Keep in touch
Although we are in regular contact already, it was good to make it even more regular by picking a set day and time. This made it more likely to actually happen and easier to rearrange if something came up.
Knowing that after 7 days you will be admitting to someone what you have and haven’t done can be very helpful. Sometimes I would end up doing tasks simply because I didn’t want to say “I haven’t done anything”. It was important to me to stick to the agreement that we had made and this worked as a motivator.
We had the same upbringing and there is less than 2 years between us, but of course the way we reacted to different parts of the course was surprisingly different at times; we are individuals indeed! This can be enlightening and fascinating and this could also happen with a very close friend who you think you know inside out…
Over the course of the week it might feel like you are getting nowhere, you didn’t do as much as you hoped and it’s just not going that well. When relating all of this to another person I often heard myself saying “But I did do that bit, oh and I did this, and I prepared for that..” so actually it wasn’t as dire as it seemed. Also sometimes you need to hear it from someone else for it to sink in; “That sounds like a good week!” At times a small reminder is needed to keep things in perspective. Everything counts - don’t be dismissive of your achievements!
There were definitely calls where one or both of us felt energised by a good week or were particularly satisfied with the tasks. This gave important clues as to what’s a real priority or fun to us as individuals (which maybe should be obvious, but isn’t always).
There were calls where we spent some time analysing why we did particular tasks and not others, and how that made us feel. A week is short but a lot can happen. There will be good weeks and bad weeks and a course like that is working on levels of your subconscious that you may not even be aware of…
Put it into words
There is a thread of writing through the entire course which has its own benefits. Condensing your week into words to tell someone else has a different kind of effect. When someone asks “How was your week?” and you sum it up into a sentence without really thinking about it, it can be very revealing. A hard week isn’t always a bad week.
Referring back to the book and to past tasks was, and still is, extremely useful; how do things compare with 3 weeks ago, 3 months ago? Is week 6 still your favourite?
Doing this occasionally really helped to mark progress during the course. Looking back after a couple of months your goals and ideals might have crystalized much more clearly which can help you to move even further forward.
I know for sure that if we did not do the check ins I would not have been able to stick to the course. I had a reason to keep going other than the process and outcome of the course itself; I enjoyed the calls and it was more fun to do it together. I felt an added sense of satisfaction because we were a tiny team. It was much easier to recognise results and to trust that there would be future results with the extra encouragement.
Checking in could work for any endeavour but it’s important to consider who you are checking in with:
It’s not a competition - there is no winner or loser, everyone is winning!
Trust - Don’t partner with someone that is likely to undermine you at any point or even worse, quit.
Relatively organized - I would struggle to check in with someone who is always late or just forgets altogether. You want to build morale, prioritize and stick to your plans.
A finisher - we all struggle with finishing sometimes but the point is to keep going on together until the end and hopefully even further... Having said that finishing, doesn’t have to mean 100% complete.
Reciprocate - the idea is to be in it together so all parties should be interested and engaged, with no one leader.
Of course it took a lot longer than we expected, we took breaks, we had weeks of busy-ness or illness but we did finish (not 100% but we agreed that we had achieved the purpose of the course). Then we decided to do parts of the course all over again! These days living more creatively is a big focus for both of us. Spending time on creativity is more habitual and it’s easier to prioritise over things like laundry.
Ultimately we worked alone and the effort was our own (we were in two different countries so we never actually did any tasks together). What the check ins helped to do was to stick to it. It provided an arena for discussion and to explore ideas, which helped to maximize the benefits of the course. It made it easier to acknowledge our achievement and to face obstacles.
Now that I am a bit practised I can even check in with myself better that I could before. What have I done this week? How well did it go? What am I doing differently than a month ago? I am always stepping towards improvement.
If you want to start a new habit, study or lifestyle choice, consider finding a check-in partner.
Don’t check out, check in!
Co-founder, The Clean Sheet