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Peer-Working

Photo by binary_koala

Do you work alone a lot? Do you work better when there is a social connection to someone else in the mix of what you do? Do you have that common bad habit of procrastinating?

I might have a solution that is super simple and fun for you. It is fun for me! But you have to play your way to see if it is fun for you.

I don’t live near anyone that I work with and there are no coworking places close to me besides a cafe. So I have taken to peer-working online. Here is how it works:

  1. A friend and I will say we are working at a specific time together, and we will meet on gchat or skype.
  2. We start by saying what our goal is for the 45 minutes to an hour of peer-working. We sometimes challenge each other to be more specific in the goals, but we don’t lose time discussing goal choices.
  3. We agree that we will report via text if we get offtrack of the work toward the goal. And we report any milestone in the goal that gets reached. Say the goal is to send 6 emails, we might report when we complete each one.
  4. We say, “ready, set go!” like it is a race. Because it is more fun that way. :P
  5. We hold ourselves and the other person to the reporting. We never judge each other for getting off task, but we will then ask about getting back on task (need to break that goal down into smaller bits? have the right screen open? etc).
  6. We celebrate (however we think celebrating is good via the medium we are in).

I have found it surprising that, even though we aren’t really talking much if at all about what is going on in our lives or work, I experience that hour as quality connection time. And I am much more productive during those sessions than my regular hours on my own, most of the time.

I have to be careful, as a coach, that I don’t get lost coaching someone toward their task. So it is important for me to pick the right peer-working partners.

I am sure there is some optimal timing here where there is a tad bit of friend conversation to help feel connected, but a risk of just giving the whole hour to catching up. So it does require some self-discipline to get started. I make it easier on myself when I have recently already had a friend conversation with the peer-working, so there isn’t a backlog of catch up simmering in the background.

TIPS for making peer-working work for you:

  • be sure you have a clear task that can reasonably be accomplished in the time allotted
  • name exactly how you will know the task is done (email is sent, document shared, click publish, etc)
  • works best for tasks that have a clear process. May not work for researching time, design, etc unless you name exactly what you will review and how you will know it is complete

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