770.333.6343 kate@katemcenroe.com

Now, to balance out my discussion of some of my least favorite things, here’s one of my new favorite things.  Problem is, I don’t know exactly what to call it to make sense to you – virtual co-working, body-doubling, lots of terms for it.  In a nutshell, I’ve gotten very attached to a new productivity habit.  In its simplest form it involves signing on to an on-line platform with one or more other people.  They might be strangers, they might be people you know, they might be people you come to know.

The experience varies, but essentially it is a tool to aid focus and accountability.  Some are more explicit in having you share your goal for the time and report back, and some are looser.  Some are general in scope and some are focused on particular types of tasks – I’ve seen everything from finishing up on-line classes you started to de-cluttering a cabinet or a room.

The one I am most active on now is focused on getting writing done.  The “room” opens to mics and cameras off, then part-way through the session there is a quick discussion, if you like, of what you are working on, what you would like feedback on, whatever, then we go back in to silent co-working.   I don’t know what the psychology of it is exactly, but I think it somehow satisfies our need to feel we are multi-tasking by being “on” the call while doing other things.  Or maybe it’s that the appointment of being “on” the call is just a little more of a discipline than setting aside time on our calendar.  Or maybe it’s that you can tell everyone else that you are “on a call” during the time, so they will leave you alone and you will behave like you should be left alone.

Here are a few takeaways for me:

  • When I go in with a specific talk in mind, IT GETS DONE!  Things that have been hanging on my to do list because they felt like they would take too much time, get done
  • Many of these groups seem to have developed for writers, and others for freelancers looking for some structural support to their workdays, but they have expanded as have all of our virtual offerings in the past few years
  • Yes, there are in-person versions (see some of the descriptions below)
  • I don’t have formal co-workers, but I suspect that this works better when you are pairing yourself with people that you don’t work with on a regular basis.  In other words, this is a different experience that Slack – it’s not about collaboration, it’s about concentration
  • Once you start looking, they are everywhere, but they also come and go.
  • Every one has a slightly different vibe, so although commitment is important, it’s equally important to give yourself the grace to try a few and move on if you aren’t inspired.

So where can you look?

I know of two platforms with both free and paid versions, though I am sure there are many others.  One is called Focusmate and the other is called Caveday.

There are platforms like Shut Up & Write, which is focused on writers or at least the task of writing, and has both in-person and virtual meetings, as well as optional challenges and prompts. You will also find a number of options on MeetUp, where you can browse offerings from the home page, then create an account or log in to see the details and join a particular group.

Or, find a friend or group of friends, just like you might recruit an accountability buddy to help you maintain an exercise program, and set yourself up – zoom accounts, or teams accounts, or whatever aren’t that hard to come by these days.  Personally, I like more than one person, and I like a way to help others find you so there is a possible pipeline, because that decreases the pressure on any one person and reduces the chances that you’ll show up to an empty space.

Or, now that I’m such a fan, reach out to me if this sounds like a good idea to you.  This is one of my favorite kinds of parties to host.