The Secret to Being Productive in Your Coworking Space

We’ve all been there. Stuck at the home office, wallowing alone, no friends, and an anxious eye on that package’s tracking number so you might glimpse a human being at your door.

Now we’ve all been here. At a coworking space. The lovely, people-filled, coffee-fueled respite from our home offices. We’ve found our tribe, a little slice of normal and we couldn’t be happier. Only we’re not getting as much done as we’d like to.

EEK! It’s the not-so-often-admitted-but-totally-true part of every coworking community. Sometimes, it’s just hard to focus when you’re surrounded by interesting people (not actually) working on interesting things. Or maybe your mom brought in warm banana bread for everyone and that seems REALLY important right now.

We’re happy to announce that we’ve solved this problem at Cohere and we want to share our ridiculously simple, free to everyone method for crushing our goals. TOGETHER. This is a coworking space after all. The most brilliant part of our devious plan is that you, A MEMBER, can implement this with your coworkers. You don’t even have to tell your community manager. I mean, you can. You won’t get in trouble or anything.

THE COWORK SPRINT: Your best friend for group productivity.

This method is simple. The work sprint isn’t a new idea. Product developers have used them for years to focus intently on one feature to make it ready for review at the end of the work session. We’ve tweaked the idea and made it sufficiently generic so it works for any type of job you might be doing in your coworking space.

  1. 1. Print this sheet. In fact, print 20 and leave them in an obvious spot in your coworking areas.
  2. 2. Read the instructions on the right side of the page. It’s pretty straightforward.
  3. 3. Ask your coworkers if they’d like to write down something they want to accomplish in the next 30/60 minutes. Pass around the sheet and everyone writes their name and goal on the sheet.
  4. 4. Set a timer for 30 or 60 minutes. Work really hard without interruption until the timer goes off.
  5. 5. Go around and see how everyone did on their goals. Hand out high-fives with wild abandon!

Repeat as often as necessary. We find that daily cowork sprints at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm are super effective at keeping everyone heads down while still allowing plenty of unstructured time for creation, socializing, banana bread and coffee refills.

We love to hear stories of other coworking spaces using the Cowork Sprint work sheet. Snap a picture and tweet us at @coherellc

 

A Maximum Effort Clear Dry Erase Board for Coworking Spaces

I needed a new whiteboard for our revitalized ConferEssence room. A whiteboard that was more decoration than utility but still did its job when required. All whiteboards in the whole universe are literally the worst looking things ever or cost many hundreds of dollars.

Most of the time I’m happy to click three times on Amazon Prime and have what I need delivered to Cohere’s coworking doorstep. Other times, I get SUPER frustrated at how corporate everything looks and then do something dumb like believe I can DIY it for 1/8 the price in a week. This project spanned 4? weeks or more. I don’t know. After the 4th trip to different hardware stores AFTER I researched all the clear board paints like IdeaPaint, ReMARKable and DrawIt I really had to lean in to get this board done.

Special shoutout to my friend Meagan L. who turned me on to Writeyboard’s clear dry erase STICKERS. I could dispense with the panic of trying to paint a surface with clear gloppy paint or I could trick a member of Cohere into helping me apply a sticker. Always choose trickery. Always.

Supply list:

  • 4’x8′ 3/8″ birch veneer plywood cut down by Home Depot staff to 4’x6′
  • Borrowed Ford Explorer from mother-in-law to transport wood
  • A quart of the wrong kind of primer
  • A quart of Zinsser brand peel stop clear primer
  • A package of the wrong kind of sanding blocks
  • Power sander and 220 grit sand paper
  • 4’x6′ Writeyboard clear dry erase sticker
  • Blue tape
  • A willing member to help you
  • Reclaimed barn wood (it was ridiculously expensive)
  • A miter saw you barely remember how to use
  • Nails, screws, drywall anchors, metal frame hanging sets, tape measure, pen, you mom to help you do everything
  • Eufy LED copper light string

Total Cost: $200 once I return everything I didn’t need

All told, it turned out awesome and I REALLY love it. This project is best completed over a weekend rather than piece-mealing it bit by bit like I did.

Want help deciding which DIY Coworking projects are worth it? Join my Ultimate Coworking Launch Sequence Cohort Group!

Help Is Meaningful No Matter How Small

hug“I’m not mad. I’m disappointed.”

At myself.

I’m a helper. Always have been. I try hard. I watch the world for opportunities to help strangers, friends and Cohere members especially. Once, I almost crashed my car pulling over to help an elderly women right her shopping cart. Turns out she did NOT want my help and swore at me but I feel happy that I tried. I’ve apparently lost my way as of late…

Last week I ran into an associate who said to me, “Hey, “Sally Sue*” is really struggling right now. Can you think of a way we could come together and help her?”

I stammered and stuttered and then muttered, “I don’t know her well enough to help in any meaningful way.”

WHAT.

THE.

ACTUAL.

FUCK?

Let’s break down the absurdity of what I said, “I don’t know her well enough to help in any meaningful way.”

  1. I don’t know her well enough. That doesn’t even make sense. I’ve been friends with Sally on Facebook for maybe a year. I’ve met her in person at least twice that I can think of. I’ve SEEN her posts about how she is struggling right now. I’m familiar enough with her work, her life and I even know her daughter’s name.
  2. to help. Help is relative. Who am I to decide what is helpful to any person at any given moment? Who am I to look at someone and decide that this thing or the other thing is better or worse for that person ESPECIALLY if I don’t even ask. If I don’t even try. Inaction is worse than trying something.
  3. in any meaningful way. I dropped everything to help dear friends last week. I cancelled things, pushed meetings and told my own daughter to wait. That felt meaningful. It felt big and it was hard. Helping isn’t always hard or time consuming or particular drastic. Does Sally need that level of help from me? A relative stranger in her life? Can I hire Sally? No. Do I personally have the bandwidth to help her job search? Probably not. There are 300 things I could do to help Sally: send her a note of encouragement, forward a job opportunity that I see, hug her, say that I know it sucks right now but it’ll get better, tell her I understand, tell her I’m thinking about her. Anything at all really. I could have spent 3 minutes doing something helpful but instead I did nothing.

In a world where it’s so easy to keep our heads down and to make excuses that we don’t have the time or the money to help, let’s SEE each other. Let’s make eye contact and say HI. The world can be terrifying. People get gunned down, children die, people are struck down by awful illnesses. That lady with the screaming kid in the grocery needs help (a smile, an encouraging nod). The homeless person on the street needs help (ask). That distressed looking server at lunch needs help (listen). Your mom. Your brother. Your best friend. Help them.

I shed a tear during my reflection on my walk this morning as I smiled and said “good mornings” to strangers on the trail then I reached into a stranger’s car to turn off their headlights. Helping matters.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Fred Rogers

*name changed

Image Credit

 

Building Coworking Communities: No Sailboat Required

It’s easy to make connections and get to know one another inside a coworking space. We take that for granted and just assume that we’ll meet someone new in the course of our day to day to-dos. A recent retreat to Seattle taught me how vital and AWESOME a planned group activity can be especially when that activity is way outside our “normal.” So when our organizer asked if we’d like to go SAILING, it seemed a little scary but we would be doing it together so surely it would be okay.

I tentatively agreed to a sailboat ride and bummed some Dramamine off a fellow coworker. Little did I know that it would be scary and exhilarating and that it would change Adam’s life forever.

photo 2

By getting us a little out of our comfort zones and putting us in cramped quarters we were able to learn something (sailing) from new friends (the captain and his crew) and experience our location (Seattle) from a whole new point of view. Andy and I even did the most terrifying thing and crawled out to the front of the boat while we were experiencing maximum “reaching” aka, the boat was really at an angle to the water and we could have fallen out at any moment. But we didn’t.

photo 3

In order to bring a similar experience home to the Coherians of Fort Collins, we’re going to stay up late and sort canned goods. Yep, I plan to use up as much if not more adrenaline during our Food Bank Shift at the CAN Jam on November 6th from 11pm-1am. Heck, it meets all the criteria: new location, new people to learn from and we’ll get a different point of view on where we live.

Has your coworking community done activities outside of your space? Tell us in the comments!

ps. my “crew” on the boat:

Aaron from Rapid City, MI, The Factory

Tony from New York City, New Work City

Adam and Alex (not pictured) from Philidelphia,PA, Indy Hall

Susan and Jacob from Seattle, WA, Office Nomads

Ashley from Toronto, Canada, The Foundery

Andy from Columbus, OH The Salt Mines

 

DIY Coworking Furniture: IKEA, Craigslist, Garage Sales

Furnishing a coworking space like Cohere in Fort Collins can be overwhelming and costly. It doesn’t have to be! I always furnish my coworking spaces with a mix of new, old and found products. This approach eliminates the threat of having a coworking space that reads like a showroom and instead gives your members lots of nooks and crannies to choose from and creates an eclectic vintage-y vibe.

So Alex Hillman doesn’t panic, here is a picture with people in it since all that follow will just be things–this is a post about furniture after all.

Cothere_Coworking

From Draft to Done Blog Group

Before anyone will sit down they want to know where the power is. These wall mountable heavy duty power strips are amazing. They are sturdy and have 8 outlets! Cohere uses one stripper per table.

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In a world where you can drop a grand on a wheely table I always opt for IKEA. Pair this top with these legs to get a table that comfortably seats 2 for $85.99. Wheels make our rooms configurable for events, yoga or plain ole coworking.

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The same goes for chairs. You can spend upwards of $500 or more if you want a fancy label on your chair and ventilation holes for your ass cheeks but we get lots of compliments on this $79.99 model from IKEA. Pro-tip: as cool as the light upholstery looks, avoid it. Denim will stain those chairs.

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If you need larger desks with storage, these are solid though they take FOR. FUCKING. EVER to assemble.

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Assign your most OCD member the joy of this task. $159.99 each.

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For softer seating, we enjoy a sofa at each of our locations. Cohere sports a fancier version of this, which was our most expensive purchase in 2010 at $299. Cothere has its cute little sister below which I picked up at a thrift store for $80. Yes, that’s brown velour and a lobster pillow.

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Cothere’s itty conference room has this sturdy IKEA table. With the legs the whole thing costs $79.00. The chairs are craigslist finds, brand new in some guy’s basement for $15 each. In the background you’ll see our big Apple TV ready flat screen for presentations and impromptu dance parties. It’s on wheels. Always put your tv on wheels.

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The beauty below came out of a garage sale for $25. I sanded, primed, then painted it my signature turquoise with a dark grey racing strip. Black spray paint on the legs took this table from scrappy to fabulous!

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This mid-century laminate table came from an estate sale for $75. I got the chairs reupholstered and re-studded for $175. The zebra print is an IKEA bargain at $39.99 for how large it is.

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We want to see your clever coworking furniture finds. Please share your photos or links in the comments!

Featured Member Monday: Meet Katrina Pfannkuch

Katrina Pfannkuch
Owner/Writer
Buzzword Communications, LLC
www.buzzwordonline.com 

The very first time you visited the Cohere website, it’s likely that you watched the little video at the top of the page. That smiling face you met in the first frame was Katrina Pfannkuch, aka “Creative Katrina,” one of the original members of our coworking community.

Katrina is a communications expert, whether that means crafting compelling copy for your website or coaching entrepreneurs on how to keep their creativity flowing. When Cohere’s collective nerdyness slides into snarky cynicism, Katrina is always ready with a positive perspective, helping us to refocus on what’s really important. Since creativity and inspiration are her strong points, it’s no surprise that Katrina took naturally to coworking.

“I really love getting together with other people who embrace an entrepreneurial way of life and thinking,” said Katrina. “When people work side by side on their passion, there is a collaborative energy and inspiration you are unable to get working at home alone or along side people an office who don’t enjoy what they do.

“As a people-person, I was really missing that in my home office! I also really appreciate the sense of sharing in-person and online that we are able to do as a community. And most importantly, I love being part of a community that allows me to show up how and when I want to – there is no expectation of me other than to be myself.”

Like most freelancers and small business owners that work at Cohere, Katrina makes a living using her passions to help others be more successful. Unwiling to settle on a single title, Katrina describes herself as a creative consultant, intuitive copywriter, content strategist, teacher and overall creative fire starter. “I love helping people get clear on their gifts and then helping them develop authentic marketing and content to share it with the rest of the world,” she said. As if that doesn’t sound blissful enough, Katrina is also a Reiki Master, intuitive and an empath.

“Now that I’ve been a member of Cohere for a few years, I feel more part of a community of like-minded people that I was never able to find on my own or in an official “office job”,” Katrina said. “I’ve developed friendships and working relationships with other creative people I really respect and have also been introduced to even more groups, events, connections and work opportunities to enhance my learning and my business outreach.”

If you’d like to swap ideas about what makes killer content, or are just looking for a way to de-stress after a particularly long day, say hi to Katrina next time you’re at Cohere Coworking!

5 Must-Read Blogs For Freelancers

Five Must-Read Blogs For Freelancers

It’s the New Year. You’ve set your goals, and created your budgets. You’re ready to grow your business, but you’re a little low on inspiration. Or you still don’t know the answer to that nagging business/organizational/house-keeping question. Where can you turn?

Of course, the first place you should turn is the collection of creative minds sitting all around you as you cowork. But what about when your question stumps the coworkers as well? Ask the blogs.

We talk about, write, and link to blogs all the time, but how many of you are seeking out blogs that could actually make you a better freelancer? Here are 5  that should be added to your reader ASAP.

Freelance Switch This extremely popular blog–over 35,000 subscribers and multiple writers–includes advice, news and opinions for freelance workers, such as this insightful post on nurturing relationships with clients you’d like to keep. Also on Freelance Switch: forums and podcasts.

The Berkun Blog This Scott Berkun is a real hot shot hero to the technically inclined, but check out the archived blog entries–there’s stuff here for nearly every creatives freelancer, especially this lesson from a Dr. Seuss book.

Freelancers Union This union resource blog deals with the ethical and labor issues of contract work–including these thoughts on whether or not freelancers should lower their rates just because their clients are struggling.

Webworkerdaily: This blog tackles issues about productivity and other day-to-day issues in the freelance writing world.  It has advice on topics such as “Tackling Big Projects and Getting Things Done.”

Essentialkeystrokes: Check out this blog for general advice about freelancing, and about working on your computer.  It has useful posts such as “13 Ways to Move Big Files on the Web” as well as many others.

Thanks to oDesk (which runs a pretty snazzy blog for freelancers itself) and GuideToCareerEducation for these clips.

Image Credit: Flickr – filipe93

Unmet Potential

I ran as fast as I could to get outside. It was sunny and inexplicably bright. What wonderful delights would the yard hold today? Would I climb a tree, turn on the sprinkler and run through it? Would I dig a hole?  A light breeze flicked the leaves on the big cottonwood tree. I watched it as I ran. I grabbed the corner of the kitchen island so I could whip around faster.

I woke up on the floor. My head hurt. Mom cleaned the sliding glass door to an invisible sheen again.

Unmet potential.

I could have done more. I could have made a bigger impact. I could have changed things/people/lives for the better. I feel this swelling inside my chest. It’s somewhere between the lump you get right before you cry and the kind of utter exploding happiness you feel when a puppy wriggles in your hand or you watch two baby bunnies squirm.

Possible but not yet actual.

What to do with the utter certainty that you didn’t get to go all the way with your plans, your passion, your inspiration, your life’s work? Were you cut off at the pass? Did someone beat you to it? Did you sabotage yourself?

I had this great job once. A perfect job, really. The kind that hundreds of people wanted and didn’t get. I got it. I planned on working there for 26 years. For 86 days I ran so fast I lapped myself. I ran at full speed while I looked so far in to the future at what *could* be that I didn’t see the obvious barriers right in front of me. Instead of running in to a door, it was shown to me.

Undeveloped excellence.

That’s what they call potential. Undeveloped excellence. I sure had a lot of potential in that job. Bursting with ideas, alive with passion and well regarded by most of my coworkers as “the best [insert job title] person I’ve ever had.” Too bad I didn’t have even a cursory idea how to implement my big ideas in a way that wouldn’t result in my swift termination.

Do it anyway.

So I started a company. My very own squirmy bunny that I could raise up right in the vision of my own potential. Now I’ve got the developed excellence and ALL . I . WANT is to go back to that dream company and set the record straight.

I’d step off their elevator in impossibly cute shoes and say in an impossibly articulate way, “I was great for your company. I had the vision, the passion to carry it out and a whole boatload of employees who STILL WANT what I have to offer. But I’m Cohere’s now so I can’t come back to you. Your sprinkler is on and I can’t run through it.”

And they’ll smile and weep and hug me and offer me some ridiculous compensation to just hear my thoughts.

It’s possible.

Unreasonably Inspired

Last night I attended the Unreasonable Institute’s Inaugural Launch event in Boulder with my good friend and social innovator, Lucinda.

The Institute does this, “We unite up to 25 high-impact social entrepreneurs from around the world to attend our intensive 10-week summer institute. There, we will incubate their ventures with rigorous skill training and expert mentorship. At the end of the ten weeks, we will connect our Fellows with the start-up capital and global network of support needed to give their ventures wings.”

Who Gives a Crap

Each institute member was given 2 minutes to answer the question, “Who are you to define progress in our time?”  Some themes emerged.

  • Most of them said they did not define progress in our time.   Rather, they pointed to the people, the communities, the countries and the children that their products or services helped.  Women who sought education where none is offered, children who pull themselves out of poverty with micro businesses, toilet paper that builds toilets and more.
  • The focus is on innovation & learning not charity.  The underpinning of social entrepreneurship is NOT to create a bunch of non-profits who beg for money and hand it out.  Social innovation uses business solutions to solve social problems.  Facilitate getting tools into their hands or minds and let them thrive.
  • Progress isn’t perfect but YOU define it on whatever terms you need.

Uber Shelter

Thrive!  We learned that the simplest things can quite literally change an entire community.

  • Use a bicycle to hull corn 40 times faster and pay off the cost of this bike in 2.5 months!
  • Purchase toilet paper and build sanitary bathroom facilities for 1 million people.
  • Burn agri-waste and get carbon negative returns.
  • Let a vision impaired person identify their money with a color reading gadget.
  • Make a humane, 3 room home after a natural disaster with a wrench and a pallet of materials that can be carried by 2 people.

Get involved, get inspired, change the world.

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