On virtual co-working and accountability

I have been experimenting with virtual co-working and accountability.

Not least during lockdowns, but generally for the self-employed, getting focused on productive and income-generating work is challenging.

It is generally acknowledged that clarifying to someone what you plan to do, and having them as a point of accountability, helps you focus on getting that work done. For those who work for an organisation, a boss or line-manager (should) play this role.

I have been experimenting with a service called Focusmate, which pairs you with someone to co-work with for accountability (rather than to collaborate). I have tried it once, being paired with a woman in Leeds who works as a software engineer, and in the 50 minute session completed work I may not otherwise have got down to.

Focusmate was created by US-based ‘productivity scientist’ Taylor Jacobson. It is currently free to sign-up and use, and it is not clear what its business model is.

One schedules a session online via Focusmate’s well-designed site and is paired with someone who wants to co-work then, and an entry is added to your calendar. Just before the time you log on to your session via a browser.

The protocol is that, having said ‘Hello’, one silently co-works with the other person, with video and sound on, as if they are in the same room or space.

As an aside, many years ago a friend told me about Paul Saffo of the Institute For The Future, who would remotely co-work with one of his collaborators – Roy Amara, perhaps – with a permanently-on Skype connection, so they could chat and bounce ideas around ‘as if’ they were in the same space.

In the Focusmate model, using the chat you ‘declare’ a task to your co-worker and note when you have completed it, then repeat.

It would be interesting to experiment with accountability co-working with friends and colleagues, not least as it would also be good to have a brief catchup and learn about what people are doing.

As such, I have created a Calendly ‘Accountability co-working’ session that would allow you to create a 50 minute with me. (Calendly will likewise add an entry to your calendar, and you will be emailed a reminder.) If you know me and you want to ‘kick the tires’, consider giving it a go.

Focusmate home page

[Notes] [Draft]

Published by Nico Macdonald

Communication, facilitation and consultancy around design and technology

Leave a comment