The single biggest improvement to my productivity during this epidemic has been from co-working with friends on Skype.

This is really easy to do and doesn’t really need an explanation. But it took some activation energy for me to implement it reasonably well and so I’ll spell out what works for me. Hopefully, that’ll reduce the activation energy for some people.

I’ve entirely stolen this strategy from Jan Brauner who has been regularly co-working on video calls for years. But I’m not claiming this the uniquely best strategy.

  1. Find a co-working partner. There is no shortage of people looking now. You just have to write down a few names and ask them if they want to try co-working. This is very low commitment, they’re just signing up for one session. If you end up with multiple partners, you’ll just have more options.
  2. Set up an initial video call. During the call, share what your plans for the next session are. Then you hang up and work (or stay on call and maybe mute if you prefer).
  3. You both set a timer for e.g. 60 minutes and call each other again when it goes off. Then you tell each other how the session went and if there’s any way in which you’d like to improve. And you can just chat a bit, walk around, have a break. Finally, jump back to step 2) until you want to stop working.
  4. If you decide you want to work together regularly, agree on which days of the week you’ll co-work and at what time you start. Consistency is key.

I find that this works best with two or three people. The more people, the more coordination overhead and the less time everyone gets to reflect about their session in the break.

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11 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 6:42 AM

Thanks for writing this up!

I've personally tried Complice coworking rooms where people synchronize on pomodoros and chat during breaks, especially EA France's study room (+discord to voice chat during breaks) but there's also a LW study hall:

Yes these are also great options. I used them in the past but somehow didn't keep it up.

Co-working with a friend is good option for people like myself who benefit from having someone who expects me to be there (and who I'm socially comfortable with).

There's a group for Effective Altruists on Focusmate:

(Dony Christie) "The Basic plan creates the group, and any member who has not subscribed to the Focusmate service for unlimited Focusmate sessions ($5/month) will be able to do 3 free sessions a week with either members of the EA group or the general public. Basic costs $50/month total, which rounds out to $2.50/month per person we currently have interested, and we will get even more people once the group exists and is popularized.

If you wish for unlimited sessions with other EAs (imagine a highly focused 9-5 virtual workweek with a gamut of likeminded people!), then you can upgrade to their plan at your leisure. This looks like the better option to me as the cost of crowdfunding it in order to provide unlimited for everyone seems strictly inferior to people individually getting it themselves, especially as probably not everyone will choose to do more than 3 sessions a week or even continue using the service.

To donate to help cover this, you may or Venmo me @Dony-Christie. Suggested amounts of $2.50/person if you're willing, $5.00/person if you're enthusiastic; send whatever's comfortable for you. If I receive more than the first month's amount then I will put the extra money towards the next month (assuming we continue the subscription to future months; I'll pay it back if not).

Here is the link to join. On the dashboard, under 'My Groups', check the box on the left to toggle between showing sessions for just our group and normal Focusmate. I personally booked a bunch of sessions for next week that I'd love for you to join me at; the times are 12pm, 1pm, 4pm, and 8pm Pacific time/UTC-7 each day this Sunday to Friday. You might not see my name show up because some of the sessions have me booked with normal Focusmate users, but if you book one of those aforementioned times it will switch the booking to me (or any member of the group who's booked at that time). You can also book any other time and other EAs may probably join you by seeing and clicking on your session, or if that fails to happen then you will be booked with a normal Focusmate user unless a member of the group then books that time as well and switches the normal user out.

Let me know if you have any questions, especially if you're new to Focusmate! I will check in with all of you to make sure everything's working, and write a user's guide with best practices. Let's work on big things together!"

could I have the link? it doesn't appear to have been copied over.

ah, I meant the link from "Here is the link to join."

Yes, that link is the first reply.

I also shared the PayPal link out of fairness to Dony, who organizes the group.

I failed to see the first link and am embarassed.