The Best Productivity Hack Right Now

Screenshot of Focusmate homepage
October 21, 2020 stephhwilliams 0 Comments

If you’ve read many of my previous posts, then you likely know that I’m an adjunct. I’ve been surprised lately by how many people don’t know what that means (my surprise means I’ve lived in my academia bubble for too long, I suppose).

An adjunct is a contract teacher, typically for higher education. I teach college-level Freshman English/Composition at institutions where they have higher enrollment and a need for more than their full-time faculty can cover.

Since I starting doing this (2009), I’ve managed to piece together part-time contract teaching assignments from multiple institutions to equate a full-time job. However, when COVID hit, there were a lot of predictions indicating that freshman enrollment would decline because students wouldn’t want to go on college campuses in the middle of a pandemic. So as I was finishing up my Spring emergency-remote teaching, I began to wonder whether I’d have a job this Fall. By mid-summer, I had come to terms with the fact that I likely wouldn’t be teaching at all for the Fall and expected to have a lot of time on my hands. I even decided to do an online certificate program that spans this Fall and Spring of next year, thinking I’d have plenty of time to do the work. And, then, a “typical” teaching load happened anyway. (Now I’m wondering if what I was expecting for Fall is more likely to happen next semester for my part of the country).

Image Credit: Bitmoji

So now I’m teaching three hybrid classes and two online classes for two local institutions, teaching another online class for an out-of-state college, doing the certificate program, trying to stay active in the faculty writer’s group I’m a member of, and be a wife/mother who hasn’t lost all her marbles (or patience). I spend most days working from home, hunched over the desk in my bedroom, with my headset on and staring at my own face in the Zoom window.

Screenshot of me waiting for students to appear in the Zoom “waiting room” today

The Bitmoji definitely looks better.

Though I never describe myself as a “people person,” this never-ending work from home scenario can get old (and feel isolating) real fast. Not to mention, working from home brings with it a plethora of distractions – the bird, the dogs, the kids … oh, it’s a pretty day outside, isn’t it? … wow, that bed looks prime for a nap, doesn’t it?

The productivity hack that has saved me this semester has been Focusmate is a way to match with other workers virtually for 50-minute increments to help each stay accountable and on task. You schedule a session and get matched with a random partner. The gist is that you each briefly introduce yourselves and what you’re going to be working on at the beginning of the session, mute and get to work with your cameras on for accountability, then check in with each other at the end of the session to report progress. I’ve been scheduling these individual sessions for a few weeks now and have had some great experiences while meeting people from all over. There’s no expectation to chat; the focus is truly on getting done what you need to get done. Right now, you’re allowed three free sessions each week, or you can “upgrade” to unlimited sessions for $5/monthly. And there’s a Facebook community for people to comment, make suggestions, ask for help, etc.

The absolute BEST part of Focusmate to me, though, is the Friday community working sessions. For the last two or three Fridays now, I’ve spent a good part of the day *virtually* with a community of folks working from all over the place. We take short breaks every 50 minutes – so there’s time to chat (if you want) or get up and stretch – this is actually a great reminder for me as I tend to slouch more and more throughout the work day. Up until now, the Friday sessions have been offered from 8a-6p Central Time and have been hosted by the co-creators of Focusmate. Participants can join in at their convenience during the day – the hosts allow in people during the break sessions so as to not distract the community during the working sessions. You can stay for as long as you need to, share by talking on the breaks or in the chat if you’re comfortable, and know that even though you may be working from home alone, you’ve got a community backing you.

This Friday, they’re shooting for a global community and running the session for 24 hours! This “24 HR Friday Focus-a-thon” is to accommodate a lot of Focusmaters who live in other time zones.

Screenshot of Facebook Event page.

I’ll definitely be joining in during Central daylight hours this week. The creators of Focusmate also set up and Eventbrite for folks who don’t know about Focusmate/may not be on Facebook. To find out more information, check out the Eventbrite invitation here or feel free to reach out to me.

I do not own any interest in Focusmate and was not paid to post this. I just think it’s such a good thing right now in an otherwise crappy world and wanted to share the love!

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