Skip to content

Free virtual co-working sessions for people struggling to focus

McKinley Valentine — 3 min read
body-doubling virtual co-working procrastination
Photo by Nubelson Fernandes / Unsplash

Body-doubling is the ADHD strategy in which you basically work alongside someone who is also busy working (not talking). For some reason it makes a huge difference in our ability to focus.

(I wrote a longer article on how this works for ABC)

Can’t bring yourself to check your inbox? Maybe you need a body double - ABC Everyday
McKinley struggles with procrastination. Even when she knows a task is really important it can feel impossible to get started. And then she discovered “body-doubling”.

The pandemic has shot everyone’s executive function to hell so you could probably benefit from body-doubling too! Especially if it’s a side project that you really want to so, but keep putting off. It’s also good for life admin that’s started piling up, or something you typically put off because it sucks (like processing emails).

The best way is to make it a little bit targeted, so plan a time, decide exactly what you want to work on, and put it in your calendar.  And now that so much more is online, this is way easier to organise! You can organise a co-working session with a friend over Zoom, but ALSO:

FocusMate! FocusMate is a service that matches you up with a random stranger for a 50- or 25-minute co-working session. It’s free for 3 sessions a week, $5/month for unlimited sessions.

25 minutes is good if you are a freelancer and kind of a slug in the mornings — you can book it in for 9 and just use it to plan your day, so the morning doesn’t slip away from you.

Reasons you might choose FocusMate over sessions with friends:

  • It’s a set appointment time that you book in advance and have to show up for. You can’t just send a text and say you won’t make it, and neither can they. (If you repeatedly show up late to sessions, you’ll eventually get banned.)
  • Not tempted to socialise — it’s 30-60 seconds of ‘what is your goal for this session’ and then you get started.
  • Not obligated to socialise — if you’re an introvert, you can end up avoiding a work session because you’re not up for the socialisation before it, especially if you’re scheduling a lot of these
  • Timing is a lot more flexible — there’s always someone around at the hour you want to book, day or night
  • It’s not either/or, you can do both

Link to FocusMate (I do not get any money from them, it’s just a super-handy service).

I strongly recommend deciding in advance what you want to do with the time — if you show up with the vague intention to do “stuff you’ve been meaning to do”, you’ll get less out of it.

One way around that is to spend the first 5 minutes of the session (set a timer), for deciding what you’re going to do in the remaining 45 minutes.

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #131 – subscribe to get the next issue in your inbox!

FocusMate anti-harassment protections

(no need to read this, but I know it’s going to be the #1 barrier for a lot of people)

I’ve always avoided FocusMate in the past because I just don’t feel safe enough to be put on a videocall with a random internet stranger (think about what happened to Omegle and ChatRoulette, within like… minutes of their launch).

But! It turns out the makers are aware that if you want to be a productivity site not an unsolicited dick pic site then you need to have strict, well-enforced community guidelines with quick moderator response times. (I say “strict” but their guidelines are really just “normal professional behaviour” — wear pants, don’t hit on people, don’t try to sell them Herbalife.) Also, if you’re a woman you can choose to only have focus sessions with women; if you’re trans/non-binary, you can choose to exclude cis people; if you’re a man, you can choose to only match with other men, etc. No one’s gender is made public and “prefer not to say” is an option or you can just not answer that question. (More details on their gender inclusion policy here.)

I suspect because of that policy, they attract fewer creeps in the first place, and don’t actually end up having to do a tonne of active moderation.


Unsolicited AdviceBe More Functional


Sign in or become a Whippet subscriber (free or paid) to add your thoughts.
Just enter your email below to get a log in link.