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7 Tips for Productive Coworking

How to optimize your experience with the coworking masses

It wasn’t long ago that coworking didn’t exist. It was a fortunate few among the freelancer and startup set that could work anywhere but an apartment or a coffeeshop.

Now, for a couple hundred bucks, a space of your own can be had, complete with coffee and the company of others. But it’s still a big, open space, rife with potential distractions – so it’s worth being a bit tactical about how you approach it.

1. Toss backup earbuds in your bag
Unfortunately, to cowork also means getting in touch with the annoying habits of humanity. Earbuds are essential, but one day you’ll forget your prized pair. And that will be the day that your neighbor will be tapping her fingers on the table for eight hours straight. Either keep the old ones that came with your phone, or pick up a pair of these Panasonics for under $15 just to leave in your bag.

2. Inquire early about seating assignments
Assuming you have an assigned spot, it’s worth knowing how easily you can switch if you do get stuck next to the eternal finger tapper or a McDonald’s devotee. Most spaces will work with you, but some have such intense waiting lists and carefully planned seating arrangements that it’s harder than you’d think to switch.

3. Brown bag it 
Lots of us trade in the coffee shop for a coworking space. But determining the real cost of both options is a slightly heady analysis. At the coffee shop, you may spend $5 on a coffee and a pastry for breakfast, $8 for a sandwich at lunch, and another $3 for an afternoon tea – in which case, you’re in for $16 every day. At twenty working days per month, that’s $320 per month. If you can prep your food at home and stick to the coffee provided at a coworking space, you can offset most of the cost of the membership itself.

4. Set a calendar reminder to meet people
Nearly everyone finishes their time at a coworking space and wishes they’d met more people. Put it on your recurring to-do list (literally setting a reminder in your calendar) to meet one person per day. Everyone there is naturally open to this, or they wouldn’t have signed up for a membership. If you did this every day and followed up after, we’re talking about 250 new LinkedIn connections over the course of a year.

5. Take a test drive 
Most coworking spaces that we know of will let you hang out of a day or two before you join. Do this before choosing one. You’ll stand a chance of knowing if the internet goes out at 3pm every day or if the noise in the evening is too much. Test the printers if that’s something you need and, perhaps most critically, sip the coffee.

6. Be the early bird 
It varies by city, but in New York, most coworking spaces are morgue-quiet at 8am, have some arrivals by 9am, but really don’t get cranked up until 10 or so. Show up at 8 every day and that will effectively give you have a private office for 10 hours per week.

7. Get out of there
Because coworking is fairly affordable, you shouldn’t feel bad about not using it every day, all day. If you know that it gets too noisy in the late afternoons, schedule your meetings for then. Or simply work one day at home. You’ll be happier longer if you can get away from the masses occasionally – and the low cost should mean you don’t feel bad about not using it.

Anyway you cut it, it beats working from home.

Now go forth (and find those old earbuds).

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