In the world of weight training, it’s well known that having a partner can lead to seeing gains more quickly. And research has shown that those who switch from training alone to using a personal trainer see many improvements.

Similarly, pair programming has been shown to improve quality of code, as well as keep both developers in “flow” state for a more sustained period of time.

The people around you can have a significant impact on your behavior. If I tell a friend about my goals, I’m much more likely to achieve them.

Finding a ‘life training’ partner

As I continuously work to improve myself, I’ve found that it helps to always have a “training partner”—for my day-to-day work, my entrepreneurial goals, and my personal projects like writing.

A few years ago, I consistently had a weekly meeting with my great friend Khuram, in which we discussed our achievements and challenges to help each other keep pushing forward.

Today, my co-founder Leo and I act as personal trainers for each other for our work and life goals.

Here are four ways Leo and I work together as training partners to improve ourselves and meet our goals, in case you might want to give this method a try, too:

Working together in 2012

1. Writing a list for the next day

One of the activities Leo and I have built as a habit is to sit down together for 20 minutes at the end of each day and plan the key tasks we each want to do the next day.

We’ve found that whenever we plan the day ahead, we’re much more productive, we procrastinate less, and we feel happier as a result.

This is something I can definitely recommend you do with your co-founders—or, if you’re part of a team, you could try it with a co-worker.

2. Talking through daunting tasks

Whenever there’s something I need to work on that I find myself struggling to get started with, I will book a slot with Leo to ask him to work through it with me.

This is especially useful for analyzing and brainstorming, where you need to map out many things and come to some conclusions.

Although I do it with Leo, I am mostly leading it and it is one of those cases where simply explaining something to someone can help me a lot.

Greeting the team in Iceland
Leo and me greeting the team for our retreat in Iceland

3. Sharing achievements and challenges

When Leo and I were both in San Francisco, the most productive few hours of my week were Friday night, when Leo and I would go to Samovar, drink tea and have a systematic mastermind session.

We’ve had many different iterations of the structure of our mastermind sessions, and they’re still evolving today. Some teammates use this structure today:

  • 20 minutes to share and celebrate your achievements
  • 40 minutes to discuss your current top challenges

Each of these sections serve a slightly different purpose and combine to create a very productive session.

In addition, we also have one-on-one mentoring meetings with a slightly different structure—instead of performance updates, it’s become a more open-ended way to work through challenges, get advice and brainstorm together.

4. Brainstorming blog posts together, in detail

When I originally started blogging,  I wrote every post completely by myself. When Leo came on board, I naturally started discussing future posts with him, and he was super encouraging and interested.

Now when I write, I deliberately brainstorm many of my articles with Leo, right down to the individual sections. It makes my writing task much easier, and the posts are better as a result.

Today, our whole Content Crafters team collaborates closely on everything we publish—accountability and collaboration makes ideas stronger.

Telling the Buffer story at our retreat in Cape Town
Telling the Buffer story at our retreat in Cape Town

Over to you!

Do you have any activities that you do with a co-founder or co-worker to help you to make progress faster or increase your productivity? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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Written by Joel Gascoigne

Joel is the founder and CEO at Buffer. He is focused on the lean startup approach, user happiness, transparency & company culture. Say hi to him anytime @joelgascoigne.

  • Jason Warner

    Point 3 resonates with me. Before the Worst Cold Anyone Has Ever Lived Through In The History Of Mankind struck me down for 2 weeks, I was posting daily “SELF IMPROVEMENT REPORTS’ in the Buffer Slack Community. I found it encouraging to have a public forum to celebrate achievements (and overcome setbacks). It was the most consistent I have ever exercised and developed new habits. Even better – other people started their own SELF IMPROVEMENT REPORTS, everything from exercise to breakfast to less screen time at night.

  • Katie Barbee

    I LOVE the idea of having a partner at work that you can collaborate with. Unfortunately, I work in a place where that does not seem like a possibility.

    • Bryan Milne

      Hey Katie, although having a partner at work that one can directly meet with can really help, if that is not an option one can always collaborate via mail, chat etc. A friend and I exchange ideas and feedback with each other via email when we are writing articles for publication. We find this to be most constructive and helpful. I hope you find a “partner in work” soon

      @Joel, the above kind of answers your question as well :)

  • Seems like there’s an almost ‘scrum’ methodology going on with the mastermind sessions. Really enjoyed reading this Joel. Reminds me of when I built out a pop culture website with my best friend at university. It also illustrates how not having that support can make motivation difficult as a freelancer and remote worker. Great to see you all making it work.

  • Craig Combe

    Its a good idea to write down what you your tasks are for the following day. Use a pen and paper, as it makes you think more about your tasks. Don’t use a word document as its too easy to copy and paste.

  • Love this, Joel! One of my best friends and I do this together — we talk about our various goals and ideas regarding our different creative pursuits and it always turns out much better than when we go it alone. We actually just picked up the Lara Casey Power Sheets (monthly goal-setting worksheets) with the intention of sitting down together each month and working through them together!

  • Ramona Flowers

    Yeah I have read in the Consumer Health digest that if you want to get things done you should right it down and make it into a routine. great read! I might as well make my own morning routine :)