Work with me: overcoming procrastination through the power of community
We all procrastinate. Whether it's incessantly checking our emails to put off an upcoming deadline, or getting lost in social media whilst conducting research, procrastination affects us all. Sometimes, it can't be helped. Sometimes, it becomes a problem.
When we're habitually procrastinating, delaying and putting off tasks, it can be a tough cycle to break. Working from home has been a blessing in many ways, but—for creatives especially—it's had some serious downsides. The lack of in-office chat and idea-bouncing can have a negative impact on our creativity—and, sometimes, motivation can be hard to find at home. More than ever, we're disconnected from each other—the feeling of being alone can drain our motivation, and, sometimes, leave us feeling lost.
Working collaboratively—or, at least, around others—is a brilliant way to not only make us more creative, but more productive, too. But how can we recreate that feeling when our co-workers aren't around to work with us?
Why we procrastinate
We don't always have to be productive—sometimes it's just not our day—but if it becomes habitual, we may feel the need to combat it. This is no mean feat. There isn't just one reason for procrastination—we might be feeling tired or burned out, uninspired, or we may be suffering from perfection-paralysis.
One thing's for sure, though: we procrastinate less around others. Working in teams—or at least around other people—can leave us feeling inspired, invigorated and productive.
Why teamwork, works
We'll cut to the chase: accountability works. Working with others helps to keep us off our phones and stops our minds from wandering—if everyone else is working, we have to too! Whilst our natural fear of being the outsider (or, if you're more optimistic, our urge to 'do our part') is a big reason that group-working halts our procrastination—it's not the only reason.
In fact, there's a whole science dedicated to uncovering the 'flow state', and the ways in which we can enter it.
Remember the warm, comforting feeling of sitting in contented silence with friends? How about the cold, rigid feeling of travelling alone on a bus?
One of these is an ideal studying situation—and the other, not so much (though if it works for you, we won't judge!). Working in groups is conducive to comfort and warmth—it means that we're not alone in our quest for productivity, and, even if we're working on disparate things, it can create a sense of comradery. It's us against the world.
Our ampersander Laura Gao encapsulates this feeling perfectly:
I love being around people. It just reminds me that I'm not tackling things by myself. Even if we were doing different things, it still feels like we, in a way, are on a team for a specific purpose.
How about the feeling of firing ideas around, one after the other, with your colleagues, feeling like you're on fire? Or the feeling of staring at a blank page for hours on end?
Working in a team of course allows for collaboration—and, rather than having to fire off an email or open up a browser to answer a question, you have valuable resources at your fingertips. That means less time spent on admin and more creative conjuring.
The ability to bounce ideas back and forth can't be overstated, and this, in turn, spurs inspiration and productivity!
One of the biggest reasons for procrastination is feeling overwhelmed—we have so much to do that we don't know where to start, or worse, we feel like we have to do everything at once. This feeling can cause us to shut down and become overloaded.
Working with others keeps us grounded—it lets us see that, whilst they probably have just as much to do as we do, they're taking it slow, one step at a time. This can help us to relax, and help us to realise that we're all in the same boat. More than that, it can help us to talk about it! Sharing our stresses with others—and hearing theirs, in turn—shows that we're not the only ones struggling. Suddenly, that feeling of being overwhelmed dissipates.
How to join work groups, from home
Thankfully, there are now multitudes of engaging, easy-to-access ways to work collaboratively—even whilst at home! From 'silent working' Twitter spaces to online group working sessions (complete with phone lock-boxes), here are our alternative, modern ways to combat procrastination through the power of community.
Best for those looking to work on their mindfulness
FLOWN's aim is to enable its users to enter the flow state and consistently perform deep work. Whilst it has a number of features (from 'Quests'—a ten-minute audio experience, designed to give users the chance to recharge and ready to focus again—to 'Breath and Body' techniques to help users control their breathing), its primary focus is on Flocks—virtual group working sessions that last from 1-2 hours.
Flocks are guided by one of FLOWN's 'expert facilitators', and there are five sessions each weekday—providing enough flexibility to, hopefully, benefit everyone.
FLOWN offers group working sessions for free users exclusively on Fridays. They offer a full version for $19.50 per month, giving users access to unlimited group working sessions and the full scope of their other features.
Best for those looking for a mid-range group option
Flow Club, similarly to FLOWN, offers virtual group co-working sessions. These sessions are led by an instructor—in the first five minutes, participants take turns setting their goals out loud, and then the silent work begins! All whilst a curated playlist, designed to inspire work and aid participants in entering the flow state, plays in the background.
Flow Club is currently offering a waitlist, which is free to sign up to.
Best for those looking for an accessible, easy to jump into option
Centered offers a range of tools to aid in entering the flow state, from a weekly 'streak' to keep track of how many days in a row participants have met their goals, to an AI "digital coach"—a bot that sends reminders, checks in on distractions (asking you which apps are distracting you, giving you an overview of any potential procrastination-causers), and even goes as far as muting one's notifications to increase focus.
Centered also, of course, offers group working sessions - though these are a little different. Centered's group working sessions don't involve video—instead, you have animated avatars representing the other participants. Centered offers a low-effort version of group working—a reminder that you're not alone, without the effort-intensity of joining a video call.
Centered's standard plan is completely free, and they offer a premium option for $6.67 per month.
Best for those looking for a little extra accountability
Taking a slightly different approach, Focusmate pairs users with an individual, rather than a group—your "accountability partner". Simply choose the time that you want to work, and you'll be automatically matched with a partner for a 20-50 minute session. This more intimate approach helps to ensure that you stay on track—even where you might be tempted to veer off the tracks in the more anonymous, casual group working settings.
Focusmate also has some pretty stringent rules—if you're late (or slacking off during your session!) your partner can report you, lowering your score and leading to your account potentially being frozen—providing an extra push for those who need it!
Focusmate is free for the first three sessions per week, and $5 per month for unlimited sessions.
Ultimately, we're all searching for ways to make connections. We're social creatures, and being around others (whether in reality or virtually) helps us to feel refreshed, inspired and productive. Accountability is a strong motivator, but it's not the only one—we don't have to feel forced to work. Instead, teamworking (or flow state) products help us to take control of our tasks. They help us to remain calm, and take our productivity into our hands—all with the help of our peers, and all whilst nurturing the human connection that we crave.