As members of my dissertation support group already know, I’m a huge fan of co-working. This isn’t only because I’ve seen clients benefit from it. Co-working has also helped me immensely. It’s one thing to have small work projects that can be sprinted through in 30 minutes or so. But I am frequently juggling large work projects which include writing, research, teaching, and putting together presentations. Work of this type takes on more of a marathon-like quality, involving long hours that can be quite isolating. If avoidance or procrastination decide to pay me a visit, working on my own becomes even less appealing. Distractions like to tap me on the shoulder and I am not always the most structured person.
But, I’ve always been able to harness my productivity when I’ve organized work periods with friends. This was how I managed to get unstuck and get rolling on my own dissertation after many months of avoidance. I utilized it again when I was studying for my licensing exams. It is also how I most happily get satisfying chunks of work done now. It’s also a great way to get to see some of my other busy (and productive) friends who I might not otherwise see if we waited until our respective projects were complete. Co-working can give you an opportunity to be accountable to another person which can sometimes be more compelling than keeping commitments to yourself. You also have the built-in reward of socializing.
Some people like co-working so much that they will happily do it with strangers. This may be a good solution for you, if you’re looking to break out of solo-work isolation. If so, you may want to check out this great co-working wiki designed to help folks find others with whom they can work. If you’re in San Francisco, like me, you may find the direct link to the SF resources helpful.
But the way I most prefer to utilize co-working is to do it one-on-one with a friend or a couple of people. If you haven’t done this before, try sending an email out to your pals to see if anyone is up for a work date. Or if you know someone doing any of the following things: taking classes, studying for a big test, working on a book, wrestling with a large project, consider emailing them directly to ask if they want to try a work date. Agree on a set time period. I suggest two hours to start. If you’re both having trouble focusing on your work, set up before you meet just how much time you will spend catching up. It may work to spend the first 20 minutes catching up and then settling in to spend 40 minutes working. Then plan to take a 15-20 minute break to talk a bit more, followed by another 40 minute work period. See how this goes for you, and then fine-tune as necessary.
Be prepared for the reality that not every co-working couple is a match made in heaven. Some people have a much harder time buckling down and getting focused on work, or you may just have different styles and needs when it comes to taking breaks or chatting as you work. Like all relationships, you may need to communicate a bit more about this in order to find a good working arrangement. Sometimes, you may need to accept that a good friend is better as a movie and dinner date than a co-working date. On the other hand, if you’re easily distracted, you may get lucky and find someone who is a good influence on you. Also, one of the dangers of working in public spaces is that other things like unexpected noises may distract you. Consider trying earplugs or using earbuds to play low-level ambient sound as you work.
If you find a good co-working pal, consider making a regular thing out of it. Or you may want to find several good co-working partners and rotate days and times with them so you get to see all of them more often.
Good luck and welcome to the co-working revolution!