This week’s episode is all about virtual coworking.
You may remember Megan Flatt from Episode 15 which was all about using personal outreach to grow your audience. Today, I’m speaking with Megan again, more specifically about her online virtual coworking space, Focus Sessions.
Focus Sessions are timed, structured, virtual sessions where you can get important tasks done with the accountability of other people. There’s something about the human brain that functions better when we have other people there along for the ride with us – and Megan’s got the science down – even to the number of minutes!
In this episode, Megan will talk all about what Focus Sessions are and why they’re helpful for people who work from home – and how they’re especially great for getting those important but not necessarily urgent tasks done.
If you struggle to get tasks done while working from home, give Focus Sessions a try at focus-sessions.com
Read the full transcript
Meg Casebolt 0:01
You’re listening to social slowdown a podcast for entrepreneurs and micro businesses looking for sustainable marketing strategies without being dependent on social media. Social media is a double edged sword. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected. But it also can feel like an addictive obligation. And it’s even more complex for businesses, your audience might be right there, but you’ve got to fight with algorithms to maybe be seen by them. So whether you want to abandon social media altogether, or you just want to take a month off, it’s possible to have a thriving business without being dependent on social media. This podcast is all about finding creative, sustainable ways to engage with your audience without needing to lip sync, send a cold DMS, run ads or be available 24/7. Let’s get started. Hey, y’all happy summer is my favorite season of the year. And where I live in upstate New York, it lasts about five minutes. So I’ve decided to take some time off from creating content in order to really enjoy as much time away from my keyboard as humanly possible. But I didn’t want to just leave you high and dry for the next three months. So we’ve got a fun podcast plan. Here at love. At first search, we’re all about making evergreen marketing assets really work for you long term. So this summer, we are practicing what we preach. And we’re repurposing something that we created last year, releasing it out to the public for the first time. So last year, we ran an event called SEO summer camp, which focused on creating efficient content marketing systems. And as part of summer camp, I interviewed 15 of my fellow business owners all about their tips for planning strategic content and creating engaging content consistently and utilizing that same content across multiple channels like YouTube or podcasts in order to grow their audience. So over the next nine or so weeks, you’ll hear those interviews here on the podcast. Some of them might be slightly out of date, but we still think they’re incredibly valuable resources. And we did not want to limit their reach by only having them available to the people who were involved in last year’s event. So you may notice that I start most of the interviews with something like hey, summer campers, and then I give recommendations based on what was happening in the community and the live events we are running. That’s why I wanted to give some context in this introduction. So you’re not just like, What the heck is she talking about. And because we are spending this summer in our podcast talking all about content marketing systems and creating more efficiently, I want to tell you about something that we’re going to be launching at the end of this summer, we’re going to be creating a new digital product, I am tentatively calling it the SEO content Maximizer it may change names by the time we actually release it. We will be sharing all of the love it first search templates and processes and systems that we use to turn every podcast and every YouTube video into its own blog and newsletter and social media content. To give some context in about six to eight hours a week, our team produces one YouTube video, a podcast, two blog posts, a newsletter and five social media posts, you obviously would not need to do that much as a small business owner, we’re you know, we’ve been doing this for a long time we’ve created these solid content marketing systems. But we’ve got this process so locked down that we want to share that with you so that it will be easier for you to make more strategic content in less time. If you’re interested in hearing about that new content Maximizer product when it’s ready, head over to love it for search.com/maximize Sign up for the waitlist. And you’ll be the first to know when we’re ready for beta testers. And if you’re listening to this in the future, you can head to that. And we’ll redirect it to where you can find out more about that product. Alright, so there’s the context as to what you’re hearing this summer and why. Without further ado, let’s get started with the interview. Hey there summer campers, it’s Meg. I’m here with Megan flat. Megan has been my business coach, my friend, my mentor for a very long time. And now she is the founder of a new adventure, which you guys are all able to take part of she is the founder of focus sessions, which is a virtual co working membership. And she’s been generous enough to offer it to everyone in SEO summer camp for three months from June 1, which has already been us through August 30. So you can use the code for the next few weeks. That’s right below this video. I think it’s SEO summer, right? Yeah, that sounds right. So you can sign up you’ll get a membership. Normally this is $29 a month but for the summer, we’re rolling it right into summer camp to make the most of it. So I will let Megan take it away and kind of explain what is focused sessions. How can you want first we’ll start with just what is focused sessions.
Megan Flatt 4:58
Yeah, thank you so much. for having me and I love I love working with you. And I feel all your introduction of me, I feel like it’s my introduction of you, I feel like you’ve been my mentor and friend, and all of those things
Meg Casebolt 5:09
like business bestie thing where like, just you cross hire each other enough to
Megan Flatt 5:15
just trade money back and forth.
Meg Casebolt 5:17
It’s basically just Yeah, coastal transit, you know, transfer of money back and forth between.
Megan Flatt 5:26
Exactly. So focus sessions exactly what you said focus sessions is a virtual co working membership. And we have right now we just launched. Right now we have 14 sessions a week, all the sessions are 90 minutes long. And it is designed for you to follow a specific framework that we’ve created. And I’ve been running these focus sessions, we’ve called them different things we, but I’ve been running these focus sessions in my business coaching programs for years for at least the last five years as a component. And Meg, I’m sure when you were in one of my programs, like you took advantage of of them. But we found that in our business coaching programs, we were we were teaching all this information, we were asking our clients to do these things to make these edits to think about their business in a different way to work on a marketing plan, whatever the content was, that we were teaching, but really the thing that people were struggling the most with, when it came to moving their business forward. And actually, we just did a survey with our current clients. And the number one thing people said that was holding them back from moving their business forward was too much to do and not enough time to do it in. And we this was a survey. And so we gave people choices, like more fun, like increased funding, more team members, more business education, and the still the number one thing that people chose was too much to do not enough time to do it in. And so that was really where we realized, okay, we need to bring focus sessions to the main front and to stand alone. And we need to offer these containers where people can come to a session, follow the framework that we’ve developed over years using neuroscience, using meditation, using brain science, you know, using all of these different modalities, and we’ve figured out a great way to help people focus and have a container for getting the important things done that move your business forward. And that’s really what focus sessions is all about.
Meg Casebolt 7:33
And so these are currently you have 14 a week, and they’re all 90 minutes long. What’s the reason why they’re 90 minutes?
Megan Flatt 7:42
So there’s a couple of reasons. And first, and we went around and around with, you know, all sorts of different time lengths. And and we have well, I’ll talk about that in a minute about our future plans. But so there is research that shows that 90 minutes is about the amount of time that we can stay focused on one thing without needing to you know, to get a snack to get it, you know, change of scenery, kind of I still need a snack at the halfway. Right? Yeah, I need a snack in the middle. But but that there’s but that’s about what the human brain can handle. And then within that 90 minutes, we have it broken down minute by minute. So you start with a about an eight minute welcome sequence where again, we help coach you through, we remind you to put your phone in airplane mode to turn off the notifications to close tabs on your computer to shut your office door to get the noise cancelling headphones like we we cue you all of the things that will help you focus. And then within the 90 minutes we do 237 minute sprints. And there’s also research so part of that is math part of that is we wanted to fit in two Sprint’s into the 90 minutes. But there’s a lot of neuroscience research and you know, we’ve talked about you know of like the Pomodoro Technique, which is 25 minutes, but the research that the Pomodoro Technique is based off of is actually 25 to 40 minutes is the ideal amount of interval for you to focus. So we do about 35 to 37 minute sprint, we call it then we offer a three minute break, and then we do another 37 minutes sprint so you actually get to focus Sprint’s within that 90 minute focus session.
Meg Casebolt 9:27
Yeah, and that’s really nice too, because you can walk into it and say I’m going to get this done in this amount of time knowing that you have that break in the middle point to so what is what’s like a good project that you can really like take a bite out of in a 37 minute or 90 minute time window.
Megan Flatt 9:47
Great. So we recommend that you think of three we have three buckets that we recommend that you think of. So really great use for a focus session. The first one is deep work. So that is the the end important if you think about that Eisenhower matrix,
Meg Casebolt 10:03
urgent, not important, important, but not urgent, and then exactly not urgent, not important. And whatever the fourth one is.
Megan Flatt 10:12
Yeah. Can’t remember what’s urgent and important. It’s urgent and important. urgent, important, right? So focus sessions are really good for the important, but not urgent things. And those are the things and if you this is not my concept, this is the Eisenhower method. If you if you google anything on the Eisenhower matrix, those things that are important, but not urgent, those are the most important things to do. Those are the big, the big things. Those are the things that move your business forward,
Meg Casebolt 10:43
like all the SEO are important, but not urgent. So yeah, I feel exactly. That’s the
Megan Flatt 10:48
perfect example. Like, it’s those things that you’re like, I know, if I, you know, worked on my SEO, I know that if I, you know, did some outreach to potential referral partners, right?
Meg Casebolt 11:01
I don’t know that AIDS accounting you like any date your taxes, sometimes. But if you’re keeping on top of it, it’s important, but it’s not urgent to reconcile your books every month. But it’s really important because you don’t want to get audited.
Megan Flatt 11:17
And so much of what we do, especially as CEOs, and especially as business owners fall into the the urgent, right, the either urgent and important, like, Oh, my God, a client is having a crisis, or a team member needs something. And so we spend so much of our day, putting out those fires, right, like doing those things that are like you have to help me right now with this thing, or this thing is broken. And we have to do this right now. And so focus sessions is a chance to kind of block out and move into that. Urgent, I mean, important, but not urgent, category.
Meg Casebolt 11:50
Why can’t I just turn on a Pomodoro? Timer? Why do I need to have a focus session for it? Well,
Megan Flatt 11:55
you absolutely can. And we recommend we recommend, I mean, we recommend that. But the thing that you get with focus sessions also is you get the accountability. So at the beginning of the session, you’re with a group of people. And at the beginning of the session, everyone declares what they’re working on. So everyone kind of commits to I’m going to be working on my SEO summer camp homework, right? I’m going to be working on this week’s assignment. So you declare what you’re working on. And we even put you into an optional breakout room for one minute, so that you end up in a breakout room, and you say, Hey, I’m Meghan, and I’m working on my SEO summer camp homework. At the end of the 90 minutes, we asked you to celebrate your wins to put what you accomplished into the chat. And if you’re like, Oh, I spent the entire time scrolling Facebook, like, nobody wants to say that, right? Like you, you want that accountability. And you just met this person in the breakout room that is like private messaging you saying, hey, how do you do you know, so? So there’s that accountability, and research shows that accountability improves your performance by 300%? So, I mean, it’s, you know, it’s why we work out with a personal trainer, it’s why, you know, we do all of these other things, too. So. So that’s really that accountability piece. And oh, and then the other thing, because this happens to me all the time, I try to do my own pomodoros. But you tend to do you tend to, or maybe I’m the only one, but I don’t think I’m the only one where you’re like, oh, I’ll just return this email really quick. And then I’ll start the importance. And so then you return the email, but then that person emails you back, and then you’re like, then they have a question. So then you have to go research the thing to find out so you can answer the question. And then all of a sudden, your day is over. And you haven’t done that important thing. But if you have an appointment with focus sessions, if you know that focus session starts at 9am, you’re not going to say, Oh, let me just do this really quick. And I’ll start, I’ll start that important work later, you’re in that mindset of just as if you were showing up to work with a friend or work with a personal trainer, or whatever it is, like you’re going to, you’re going to do it at the time that it’s scheduled. I’ll be honest,
Meg Casebolt 13:53
I did a focus session today at noon, and at 1130. I was like, Maybe I should just skip it. It’s very much that like, personal trainer thing. I’m just I’m gonna sit here I’m gonna, this is what I’m gonna get working on. I have this blog post I want to write. It’s like I told you before we started recording, it’s like a piece of marble. You get to chip away at it slowly, kind of blog posts. So it’s like, Okay, I am not going to do this. If I don’t have somebody there to make
Megan Flatt 14:21
sure I’m doing it. Yeah, exactly. That’s really what it is. I
Meg Casebolt 14:26
interrupted you before we were talking about the Eisenhower matrix, and you said deep work. And then you said that there were two other buckets and I can’t remember what those are.
Megan Flatt 14:33
So I haven’t seen because I haven’t told you yet. So the two other buckets. So the second bucket is planning and visioning. And I think that as entrepreneurs, we don’t spend enough time planning and visioning. And there’s also research that shows that for every one minute you spend planning you actually save 10 minutes on execution. And I think so many of us were busy. We have a lot to do we have limited time. So we sit down at our desk and we just dive into the to do Last and we just start getting things done. But I think that another good use and this is where I love the two sprints, because another really great use of a focus session is to map out the project or, or spend some time visioning. What does the new course you’re offering look like or planning, I attended a Monday morning session or Tuesday morning session this week, since it was a short week, and I spent the first sprint planning my week, you know, and figuring out what when I was going to get things done when I’m picking up my kids from school, all of those things. So using that time to plan so that then the rest of your week is more efficient. And so that can be a really good use of your time. And again, you’ve got those two sprints, so you could do some planning during the first sprint, and then some execution during the second. And then the third thing, and those first two buckets are really what I recommend or what we recommend you focus on first. But the third bucket, I call clearing the deck, because sometimes you have a really hard time focusing, because there’s so many of those little nagging tasks on your to do list. And you’ve got
Meg Casebolt 16:07
to call the pediatricians office to get the immunizations sent to the summer camp. But yeah, that’s on mine.
Megan Flatt 16:11
Exactly, exactly. And so sometimes it’s like, your brain won’t let you sink into the deep work because you’re like, Oh, don’t forget to call the pediatrician. And oh, I’ve got to do that other thing and order the groceries and do the thing. So we call that clearing the deck. And sometimes it’s nice to just again, have that block of time, where you just say I’m going to spend the next 90 minutes or I’m going to spend the next 37 minutes, and I’m just going to power process many things off my list, I’m going to call the pediatrician, I’m gonna order the groceries, I’m gonna pay the bill, because then those things are done, then you can move on whether it’s in a focus session, or even just in your own work time. It’s like, okay, I got all of those things done. Now I can focus on writing this really meaty blog posts that I need all my brain to focus on.
Meg Casebolt 16:57
Now, would you recommend doing like, could people do two focus sessions a day? Or would that just like burn all of your brain power? You? So my son is like, dropped out some days?
Megan Flatt 17:10
Exactly. And so I think so. Can you come to two a day? Absolutely. Like, are you allowed to? Absolutely. And I think, and I and we actually had people coming to two a day this week and using them that way, you know, using a morning session to maybe work on some of that, that clear the deck and some planning and then the afternoon session for the deep work. So absolutely you can, you could also kind of get into a rhythm where you come you come like every day at the same time. Like we have a 9am Pacific which is noon, you know, East Coast, like every day. So you could just kind of get in the habit of like, okay, every day at noon, I do a focus session. I also think there is a learning curve, to focusing in general,
Meg Casebolt 17:58
isn’t Pomodoro is it’s like, I remember when I first started doing me, I had to work my way up to 15 minutes of doing something and then I went to 20. And then I went to 25. Because like I got my brain was like nope, you can’t stop yet.
Megan Flatt 18:10
Exactly, exactly. But it takes a little bit of practice. And I know, even when, you know, when when I started doing them, I would check my email, I would get distracted, I would do the things that you know, and, and so I think there is a little bit of a learning curve, and also figuring out how much can you personally get done in a 37 Minute. Because I we always tell people, you know, be realistic, don’t say I’m going to do these 12 things in this 37 minute sprint. So there’s a little bit of a learning curve there too. So going deciding, you know, we got some, you know, some feedback, or someone said, we always ask you at the end of a focus session, we asked you to rank your focus. And part of the reason we asked you to rank your focus on a scale of one to five is so that you can assess that, like, were you able to if you were at a 6am focus session, was that a good time for you to focus? Or was that not a good time? It would be right and that would be a terrible time. So So learning that about yourself learning that like oh, now, you know, for someone else, a mutual friend of ours, Shanna Clingerman, came to a 6am time slot, and she was like, this is like bonus time. This was amazing. Like this was great. You know, so for some people, it works. And for some people, you know, it doesn’t work. So so back to your question, Should I come? Could I come to two a day? I know we’re all overachievers here. Right. So So yes, you can come to two a day, you can come to three a day, but also test things out. Like does it work for you to come to today? Maybe it works for you to come to two a day and then not come for two days or something like that. But test things out. Do you like the 9am slot? Would you rather come to a 3pm slot like you know kind of testing those out and figuring out what works best for you? And then also what are the types of things that you like? like to do I know for me, when I get to that later afternoon, that’s where I want to work on more like Project D stuff, like I might want to work on a writing assignment or something like that. So that’s going to be unique to you. And so test it out, test it out, test out the different time slots, test out the different things to focus on. Maybe you want to use focus sessions to clear the deck so that you can use other time to focus on something else.
Meg Casebolt 20:23
Yeah. Yeah, just having that time where you say, I’m just gonna answer ever I’m gonna get to inbox zero by the end of this. And then I don’t have to think about my email for a couple hours, at least maybe a day or two, if you’re really loves himself. Yeah.
Megan Flatt 20:39
Exactly. Yeah, exactly.
Meg Casebolt 20:41
So might be good. If you’re thinking cyclically, maybe it’s like, I’m gonna have a Monday morning focus session where I do my planning and visioning for the week and I have a Friday afternoon ish focus session to clear the deck to reflect loads out the plan. To close things out, that might be a really interesting way to use the time aside from just every day at noon, I’ll show up and write something or every day at you know, three, I’ll do this, but really thinking of it as what are the cycles of your week that you could potentially work this into and hold that space for those tasks that are important, but not urgent?
Megan Flatt 21:18
Exactly, exactly. And we one one thing I wanted to say too, because this has come up, a couple of people have asked their 90 minute sessions, if you need to leave at the break, which gives which that’s going to be a little that’s about the 15 minute mark. You it’s no problem. It’s no problem. So some people were like, I don’t want to leave early. So I can’t come you know, my one of my best friend has a newborn, and she’s like, Oh, I won’t be able to, I won’t be able to be there for 90 minutes. I’m
Meg Casebolt 21:44
like, come until you can’t be there anymore. You know, and she’s like, great, you know, so So that’s an option to one is taking attendance, no one is checking to see who shows up and who doesn’t. I mean, you probably are just to know what times of day people are coming, right? And if they have more of a headcount than like, yeah, Rachel and Sarah are here again, good. They get bonus points. Like there’s no brownie points for showing up. It’s just right, if it works for you.
Megan Flatt 22:09
And that’s another great just logistical technical question, too. So people have asked do you have to sign up ahead of time. So when you when your focus session member, you have access to the calendar, you can choose, we have the whole summer in there already. So you can choose like, I’m going to come next Thursday at 9am. The reason we recommend that is because then you put it on your calendar, you block it out, you’re not going to schedule a client call over the top, you know, you’re going to have some focus sessions on your calendar. But if you wake up, and it’s not, you don’t wake up at 855, maybe you do. But if you if you at 855, say there’s a focus session that starts in five minutes, you can jump in, and you just when you’re when you’re logged in as a member, the button that normally says Start your free trial will actually say join the neck like can’t remember what it says join the next session, something like that join join current session, you click that button, it’s going to bring you right into the next available focus session without having to actually register Natalie, our tech person isn’t genius. And she figured out all of that stuff. So so if you are thinking like oh, like my client just cancelled, I can jump into a focus session. But I didn’t sign up. No problem. No problem. All right,
Meg Casebolt 23:25
I’m gonna see if I can. I’m gonna see if I can share this on my screen. Yeah. Okay, so really quickly, guys. So that way you can see at work if you’re not already signed up as a member, because I am, here is the focus session. I’m logged in. So you can see here that I am because it says log out instead. And then I came over to the current schedule button, and I can just click save your seat. And, of course, it’s going to take a second to load zoom ticks. But you know, it says already saved. Let’s see your zoom link is in your confirmation email, or click here to join the current session. So if you do have that 855 moment, you can hop right into that one. Or I can say, Alright, I’m going to plan to go next Friday at three, I’m going to sign up for that or tomorrow at noon. Maybe I’ll sign up for that now. And there’s all my information and I can schedule it, and then it will automatically send me an email, it will send me the details of where I want to go. If I want that text message, I can do that too. And it’s that simple. And then it will show up automatically on my Google calendar. So it doesn’t have to be this super complex thing. It’s just as easy as booking anything. Oh, there’s my phone going, Hey, you just booked something. Yeah, right. And then you can join as many sessions as you want to. So now on my screen, even though I’ve stopped sharing, it’s like join another session, you know, find your links and your confirmation email. So before we go tell me where this is going because you kind of alluded to that and I wanted to pull you back. Yeah.
Megan Flatt 24:50
Yeah, we’re so we, you know, and we’re we just launched this and so I’m so appreciative that you’re a part of it mag and that your clients are part of it. So we’re definitely I’m open to suggestions and feedback, we are planning to add more sessions as we grow as our membership grows so that we can accommodate different, you know, different times and different times that people, you know, people want. We’re contemplating adding some shorter sessions. So some some sprints. So where you could come for just one sprint, and it would be kind of a Get in, get out, get something done, kind of move on. So there’s definitely we’re definitely growing. And there’s definitely some things that are coming. And in the, in the fall, we’re looking to even add some different levels of membership. So a level of membership that offers a little more support. So you get you get access to some planning sessions, you get access to some coaching sessions. So we’re definitely just excited about the direction that it’s going.
Meg Casebolt 25:47
That sounds perfect and a great fit for your business too.
Megan Flatt 25:50
I think so to it’s been really, really fun. So to do.
Meg Casebolt 25:54
Well. Thank you so much. Guys. If you have any questions, Megan will be in circles, you can ask your questions below about anything about focus sessions. If you have any suggestions after having attended one of them. She’s also like she said, always open to feedback. So thank you so much, Megan. Really appreciate your time today. And guys, let us know how it goes.
Megan Flatt 26:14
Absolutely can’t wait to see you all in a focus session.
Meg Casebolt 26:18
Thank you so much for listening to the social slowdown podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe or come on over to social slowdown.com and sign up for our email list so you never miss an episode. We’d also love if you could write a review to help other small business owners find the show you can head over to social slowdown.com/review Or grab that link in our show notes for easy access. We’ll be back soon with more tips to help you market your business without being beholden to social media. Talk to you then.
Please forgive any typos as this transcript was automatically generated by otter.ai.