Does this sound common to you?
You wake up early, thinking of being productive and getting some work done. In about an hour, you end up scrolling Twitter and bingeing the latest show on Netflix.
I know how that feels because I do that all the time.
Before the pandemic was a thing, you had to show up to your office or lecture hall even when you didn’t feel like it. There will be consequences for not doing so. Now that we’re home most of the time, no one is watching you or keeping you accountable. It’s easy to slip into distractions when working or studying at home.
You can bring that accountability home with a virtual coworking app called Focusmate.
What is Focusmate?
Focusmate is a productivity app that works.
When you launch the app, you’ll see a calendar where you can book 50-minute sessions. The app then pairs you with a partner who also wants to get things done during that session. You then spend 50 minutes over video with your partner. Before your session, you explain your goals. After 50 minutes, reflect on how the session went.
If you’ve had a gym partner before, showing up to the gym is a must, or you’ll let your partner down, and they’ll think you’re a jerk. Focusmate does precisely that - if you don’t show up, you’ll let someone down.
You could do the same thing with friends, but sessions with friends distract me too much for me to get any work done.
Why does Focusmate work?
- When you schedule a Focusmate session, you’re committing to complete your tasks ahead of time. This is called a precommitment. It improves our productive output because we’ve prepared for and accommodated the goal ahead of time.
- Scheduling Focusmate sessions are a form of implementation intentions. Implementation intentions are being specific on what to do and how you will do it. Research shows that those who use implementation intentions are 2-3 times more likely to go through with their plan compared to those who didn’t
- Focusmate uses social pressure to make you complete your task. When we have someone working with us, we want to make ourselves good in front of them. Something is pushing us to get our best work done.
- We don’t like letting others down. We like to let ourselves down. If we don’t show up, we’ll feel guilty about wasting someone’s time. We'll also find it harder to get a partner if we're notorious for not showing up.
- Focusmate also allows you to practice metacognition when doing your tasks. You start by planning what you will be doing, and you end by reflecting on your tasks.
- It makes work more enjoyable. A sense of solidarity with another human being makes work more enjoyable. There’s a sense of camaraderie when you know you’re doing hard things with another person across the screen.
Tips on using Focusmate
- Schedule sessions 24 hours in advance. Research shows you’re more likely to follow through with your plans if you set intentions in advance.
- Prioritise, then execute. If you haven’t prioritised your important tasks in a session, be sure to do so before jumping into work.
- Be specific with your tasks. Write it down as if you’re giving instructions to a tired and lazy future self. “Write Michael an email to schedule a meeting” is specific. “Email Michael” is not.
- Write down your tasks. Studies have shown that your goals are more likely to happen when you write them down. Write each task in the chat window to keep yourself accountable for it.
- Keep your partner visible. It will remind you that they’re working with you. If you have a small screen, use Focusmate on your phone or tablet.
- Keep your camera turned on. This way, you have to be at your desk working. Keeping your camera on also helps your partner to stay accountable.
- Use Focusmate for your most important tasks. Ask yourself: If I could only do one thing today, what would it be? Do that task.
- Schedule sessions to make yourself more productive. Want to wake up on time? Schedule a morning routine session. Want to avoid the post-lunch slump? Book a session after lunch. Want to avoid long breaks? Schedule back-to-back sessions so your breaks only last 10 minutes.
It’s easier to get work done and focus when you have a “gym partner”. Working with someone isn’t creepy at all; it’s revolutionary! Try it out!
P.S. I’m using Focusmate to write this!