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The Social Workspace: Coworking

The Social Workspace: Coworking

The Social Workspace: Coworking

    Since I’ve been thinking about the spaces we work in a lot lately, I thought I’d talk a bit about the new approach to work that’s taking hold among many self-employed and telecommuting workers these days: coworking. There are several different approaches to coworking, but the basic idea is simple: create a space where a bunch of people can work comfortably.

    Most coworking facilities move beyond the idea of just providing a simple working space for a small fee to creating a social environment in which a community of similar-minded folks can get work done but also feel some of the camaraderie of a traditional office space. For instance, Launchpad Coworking in Austin offers “camaraderie, low workspace overhead, a chance for collaboration, and darn good coffee”; New Work City in NYC describes itself as “the gathering spot for a community of like-minded individuals who need somewhere to work that’s both creative and social, and professional and conducive to working.”

    How it works

    Most coworking facilities are more akin to a cool coffee house than an office suite. Some offer 24/7 access and a personal desk or workstation for a few hundred dollars a month; others offer a shared common room with tables or desks on a first-come, first-served basis. In most cases, you pay a membership fee based on your needs – you might pay $25 for a day pass or $500 for a reserved desk and your own set of keys.

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    For your money, you get not only a place to sit, but a range of business services and equipment at your disposal, including fax machines, photocopiers, printers, and wi-fi Internet access. Many coworking facilities also offer free coffee and snacks, lectures and workshops, and group activities. Some have conference rooms available, phone and receptionist service, mail delivery, and other amenities more typical of an office suite.

    Who coworks?

    The most important “resource” coworking facilities offer, though, is other people working alongside you. Freelancers and other self-employed people tend to be a) incredibly creative, b) very entrepreneurial, and c) very generous. Bring them together and you start laying the groundwork for a network of smart, creative, driven, and knowledgeable people who offer each other advice, collaboration, camaraderie, and “creative juice”.

    This philosophy is reflected in the fact that most coworking centers don’t “rent office space”, they offer “membership”. And those members might include commercial writers, graphic designers, journalists, novelists, web programmers, working musicians and actors, and solopreneurs.

    Why cowork?

    Besides the neat facilities, there are lots of reasons that people choose to cowork. Some just get a charge out of the creative energy of this kind of workspace. Others need a comfortable place they can meet with clients or partners.

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    For most coworkers, though, I think the biggest factor is the loneliness of working at home. Until you’ve left an office job behind, it’s hard to understand how enervating working at home can be. Some thrive at home, of course, but many struggle. I know I do – when I  don’t have classes to teach or another reason to leave the house, I can sometimes go for days without having a conversation with another person!

    Coworking facilities help ease this sense of isolation – even for people who never utter a word to their fellow members. Just the simple fact of being out and about can be a powerful motivator for many work-at-home types.

    Where can you cowork?

    Coworking is a new enough concept that it can be hard to find coworking facilities, even in major cities. (My own hometown of Las Vegas doesn’t have one, for example, although I’m strongly considering that as a call to action!)

    The Coworking Wiki lists coworking spaces and plans, along with tons of other information about coworking.

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    Another resource is the Coworking Community Blog, which has a Google Map showing the location of coworking spots around the world.

    You can also Google “coworking + [your city]” and see what comes up.

    If you’re travelling, check to see if your coworking space is part of the Coworking Visa group. If it is, you can use coworking spaces in cities all around the US for up to three days for no extra charge.

    If you can’t find a coworking space near you, don’t despair. There are a couple of coworking options that you might still consider.

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    The first is a Jelly, an informal coworking event held regularly in over 100 cities worldwide. Jellies don’t usually take place in dedicated workspaces; rather, it is a gathering of several people at a coffee shop, restaurant, or other place of business (and sometimes even in people’s homes!) that offers wi-fi and is amenable to hosting a bunch of creative workers. You can find a list of Jellies on the Jelly wiki. No membership is required, and they’re typically free. (You should probably buy something from the hosting establishment, though!) If there isn’t one near you, it’s relatively easy to start your own Jelly, too.

    Many cities also host coworking meetups, open to anyone interested in joining or starting a coworking space in their town. You can find a list on Meetup.com; meetups are sometimes free, but often the organizers ask for a small payment of a dollar or two to help defray the charge Meetup.com charges for hosting their group.

    Finally, you can start your own. The authors of I’m Outta Here, a book about coworking, have a one-page guide to starting a coworking group that will help get you started. The Coworking Google Group can connect you with interested people from all over for advice and encouragement, too. The key thing is to start building a community of people who want to be involved and to work out what kind of coworking situation will work best given that community’s needs and desires. From there, you can determine how to proceed – a full-fledge coworking location is a real business, and there is simply no one-size-fits-all plan for creating one.

    Is coworking for you?

    If you would benefit from being around other creative people, if your work keeps you on the move and you’d like to see a friendly face now and again, if working at home isn’t quite coming together, drop in to a coworking space or a Jelly near you and see if you like it. Since most of them offer one-day visits, you can check it out without making any long-term commitment. Maybe coworking is something that would be useful once or twice a month, just for a change of pace? Or maybe you’ll be hooked!

    If you’re already using a coworking facility in your town, let us know in the comments how you like it. If you run one, feel free to let us know all about it! And, if you live in Las Vegas and think we could use a coworking space, let me know – I might want to get in touch with you!

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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