So you’re in business for yourself, or doing that freelancing thing. You are free from office life! You can work where ever! You can set your own schedule! And yet.... sometimes you miss the “water cooler” chats or having company while you work. It can be kinda lonely going it alone. You might also find that you never have the time to build your business and promote it, and instead all your time is spent on client work, or fielding client inquiries.
These are the key reasons entrepreneurs enjoy co-working. Setting a regular work date with a buddy is a great way to dedicate time to specific tasks and feel like you’re not by yourself all the time. But the wrong work buddy can be a huge drain. Here are 4 elements to consider in order to make a wise work buddy choice and avoiding common pitfalls.
1. Define Your Co-Working
Co-working sessions fall in one of two broad categories: impromptu or regular. They are about how it sounds: a regular work buddy you set the same day and time every week. With an impromptu work buddy, you've had a conversation expressing mutual desire to co-work, but on an ad-hoc basis. They're someone who you can check in with when you have a block of free time (or visa versa) and have a work date here or there.
It's a good idea to be clear with your work buddy as to which you're going for. Some people prefernce one over the other, though there's also a strategy to become aware of work buddies of either type and then wait and see what schedules will allow for. All of this is fine, and communicating your intentions clearly is key.
For both these types of work dates, all the same rules apply. Like I elaborate on below: they should be a good work buddy, their location needs should be similar, and the work date commitment needs to be respected.
2. Choose a Good Work Buddy
I hope it goes without saying that your work buddy should be someone you enjoy being around. Sure, you've worked around annoying people beofre. You *can* do it. But you left all that, right?! Yeah, so make sure you choose work buddies you like being around!
But also, a work buddy isn't just *any* friend. They need to have a similar or complimentary work ethic as you. Do you prefer to buckle-down and silently churn out work? (Maybe you do this, but you're actually looking for a work buddy who will interrupt you so you don't hyper focus?) Do you like your co-working sessions to have time for reflection and collaboration on the big-picture aspects of business? How much social chatting should exist in a work date? Do you desire a work buddy who does the same work as you, or something very different?
At the end of the day a work buddy relationship is, like all other relationships, a two-way street. If you share the same industry as your work buddy, collaboration is likely to occur. If you both operate businesses in very different trades, it's likely you'll still talk shop about the "running a business" part of your work. Some of the best work buddy relationships are those rich with common ground; the perspective, clarity or advice a work buddy can offer is very impactful. And the relationship can be strained if it only ever flows one way. Being aware of a disparity of experience between work buddies can help prevent and minimize this strain.
3. Location, Location, Location
Pick a location where you both can focus. If you can’t get work done at your house when there are dirty dishes in the sink calling to you, then meet at a coffee shop. Conversely, if you find the noise of a coffee shop distracting, meet at your or your buddy’s home or office. Similarly if working with/without background music is important to you, your work buddy should be similarly aligned.
If you can anticipate any of this beforehand, do. Check in with your needs and your preferred working style. Also check in with your buddy and their preferred working style. You can also check in about this during or after a work date. If your chosen location is suddenly less suitable, you might need to relocate. Similarly, we don't always notice what makes a good work environment, so refining a location choice over time might help productivity.
Part of the magic of a work date is that it can help you get to tasks that you're not prioritizing for whatever reason. I think people sometimes think that setting a regular work date is “out-sourcing” your commitment; that your buddy will help hold you accountable, in a way, for the tasks you're not making time for. It’s likely they will, but keep in mind it’s a two-way street. In effect you’re “trading” commitments. Sometimes it’s hard to make a commitment to yourself. By having a buddy, we make a commitment to someone else. Either way the commitment is wildly important! Both people need to be putting energy in. Similarly, with a impromptu work date it's important to state your intentions and follow them. If you say, let's meet at the coffee shop in an hour, don't get distracted and show up twenty minutes late.
Sometimes we try and trick ourselves into believing that even if we cancel or run late, the other person (or ourselves) still sat down to work on time, and had as productive a work session as if we were there. But, let me tell you. that’s a lie! It might work that way once, but if the commitment isn’t resumed promptly, it will be difficult to maintain the productivity of that time.
Powerful Work Dates
If you've never tried a work date before, I highly recommend it. We as humans are social beings and we thrive with the right company. Dedicated tiem and a good work buddy can clarify and catapult your business in ways that are impossible to anticipate. Give it a try, you might be surprised!