceive the cost and benefits of a future event as less significant than those in the present. How often do you imagine you will be better prepared for a task if it’s going to happen next week rather than today? This is known as ‘discounting’.

By having a fixed and regular date in the future, anxiety is reduced as we feel jobs will be easier by then. Another benefit of agreed and regular appointments is they are just that – agreed! No need to get the diary out and find a date that suits you both. By using technology, nothing could be simpler than creating a repeated appointment!

* Is there something in your life which could benefit from a regular diary date? Would it benefit from a monthly, fortnightly or weekly session?

2. By defining their method

Known as intention implementation, deciding beforehand how to settle down increases their chances of success.

* Do you often spend your ‘productive’ time working out how to settle? Could you perhaps decide beforehand what is involved, for example where you will be, what you will need and how to avoid distractions?

3. By using the motivator of social pressure

Research shows that simply being in the presence of another can increase productivity by 16% to 32%. Sharing an intention will enhance both implicit (from within) and explicit (from others) motivation. It also triggers mirror neurons in the brain, which cause us to mirror the feelings of those around us, designed to help us fit in and be perceived as part of our community.

* What jobs could you tackle with a ‘body-double’ at hand, either virtually or in person?

4. By taking responsibility for their part in the plan

No-one would choose to let anyone else down. By agreeing to meet regularly, and behave responsibly, both friends are supporting each other to succeed.

* Could you be more successful and supportive by holding yourself to account?

5. By being specific about their goals

A colleague of mine makes the distinction between a ‘to-do’ list and a ‘wish list’. To illustrate this, it’s easy to scribble ‘online refund’ on a list but this is merely a note of intention, or a wish. We’re much more likely to get results if the first specific steps are identified, for example ‘find packaging for online refund’.

* How often are your to-do lists wish lists? How could you be more specific?

This is such a magical force that we run free 'zapper zooms' . Twice a month, on the second and fourth Tuesday from 1.30 to 3.00 UK time you can join your fellow procrastinators in an encouraging, non-judgemental mostly-silent zoom. Grab your ticket now, while it's fresh in your mind!

Published Summer 2020

Updated Autumn 2021

References and enormous thanks to:

1. Many people are already familiar with but is another of many other options of course.

2. Social Pressure: Falk, Armin; Ichino, Andrea (January 2006), "Clean Evidence on Peer Effects". Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 24, No. 1 , pp. 39-57. (link)

3. Laurie Dupar, inspirational founder of


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