The light next to my laptop camera reminds me that for the next 75 minutes, I’m focusing on my one priority task: writing this post. I can hear the sound of a keyboard coming from my headphones so I know that U., my match for this Focusmate session, is also working diligently on her task.
From time to time, one of us will type another task in the chat box, signaling our progress (completed the first task, on to the next) and giving ourselves some accountability.
At the end of the session, we quickly check in with each other: How’d it go for you? Some sessions are better than others, but all are better than zero accountability and no focus.
Trying to make progress on your projects can be difficult with the scream of social media and that constant to-do list. No matter how much you want to do something, sometimes it’s just hard to stay on track.
What if you could have a virtual coworker, sitting across the desk from you, while you each work on your own projects? They’d be a reminder that you’re supposed to be working on your one priority for that session, while they’d be working on their own task.
Focusmate.com is an online coworking community for just that. I joined at the beginning of the week and it’s really helped me do more than I would’ve without it. That means I’ll have fewer things I have to get done during the holidays, so I have more time to spend with family and on whatever I want.
You can either create your own listing for your available dates/times (always listed on the board in Eastern time, but able to be created in any time zone), or book one that someone else created.
You get email confirmation and it gets added to your calendar. At the designated time, you hop on a video call with the other person via the link given in the email calendar reminder. The session starts with briefly telling each other what the project or task is that you’ll be working on, and then typing it in the chat box. Then you leave the camera and mic on (unless it’s noisy in your background) and just work.
Sounds creepy. I get it, why would you want to have someone watch while you work?
It’s not like that. They’re working too. If you’re both doing it right, the only thing you’re doing is working. And typing in the chat box to tell your partner what one task you’re working on. And then your next task. Because you’ll get more done when working like this. Trust me, I’ve tried it.
Sound good, but aren’t sure if it will work for you? What if this isn’t enough accountability? I wondered about that too. Despite agreeing to follow the code of conduct, which includes, among other things, “Consciously set aside distractions (e.g. close Facebook, put your phone away),” there’s nothing actually preventing you from going on social media.
Here are some ideas of what you can do to give yourself additional accountability and motivation to focus:
- Combine it with a program or app like Cold Turkey for PC or Self Control for Mac, which you can program to not allow you to access whatever sites you don’t want to access for a certain time.
- Remember that the other person is expecting you to be working, and at the end of the session you’ll probably do a check in, and it would really be embarrassing if you didn’t have any progress to report.
- Think of it as a competition. Try to get more tasks done than the other person.
Focusmate could work for almost anything on your to-do list (more than work/employment-based tasks). In addition to expected tasks, people have used it for getting ready/packing for trips, planning, finishing frustrating things like paying bills or making customer service calls (if there’s noise in the background or you’re on a call, let the other person know in the chat box that you’re going to mute your computer microphone so you don’t distract them).
Here are some things I can think of to use it for:
- Planning bucket list adventures
- Planning trips/Researching things to do or see
- Finding the cheapest plane tickets
- Paying bills/taxes or getting caught up on emails
- Writing those thank you notes or postcards that you keep meaning to send
- Writing blog posts
- Making a scrapbook or photo album of those pictures from that one trip
- Packing for an upcoming trip
- Getting more done at work so you can go home early and do the things you want to do
- Studying a language (mute your mic to practice, this isn’t a language exchange)
- Doing homework for that really cool online class that you signed up for but rarely make time to participate in
- Creating a budget to save money for your adventures…
The list is never ending!
Give Focusmate.com a try and find out if you like it. Right now it’s free to join. Maybe we’ll end up having a chance to be coworkers!