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How to get absolutely anything done (+ an invitation!)
"We are perpetually standing up our future-self, leaving her wide-eyed and hopeful under the clocktower at noon. But there is another way..."
I stood myself up today.
I had this hot date planned with my laptop - you know the kind, I’m sure. A lengthy to-do list, a couple of notebooks, one super-hot beverage and me (also hot, to be fair).
And then I just didn’t show up.
Well, I guess I did eventually - but so late that any romantic blooms clutched in first-date clammy hands would be wilted and droopy. Late enough that the passion had cooled.
I’d love to say it was the first time, but when it comes to honouring my commitments to my calendar, I’m a bit of a cad. Oh, I’ll show up diligently for clients and friends, for customers and colleagues - but to myself, I’m the kind of nightmare ghosting scoundrel that doesn’t even send a text.
Maybe it’s tied to fatigue; maybe it’s burnout or overwhelm. Maybe it’s an inescapable part of the ADHD brain. Maybe it’s all just an excuse.
But for whatever reason, there are just certain tasks in my life that I struggle to make myself do. And I know I’m not alone in this.
Every day I speak to clever, articulate women who struggle with taking action on their goals. Because knowing what steps to take is only half of the battle; making yourself follow through is what actually brings the results.
By subscribing to Entre Nous on Substack you are supporting the future of creativity online. If you’ve enjoyed my free podcasts, blog posts and newsletters over the past 10 years and can afford to support me, I’d love you to become a paid member here for just £1.15 a week. In return, I’ll send you exclusive deep-dive posts to support you in pursuing your dreams online, invite you to co-working calls, Q&As and events and provide a close, connected community space where we all can hang out online. Sound good?
Maybe this all sounds familiar. We buy planners and scheduling apps. We write endless to-do lists everywhere. We block out time in our calendars to just show up and do it, and then we let ourselves down, again and again. In French they call it to poser un lapin: (literally: to lay down a rabbit 🐰) It means to be disregarded; stood up.
We are perpetually standing our future selves up, leaving them wide-eyed and hopeful under the clocktower at noon.
Why do we do this? Why do we let ourselves down when it counts?
I’ve spent long enough digging into this lapin-hole to know there are no tidy answers at the root of it. It’s about fear of rejection and criticism and pain. About perfectionism and trying to control how we’re perceived by the world. It’s about how much we value ourselves, ultimately - none of which is particularly solvable when it’s Monday morning and you’ve got some serious shit to get through.
Self-acceptance is the work of a lifetime. How can we crack on with the things burning up our to-do lists today?
Enter: the magic of co-working.
Another Nervous System
You might already know about mirror neurones. “A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another.” Essential wiring for child development and acquiring new skills all through adulthood - and also, perhaps, for shifting into different states of activity.
Working in a busy office has its share of disadvantages, but there’s something about the quiet presence of other people’s industriousness that helps focus the mind. Combine that with ongoing accountability to a boss or manager and it’s little wonder that previously type-A, high-achieving employees can find themselves adrift when they leave a conventional workplace and decide to go at it alone.
Even my 10 year old has this struggle. “I need you to help me get dressed” she’ll wail from her bedroom, but she doesn’t mean practical help. She just wants me to stand there and hold her accountable. ‘Put your leggings on next. Now it’s time for your vest'.
In the ADHD-world they call this ‘body doubling’; enhanced focus and motivation when given another human-being as a guide. In Somatic Therapy they teach something similar; how when you’re feeling dis-regulated, sitting opposite someone at peace can help your nervous system unwind.
And it works for productivity, too. It works brilliantly, in fact.
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The Magic of Co-Working
You already know about co-working spaces, of course. You can find one near your home (I sometimes use the Egg Factory in Hebden Bridge), or go and work from a cafe somewhere.
OR… you can join me & this amazing community for our first virtual co-working session, starting next week! In your pyjamas, if you like. And all without needing to pack up all your stuff when you run to the loo! 🎉
Virtual co-working is different. (In some ways it’s even MORE magical - see the point essential toilet info above.) You can do it in pairs or bigger groups - I find the magic works just the same either way.
Wondering what on earth I’m talking about? Let me explain…
Step 1: Pick a time and set a duration. I recommend a minimum of an hour, maximum of 2, but YMMV.
Step 2: Show up in a Zoom call together.
Step 3: Exchange a few words about your intentions for the session; what you’ll have completed by the end, how you will measure your success.
Step 4: Mute yourselves but leave your cameras on, and get to work.
Step 5: Check back in at the agreed end time together; share what you got done.
It doesn’t sound like magic, I know, but I’m telling you - this shit is sorcery.
Whatever the task you’ve been procrastinating or avoiding, you will do it in that call.
It’s in the gentle nudge of accountability - that others will see you if you drift away from your desk. It’s knowing you need to share your work at the end of the call.
It’s something about our natural urge to honour appointments with other people far more than we ever honour ourselves. It’s in the ticking clock, the exam-room-hush. It’s indefinable, really. All I know is it works.
If you want to give it a go, I’m running drop-in co-working calls for all paid subscribers of Entre Nous!
We kick off next week (Weds 5th April), and by subscribing today, you also get access to my monthly guides on all things creative business and digital marketing, industry expert live Q&As, the heart of our social community and lots of other fun things still to come! Subscribing costs as little as £4.60/month (that’s about £1.16 a week) right now - sign up today to lock in at the lowest introductory price for forever!
See you in there? I’ll be the one clutching a single red rose and a giant to-do list.
Don’t stand me up now… 🥀
Does co-working and accountability work for you? What’s on your to-do list right now that really needs that extra push?
Let’s chat in the comments!
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