Technology // Work efficiency - Start-up Interview

MyFocusSpace: Virtual

Co-working to Increase Productivity

MyFocusSpace, a co-working space for people to become more productive in an online, remote environment.


We got in touch with their Co-Founder, Viorica Vanica, to find out more about the solution and the journey so far.

6th April 2021  

In conversation with

Patrycja Maksymowicz

Open Solutions Global Linked IN
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Opensolutions-London: Hi Viorica, what are the origins of the idea behind MyFocusSpace?


Viorica: It all started while being in lockdown. At first, we enjoyed the extra time we got due to not having to commute for at least 1 hour a day, and for a little while, we felt more productive on our daily tasks. But that began to drop suddenly after a couple of weeks.


Somehow, I started to work longer hours, not because I had more work to do, but mostly because I found myself doing all sorts of other things while working. Not to mention I started to miss interacting with other people.


That’s when my friend, now my co-founder, Ionut Mistreanu, started to have weekly calls, to keep ourselves accountable to our own plans. Those calls soon became working calls, where we would mute ourselves, leave the camera on and work on our own tasks. We would do it in cycles, 50 minutes of focused work then 10 minutes break in which we could talk to each other.


It worked for both of us, so we decided to test the idea with our friends, 20 of them to be precise. We managed to organize these 1-on-1 focused sessions between them, but soon that became a pain to manage.


That’s how the idea of MyFocusSpace was born, which is a platform where people become more productive by being matched with strangers for a 1-on-1, 50-minute working session, followed by 9 minutes of networking.

Opensolutions-London: Can you explain how it works?


Viorica:

  • You book a session in your calendar whenever you want to work on something/along with someone (it can be something that you like/don't like/postpone on doing, etc.)
  • We do our best to match you with a member from our community that has similar working preferences as you have.
  • The session has a fixed time limit to enforce a good habit of focused work followed by rest.
  • At the beginning of the session, you share with your partner what you will be working on, this should not take longer than 3 minutes, then you mute yourselves, leave the video on and start working.
  • At the end of the session, you get to rate your productivity, energy, motivation, attention for the specific task and have it displayed in the analytics panel. This way, you get insights about your productivity that will help you dive into deep work more often.



Opensolutions-London: Did you have in mind any specific type of people when creating the platform?


Viorica: Procrastinators who work alone from a computer. We don’t really need motivation when it comes to doing things we like, we always find time to do them. But what about things we don’t like, things that might seem too overwhelming to do them today? This is when the platform comes the most in hand.


Opensolutions-London: Yes, I can see this being very helpful.


Can you tell us about your journey so far? There are a number of places listed on your Linkedin profile. I always find it impressive when young people travel a lot and are not afraid of trying themselves in different scenarios and work environments.


Viorica: I started traveling at age 15 within professional dancing competitions.


That was the moment I tasted a bit of leaving abroad. My mom didn’t have enough resources to finance these trips for me and my twin brother, who was my dancing partner at that time, so we always had to find sponsorships. I guess I got used to searching for different opportunities to facilitate what I wanted to do because I have never stopped searching.


While being enrolled for my BA in Bucharest, Romania, I did 3 Erasmus programs: one in Krakow, Poland; one in Porto, Portugal; one in Kiel, Germany; and 2 Work and Travel programs in Maryland, Utah, and California, USA.

I got my first official job at HPE, in Romania, I was 21 years old at that time and thought that was the way to go. I can't say it was a waste of time, it actually helped me understand what I don't want to do with my life. So I quitted.


I traveled alone to 25 countries within 5 years and I learned a lot about other cultures which helped me challenge my own perspectives of life and how important it is to have a humble, open-minded attitude when interacting with so many cultures. I feel this fits me well as a community builder for MyFocusSpace.


Opensolutions-London: I am also sure some of the previous experience must have prepared you well for the current project. Those of us who had or have a startup, know well that the startup journey can often be uphill. What were the biggest challenges so far and how did you overcome them?

Has this previous experience helped you and in what way?


Viorica: I am not sure that you need to have a start-up background to actually be able to build one. I see the eagerness to build a start-up as more related to personal values and how risk-tolerant you are. That being said, I think all my experiences brought me to who I am today and what choices I make. In terms of my biggest challenge, I think it was to learn how to talk to our users, to be able to see behind their requests. I overcame that by using Rob's Fitzpatrick guide, which you can find more details about - here.


Opensolutions-London: Yes, for a startup, every single user is valuable, and it is extremely important to invest time and effort to understand them and talk to them as their feedback can influence the product in so many ways. 


Would you have any tips for young startup founders developing their products or preparing to launch?


Viorica: Launch as soon as possible. You might want to read The Mom Test Book by Rob Fitzpatrick as well to get an idea of how to talk to your users. Also, don’t wait for a big launch, I found the approach of launching, again and again, the most appropriate in order to find the market fit.



Opensolutions-London: So, coming back to MyFocusSpace... How big is the team so far and do you and the team use MyFocusSpace while working?


Viorica:  There are four on the team.

Ionut Mistreanu – co-founder of MyFocusSpace,

Viorica Vanica - co-founder of MyFocusSpace,

Vlad Tarniceru – UI Designer,

Vlad Cerna – Software Developer.


Yes, we use MyFocusSpace every day. Ionut and I, for example, use it to start our day, so we both book a session at 6 am to do our cardio exercise and meditate together.

Ionut also uses it whenever he feels like procrastinating on working on something complicated.

Vlad Tarniceru uses it whenever he is in the state of "I don't feel like doing it".

Vlad Cerna uses it because it brings variety to his working schedule.

I mostly use it in the second half of the day, when I naturally slow down, after lunch. And being matched with someone to work alongside, helps me stay accountable for my tasks.



Opensolutions-London:  MyFocusSpace has been created to address some of the challenges we are all now facing. Where do you see it used? What is the ideal model for now?


This setup helps with procrastination because is harder to neglect the session knowing that there is someone else waiting for you to start working.

This setup works with distractions because you share with your partner what are you going to work on during the 50-minute session (and this makes the goal specific) and because it taps into our natural inclination to try to perform better when we are observed by someone else.

This setup works with loneliness and tiredness by bringing variety in the work experience and healthy breaks.


Where do you see it used?

I see it used everywhere(your home, office, pub, etc), as long as you have a laptop or a phone and have a connection to the internet.


The ideal model so far?

Our community members are using the platform for different reasons. (1) Whenever they want to start their day and get in the flow. (2) Whenever they feel low energy and need to work. (3) Whenever they are procrastinating to do something that they don’t like.


Opensolutions-London: What are the benefits?


Viorica:


  1. It helps you get into the flow state.
  2. You stay accountable for your own task by showing up at a certain time.
  3. It helps you improve your time – management skills.
  4. You never feel alone.
  5. It helps you understand how much are you humanly able to achieve in 50 minutes, which also helps you break a big goal into smaller and manageable chunks.
  6. It gives you insights on your productivity: which parts of the day you are most productive, which tasks have you accomplished and which not, your level of attention, energy, motivation based on the task.
  7. It helps you get over yourself, so whenever you are in the state of “I don’t feel like doing it”, you book a session in MyFocusSpace.



Opensolutions-London: MyFocusSpace uses AI to match on-demand with accountability partners. What are the criteria?


Viorica: The criteria are your profile information and common interests right now.



Opensolutions-London: The platform not only provides the space to work together, and I am sure a lot of the users will love the social aspect, but most importantly, can help you improve your work routine. What type of analysis is provided and what exactly can one learn from it? How does it support users?


Viorica: The science behind why this approach works is that it leverages multiple human behavioral triggers.


  1. Pre-commitment means a commitment to a task or a purpose in advance of the actual moment when you will perform it. By doing so, you can avoid longstanding and generic commitment to get to work and give yourself some headspace. Like Yoda said, "Do or Do Not. There is no try".

  2. Implementation Intentions are specific and tangible plans for how you will execute a given objective. Using MyFocusSpace as your implementation intention helps you define better what you will do and how you will do it.

    For example: When asked how you intend to finish that report, you might respond, "I've scheduled two MyFocusSpace sessions on Wednesday for it."

  3. Peer pressure means you demand more from yourself when in the presence of others.

  4. Accountability reflects the potential for negative consequences when failing to comply with your commitment. E.g. self-criticism.


       5. Specificity in the task definition refers to how

           well you know to define your task.

           *Usually, the tasks that are well-defined can be

           quickly visualized and then carried out.

            We designed Mindful Minute Task List to help you

           out.



Opensolutions-London: I see the benefits for individuals, would you say the platform could effectively be used for teams?


Viorica:  Yes, definitely. We are exploring the idea of providing this to teams as well: big and small.



Opensolutions-London: What is the feedback so far? Have you changed anything based on the learnings?


Viorica:

This is what our users most like about MyFocusSpace:

🛑 They stop procrastinating

🎢 They stay in the flow

💻 They don’t feel lonely when working alone from a computer

🚨 ‘Get things done atmosphere’

🌿 It enforces a habit creation of practising deep work

📊 Custom productivity insights

📆 Google Calendar integration


Suggested improvements:

⏱️ Longer than 50 minutes sessions

👥 Sessions with a specific friend – custom invite link

🧑🏿‍🤝‍🧑🏽 Mini-communities within our bigger community - e.g., Students from King's University want to be matched within themselves.

🎶 Background music

🤼‍♂️ More structure around deep work practice

!!!There are the features we are working right now on: longer sessions, custom invite link, mini-communities. We estimate to have them available in two weeks.



Opensolutions-London: What are the future plans? How do you see MyFocusSpace growing?


Viorica: Yes, I do. According to the study done by McKinsey Global Institute, the future of work after COVID looks more like a hybrid one concentrated primarily in the computer-based office work arena. (20-25% of workers in advanced economies could be working remotely 3-5 days a week. If remote work took hold at that level, 4-5 times as many people would work from home compared to before the pandemic.)


I believe we can make remote work a global effort and grow a community of like-minded people who want to be productive on demand and have a balanced lifestyle.



Opensolutions-London: MyFocusSpace is now available on a desktop. Are there any places for an app?


Viorica: Yes, but not right now. Our priority right now is to deliver the 3 features I mentioned above: longer sessions, custom invite link, mini-communities.



Opensolutions-London: Last but not least, if anyone reading would like to give your solution a go, where do they go?


Viorica: You are welcome to join our community by signing at myfocusspace.com


Looking forward to working alongside you on MyFocusSpace!


Opensolutions-London: Thank you.

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