Cotivation tools: running a great work sprint

You’ve got a deadline and need one more push to complete the task at hand.

You’ve been talking about getting a project off the ground for months but have yet to put pen to paper.

You’ve reorganized your desk five different times and still the work isn’t flowing the way you want it to.

Maybe it’s time for a Work Sprint!

Work Sprint

A Work Sprint is a simple gathering designed for participants to dive into “heads-down” work together for specific periods of time. It’s in the same family as a Pomodoro, if that term is familiar to you. We’ve used Work Sprints as a tool within Cotivation groups as well as within our coworking communities at large and are always impressed. Something wonderful happens when you set aside some time and agree to focused work alongside others.

Curious to run a Work Sprint in your space? We’d love to help you out. Here are the tips we believe are key to a successful sprint:

Set a clear start and end time. One of the benefits of doing a Work Sprint is that you get a clear structure where you might otherwise not have any.

Know what you’ll be working on before you start. When all participants have their tasks lined up ahead of time you can get straight to work.

Tune into the timing that feels right for the group. Sometimes a 25-minute limit per sprint session is right; sometimes an hour or even more. Strive to be consistent but pragmatic.

Consistency is key. Try to run your Work Sprint on a regular basis, so people can learn to work it into their habitual workflow. It’s not necessary, but it can help a lot.

Have fun! Celebrate your wins, laugh off your losses, and make the experience a pleasant one. If all of you are your own bosses, then be great bosses to yourselves, together! Own and enjoy your hard-earned autonomy.

Cotivation tools: building a community “To-Done!” board

You know that moment when a to-do becomes to-done? That soul-satisfying second when your list becomes one item shorter? Whether it’s crossing off an item on a hand-written list, archiving a card on Trello or clicking a check-box on Evernote, knocking an item off the list feels awesome.

That satisfied feeling is great kept to yourself, but has the potential to create a ripple effect when shared with others. Think of how much more productive we become in a coworking space: when working beside others getting things done, we’re more likely to get things done too (and have some fun while we’re at it, of course). Well, sharing what it is you got done that day – no matter how big or small – can inspire others to do the same. And it might even provide some needed momentum to others feeling a bit stuck in their progress.


The members at Office Nomads introduced the “To-Done!” board to do just that. The idea is simple, and was born out of one of our first Cotivation sessions. The board sits just outside the community kitchen, which means nearly everyone in the space has a chance to see it. At the start of each day a member writes down one thing they got done that day. Inevitably it inspires someone else to do the same. By the end of the day the list is full of “to-done” items big and small. Together we’ve created a different kind of list: one that shows us all that we accomplished instead of all that is yet to be done. Now that is satisfying.

What’s it like to run a Cotivation session?

Our first Cotivation Organizer Training group is just wrapping up, and we could not be more excited about how well it’s gone. Watching new Cotivation groups coalesce and grow has been an absolute pleasure, and we’re already eagerly planning our next session for organizers. If you’re interested in starting your own Cotivation group, please drop us a line! Training begins the week of August 24th, and is scheduled to help you get rolling right at the beginning of the busy fall season.

What can you expect from running Cotivation in your coworking space? Growing and improving your group facilitation skills, getting some things done, and most importantly, getting to know a small group of your members much, much better. The connections born from a shared experience like Cotivation can help to build strong bonds amongst members of your coworking community. The value of these bonds really cannot be overstated – they are the building blocks upon which your healthy community can flourish.

We spoke with two of our new Cotivation organizers, and wanted to share some of their experiences with you. Kaylyn started the first Cotivation group at the Halton HiVE in Burlington, Ontario. Ruby ran her first Cotivation group at Office Nomads in Seattle, WA.

What was your experience like as an organizer?

K: This was my first Cotivation – or any group facilitation – experience, so I was really unsure what to expect as a novice. The overall experience was very positive. I learned a lot about managing a group of adults, how group dynamics work and I got to know a lot about the group of individuals which was a bonus.

R: I learned to ask questions that could tie what one member was talking about into what another member had mentioned to try to remove myself from the spotlight a little bit. Probably the most valuable thing I learned was to not be afraid of the silence. It was really easy to just want to talk to fill up the space. But if I just waited, someone always said something.

Were there any great stories that came up during your Cotivation sessions? 

R: One of my favorite conversations we had was about how hard it is to get out of bed in the morning. Katie had a story about the alarm clock she had when she was in school that had wheels and would run away from her when it went off. An excellent device to get her out of bed, but had to be given up when she start cohabiting. It was in one of our earlier sessions and it was really great to get everyone involved, engaged, and laughing. I was glad we could all find a common ground and it seemed like it really connected all the Cotivators early on.

K: After we were done our very last session, one member, Josh, wrapped it up with something like, “also, (pointing at James), I need to talk to you about updating my website, (pointing at Kune), I need to talk to you about video, (pointing at Jenny), and I need to talk to you about marketing.” His goal was to get to know members of the HiVE and network. It was pretty cool.

Has Cotivation made an impact on your coworking community?

K: Having Cotivation as an option is a huge value add to members; meeting people, creating bonds and being more successful with their work is a big reason why entrepreneurs join coworking spaces and Cotivation assists with all of these things. I know that there are many other members that are interested in what we were doing for the past 6 weeks, and I think it can become a movement which will definitely impact our space on a larger level.

Now that it’s all over, would you do it again? 

R: I would definitely do Cotivation again. I enjoyed having that time every week to really connect with people in the space and hear about their projects. I also got a lot of my own things done, which was awesome.

K: Absolutely. I plan on holding round 2 in the fall!

Interested in starting a Cotivation group in your coworking space or collaborative community setting? Drop us a line – we’d love to hear from you.


Watch our video chat about rebooting the culture in your community now! (plus 4 handy tips)

We had an awesome time catching up with a few folks today over Google Hangout, talking about what it takes to revitalize a community. The full video of our conversation is embedded below. Some key takeaways:

You can’t force a disengaged community to change. The people who have an existing cultural expectation are really hard to shift by sheer willpower. That being said, there are still some things you can do:

Tips for re-engaging a dormant community

1. Create a diverse set of ways for people to connect.
Not everyone socializes the same way, so you should ensure people have as many different avenues as possible. This includes online discussion groups, social events, one-on-one invitations to connect, and special onboarding meetings for new members.

2. Identify individuals who you can focus your attention on.
By performing a full evaluation of your community and who’s in it, you can find a smaller number of people who might likely respond to efforts to jumpstart activity in your community. Talk to them one-on-one and see what kinds of possibilities emerge.

If you can get just one person to set an example for the others, things get easier from there.

3. Treat people like humans.
It’s hard to over-estimate the value of just talking to people. Getting to know people as people and not just customers paves the way to deeper connection, which provides a critical base of trust upon which greater things can be built.

Talk to people about what they care about. Find out what makes them tick. Get them talking, and then look for opportunities to help them to see how they could use your community to help them.

4. Let go. 
Again, you can’t force these kinds of things. Fortunately, every community has turnover, and in this there lies a fresh opportunity. Every time an old member leaves and a new member joins, there’s a chance to shift the community’s culture by ensuring the new member has different expectations about how things work.

You can take this further by planning special events designed to attract new members in a way that sets more participatory expectations right off the bat.

Cotivation is designed for just such a purpose. It gives organizers an easy way to reboot their community using a simple, out-of-the-box procedure that consistently generates powerful new sub-communities inside of larger communities.

Over time, the positive and participatory cultures of these sub-communities pervades in the rest of the community. Then you’re on your way!

Lots more in our hour-long conversation embedded below. Pop it on while you work and of course contact us with any questions! Our next round of training for new organizers kicks off the last week of August. If you’re interested in joining, register now!


Ready to revitalize your coworking community’s culture? Join us the week of August 24!

If you’re interested in becoming a Cotivation organizer, learn more here, register for updates, or apply now!

We’re midway through our first-ever training of new Cotivation organizers, and I’m already excited to get more people on board! Susan and I have been meeting weekly with three new organizers who are each developing their own communities, and so far it’s been a tremendously valuable experience for everyone involved.

To that end, Susan and I are kicking off the next round of training the week of August 24. Apply now if you’d like to be a part of our next class of organizers!

Prepare for the post-Labor Day rush.

Summer is a great time to plan and prepare for the fall, when many people look for a new coworking community to join. Kicking off a Cotivation group right at the peak of a seasonal shift will help you onboard newcomers with intention and give people who are on the fence an excuse to pick a day to join.

If you run a coworking community, you might be aware of the natural generational shifts that happen as members of your community join and leave over time. With each incoming generation, you have a chance to shape the future of your community’s culture and the attitudes of the people who join in subsequent generations.

Cotivation was designed to give you a powerful cultural refresh by building a new core of highly bonded people from within. We did this to great success at New Work City, and others have done so in their spaces over the past few years as well.

The training program: 10 weeks of awesome.

Our first training program has at once been instantly very valuable to everyone involved while also being a great opportunity for us to learn how to help people become more effective facilitators.

Meeting primarily over a Skype video session every Wednesday, we create an implicit sense of routine and accountability that mirrors the benefits a Cotivation group provides members—each week we check in with each other, see how everyone is doing and brainstorm solutions for challenges anyone is facing.

Throughout the week, we continue the discussion in our online discussion group, where all organizers are invited to contribute their experiences and ideas.

If you want to cultivate a better culture in your space, and get more members to not just join but stick around, Cotivation is a great program to make that happen—and September’s a great time to launch it!

If you’re interested in joining us for our August training session, contact me or apply now!

We’ll also be doing a free Cultural Revitalization session on Monday, August 3 at 1:00pm ET. Register for updates to learn more about how to join!

Register for our free webinar: Reboot the culture in your coworking space

There’s a particularly awful kind of feeling to have when you’re a coworking space owner. It’s the one you feel when you’re looking around your space, seeing some seats sitting empty while others are filled by people on their headphones staring at their screens. People come in, they go to their desk, they work, they leave. There’s maybe some chitchat.

You planned some ice-breaker events and had decent attendance, but for the most part people just don’t respond.

When you got started, it was better. There was excitement and energy. People wanted to help. Now, it seems like people just want to be customers. They just want to be served.

What happened? Wasn’t this supposed to be a community? Where did it go?

If you resonate with this, then you and your community may be in a cultural trough. It’s not unusual; every community experiences a natural ebb and flow as people come and go and time marches on. People who were excitedly helping you get started move on, or become complacent.

You come up against the hard reality that you can’t force people to want to participate in a community.

So now what do you do?

This is where our conversation begins. While it may seem impossible to dig a stagnant community culture out of its trough, it’s not—we’ve been there before.

The trick to revitalizing a community’s culture is to think of it as if you’re starting a new community from within. You start with a basic question: what are the unfulfilled wants and needs of present and future community members?

Then: how can you take these needs and create opportunities for people to see how they can fulfill those needs through your community?

With the right kind of focus and effort, you can have a vibrant culture bursting forth once again in relatively short order.

Let’s talk about how. Over the past several years, we (Susan and Tony, hi!) have been running programs in our spaces that have consistently revitalized our communities. Join us Thursday, August 5 at 2:00 ET (see your time zone here) for a special informational session where we’ll dive into what it takes to revitalize your community in the best possible way.

Space is limited, because that’s how video chats work. RSVP for the Hangout, register for email updates, or tune in below!

You can also learn more on our Cotivation site or apply now for our next training session, which runs August to October!

Tony + Susan

Collaborative motivation groups

Back at the end of 2012, I was facing an interesting challenge: New Work City’s membership was lagging after a slow Fall season, and the culture was starting to slide into one of passive workspace consumption. Which is not what we’re about.

So I wanted to undertake an effort that would simultaneously stimulate interest in membership while also creating an opportunity to revitalize the culture from within. I wanted to promote our place in a way that was more substantial than just “we’re great, come hang with us! Really!” — so I thought about a program that would give people a way to forge deeper, more intentional working relationships with each other.

I thought about what I needed myself, and what I saw in others. Two themes came up consistently: structure and accountability. In traditional employment, these things are taken care of, but for independent workers these critical constructs are nearly nonexistent without some kind of deliberate effort.

So to that end, I cooked up a basic but powerful concept for an accountability group, dubbed Cotivation (think collaborative motivation), where participants would meet weekly to set goals, keep each other accountable, and discuss whatever’s holding them back.

I themed the first one around making and keeping a New Year’s resolution and published it just before the end of the year, inviting people to join for our official kickoff in mid-January (why mid-January? because that’s when you most need a boost; after the initial excitement of the new year has worn off. But also because it gave us some time to promote it).

What resulted was incredible: a dozen or so people, some existing members and some newcomers, got together and started opening up to each other. We dug deep. We talked about our hopes and dreams and what was holding us back.

We set monthly goals and then weekly interim milestones, checking in each week to see whether we’d done what we’d said we would. Inevitably, some of us would fail, which gave us a chance to examine why. We’d discuss, we’d adjust, and we’d repeat.

When the first Cotivation came to a close in February, the next step was obvious: let’s do this again. So we repeated the format, inviting others to join.

We quickly formed deep bonds. The people who participated in those early Cotivation sessions ended up being the same people who went out for drinks after work and joined our volleyball team in the springtime.

Today, Cotivation groups are running or in development in New York, Seattle, Toronto, and Fort Collins. A handful of members run their own Cotivation group at New Work City now, with new groups on the way.

I’m excited about the ways Cotivation can help independents have a sense of the crucial structure and accountability they need, while also giving coworking spaces a valuable way to facilitate stronger connections and greater value between members.

If you’re interested in starting a Cotivation group, contact us!