I no longer believe that it's possible to achieve extremely high productivity sustained over long periods of time working on difficult projects alone

Planning to publish this on guzey.com if this continues to work for a couple more months (such productivity revelations almost always stop working in <3 months). If you’d like to co-work with me - alexey@guzey.com.


Over the last month I enjoyed co-working over video with 14 people. Almost everyone told me that they really enjoyed the experience, which is AWESOME because I’ve been enjoying these greatly, and hope to continue doing them indefinitely (or until they break lol?..)

Some of these co-working sessions last 2 hours, some last 4 hours, some lasted 8 hours, some lasted 12 hours, one lasted 16 hours.

We work on our own independent projects and about half of these sessions I had with my subscribers/followers who I never talked to before and they all also went great after we talked for the first 30 minutes and got to know each other a bit, which is kinda counterintuitive but great?

Two most commonly expressed sentiments by people I co-worked with were along the lines of:

  1. “I got a lot more done than I normally do”
  2. “Working for 10/12 hours with only one 30 minute break was surprisingly easy”

One person told me that they didn’t believe they could be focused for more than about 5 hours, yet being focused for 10 hours during a co-working session with me turned out to be extremely easy.


Why do I do this?

Because I no longer believe that it’s possible to achieve extremely high productivity (80 hours a week of focused work) sustained over long periods of time working alone on difficult projects. I define a “difficult project” to have some or all of the following characteristics:

  1. feedback loops are long or non-existent, noisy, and painful, rather than short and clear
  2. does not have a well-defined scope (at all or by default)
  3. induces lots of anxiety
  4. does not have a well-defined deadline

Co-working with friends/acquaintances means you

  1. don’t randomly delay starting work due to bad mood or because you are sleepy
  2. don’t randomly stop work due to bad mood or go to bed at random times
  3. can’t get lost in twitter / chrome due to forced check ins every 30 minutes + awareness that will need to explain any distractions during the next one

What’s the problem with all normal productivity techniques? When you most need them, you are least likely to use them because of the way our undercooked sausage of the brain works!!!


current guidelines I use for these co-working sessions:

  • my personal office in https://gather.town
  • video on, muted
  • every 30 minutes we check in and say (1) what we are working on, (2) whether we are fully focused or not. Try to keep them brief to not break the flow but if want to talk, feel free to talk
  • at :00 mark check in is my responsibility, at :30 - yours
  • bathroom, getting food/coffee, etc. allowed but if you leave for >5 minutes, please write what’s going on in the chat
  • one (n?) 30 minute break for food (or anything else) if the session is long
  • social media and email only allowed directly needed for work (even during the 30 minute break)
  • meetings are allowed (but don’t go wild with them - this is co-working after all)

I use gather.town instead of zoom/meet because I actually feel like I’m sitting next to a friend when in gather and enjoy co-working more


The key characteristics which I feel like are not present in ultraworking/focusmate/etc. are:

  1. Personal accountability to one person for an extended period of time means that friction is low and accountability is high and this ensures that you are actually going to be doing the work for n scheduled hours instead of never starting / taking forever to start or getting derailed at some point during the day – both ultraworking and focusmate fail at this!!!
    • 1:1 is also best because otherwise check ins start to take too much time and seriously break the flow of work. (3 person sessions can still work tho, although less ideal I think)
  2. check ins every 30 minutes mean that getting derailed is very hard and they take between 30 seconds and 5 minutes depending on how much you want to talk and you are not forced to take stupid 10 minute breaks every hour or something or talk to or listen to random people every hour – again, both ultraworking and focusmate fail at this!!!

Specifically the most important thing that neither ultraworking nor focusmate get is scheduling extended work in advance and personal accountability to someone you know

  • switching partners every hour is taxing so focusmate sucks
  • cancelling on a stranger is much much easier than cancelling on someone you know and you can’t really get comfortable with a stranger
  • for me the biggest fucking problem of the day is waking up and starting work. Ultraworking sucks ass bc you can’t commit to sessions in advance, so it’s useless
  • both focusmate and ultraworking just lack the flexibility inherent in work which again sucks ass . Sometimes I have a 30 minute call which turns into a 60 minute call. Working with someone 1:1 I can quickly email my partner that I’m late and it’s fine. Focusmate you have to cancel your session and get punished by them. Ultraworking means that you’re off cycle with them now. Last time I had a call in the middle of the ultraworking cycle and tried to get back onto their zoom call 40 minutes later they literally just didn’t let me in lmao.

they’re both rigid in the wrong places (e.g. around meetings) and very flexible in the wrong places (can’t commit to a 12 hour work session in advance). 1:1 co-working is perfect for these. You can have your meetings and deal with unexpected shit that comes up during the day while also having the ability to schedule a 1-16 hour work session in advance that you can’t just punt on.


Working live on twitch.tv

Been enjoying doing that quite a lot too e.g. https://www.twitch.tv/videos/984209710

A note on Ultraworking

if i’m right this is kinda amazing right. these services existed for like a few years and apparently they just came up with a model and then never really tried to iterate on it and improve it

like e.g. ultraworking has all this incredible promo on their home page

It Works. Guaranteed.

We’ve got a few dozen pages of unsolicited reviews and testimonials, self-reports of performance increases ranging from +25% to +400%.

We’re 100% guaranteeing it’ll work for you.

On the off chance it doesn’t work for you — hasn’t happened yet — you’ll get a prompt, no-questions-asked, courteous refund. Seriously. Heck, if it doesn’t double your performance on sessions you attend, ask for a refund. Yeah, that’s a strong claim but it actually works amazing.

We’re offering 1000 free quarantine support accounts to our tech right now, and we’ll expand that number as we expand capacity.

and you know what, yes ultraworking does work when you’re in a session!!! except that:

  • you can’t schedule sessions in advance which means that when you’re in a bad mood you just won’t start work
  • you can only enter every 2 hours
  • you can’t have your meetings hassle free, they might just not let you in
  • their moderators are often distracting so you have to mute the window but if you mute the window you don’t get any social accountability at all except for a brief text message that you ask you write once every 2 hours and you end up feeling bad sitting there not interacting with anyone. IN FACT i was ultraworking on saturday, just sitting there being productive AND THEY FUCKING KICKED ME OUT OF THE ROOM because i guess moderator was trying to see if i was active and i couldn’t hear him??? they let me back in immediately when i tried to rejoin but like WTF

SO as a result ultraworking is fucking magic and they are offering 1000 free quarantine support accounts but there’s anywhere between 1-10 people actually working in total with them… (not to hate on ultraworking… They’re an interesting first step but it’s still disappointing how little iteration there is in the core product)


FAQ (to be continued…)

Q: but i work in the office with my coworkers and yes i felt accountable for a while but now it’s no different from working alone

A: BUT YOU DO NOT check in with someone specifically every 30 minutes and ASK VERY IMPORTANTLY “were you focused?” and “what are you working on?” to make sure you’re on track right??? you’re just sitting close to each other essentially. yes that doesn’t really work

7 Likes

Can I join?

How do I see the office hours in advance?

Or is this currently a friends only for now?

I’m the guy who contacted u that the ultraworking marathon links broke the other time

Very happy to see you do this experiment

Ultraworking does not have Asia friendly hours for me

pls email me

I’ve used Ultraworking intermittently for the last year or so and participated in an Ultraworking Pentathlon. I find UW cycles helpful when I have to move multiple projects forward in a day, circumstances where I’m most likely to get distracted and derailed. For those, the regular check-in is a good reset. Once I get some traction on a single project requiring long term concentration the 30/10 cycle is distracting and the work guides itself so I turn off the audio and lose track of the cycles. Something like 90/5 would work better.

UW has a strong bias towards coaching, hence all the productivity chatter. It’s not very scalable though they have been able to monetize it. Sort of. The subscription pricing seems a barrier to entry and I think they could tweak that a bit; I’d pay to preschedule a block of cycles when I need it.

There are a few Gym rats there who are almost always there, and I’m guessing they may have used those as their lead customers to develop the business model. But they’re rare weirdos, most users are intermittent. I’m guessing they’re using it as required as I do, but that isn’t supported by the pricing model.

scheduling extended work in advance and personal accountability to someone you know

This is insightful; not sure how you could get people to pay for it, but easy enough to set up with friends.

As for;

Working live on twitch.tv

Worst camgirl ever.

1 Like

Just did

Thanks

I also wonder if to some extent this has to do with Hawthorne effect

Either way so long it works … who cares am I right?

2 Likes

Any update on this? Is it still working?

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Yep, this is still working beautifully!!!

2 Likes

What are your thoughts on the Work Cycles spreadsheet/questions aspect of The Work Gym (Ultraworking)? They push it as an important, though of course with caveats / nuance when pushed.

Last year I had a lot of 1:1 Zooms with a friend, helped tremendously with their dissertation. I forget what I did during that time, lol. Some number of them was me sheepishly surfing the web, but on balance I think I was more productive than I would’ve been otherwise.

don’t really have an opinion on Work Cycles…