Taylor Jacobson is the Founder & CEO of Focusmate, a virtual coworking community with a mission to help everyone do their best work. Thousands of people in 193 countries worldwide sit side-by-side, via video, to keep each other company, cheer each other on, and hold one another accountable. Taylor has been featured in The New Yorker, CNN, The Guardian, NPR, Fast Company, Bloomberg Businessweek, and many more.
Where did the idea for Focusmate come from?
Procrastination is something I’ve struggled with all my life. In college, I worked around it by teaming up with study buddies. In the workplace, I found it helpful to have the structure of an office and the pressure of people around. But when I started working remotely in 2011, I was a mess.
Fast forward to 2015, I was working as an executive coach and one of my program participants Jake was struggling with a deadline. Somewhere in me was always the fantasy of being handheld while doing my work, so I offered that to Jake: I suggested we get on a video call, share our goals, and keep each other company while working on them.
We gave it a shot, and it worked like magic. The rest is history.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I sleep until I wake up — no alarm. I often start my day with gentle movement or some other grounding ritual. At work, I have many work calls but am extremely diligent about minimizing them and often use voice notes instead of calls. I maximize big blocks of time for creative work and flow states, and often use Focusmate to support that. And, I stop working after dinner, and try to get as much intimate human connection as I can, either by phone, or preferably, in person.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I just start! If an idea is truly resonating with me, I will find myself working on it and talking to others about it very often. Even if I don’t have time to do much work on it, talking about it can help me clarify the idea and my own level of excitement about it. If it’s truly resonating, I will generally just find myself carving out time to dive in.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Workplace wellbeing! The emphasis put on wellbeing is one of the great silver linings of the pandemic. I’m hoping that this paradigm continues to shift in favor of behaving in more sustainable ways for ourselves, each other, and our planet.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’ll choose three. Fierce prioritization, asking for help, and taking time for stillness.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Being nice isn’t the same as being a good person. Focus more on having integrity and boundaries and being clear what you want—and less on being liked.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
There is no universal morality—it’s entirely personal. You are the only person who knows what is right and wrong, good and bad, for you.\
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Slow down. Take time for stillness. Reconnect to your inner world and your purpose regularly. Entrepreneurship can be a magical journey of self discovery and spiritual growth, but only if you’re following your own path.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Celebrating and acknowledging others. Community is the backbone of Focusmate’s business, and it’s thrived because we’ve nurtured a culture of celebrating and acknowledging one another.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve teamed up with some wrong partners—good, talented people who weren’t right for me, or for the business at that stage.
I’ve gotten better at hiring by being much more exacting with myself and the team about the precise needs we have, and being very honest about those up front.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Spend 60 minutes every month with busy CEOs asking them thought leadership questions, and record the call. Then turn that recording into 20 pieces of social media content and a blog post. Charge a high end monthly fee, probably several thousand dollars. And work on streamlining and productizing as much of the process as possible to make it faster, more profitable, and higher quality over time.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A new unlimited membership at a functional fitness gym. I’m really excited to reestablish a healthy routine to build physical strength and resilience.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I know, it’s my own software. But seriously, it has changed my life. I use it to add structure and accountability to my workflow when I work from home.
Booking a coworking appointment with an accountability partner helps me to get down to work, be much more intentional about what I’m working on, and also to have a clear end point that helps me step away, too.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Carol Anthony’s interpretation of the ancient Chinese text, the I Ching, is a profound treatise on how to live a life in integrity with your inner truth, and how to navigate our relationship with ourselves and others in that process. It’s called “A Guide to the I Ching”.
What is your favorite quote?
“How you build a thing is what the thing becomes.” ~ Nita Baum
- Prioritize your wellbeing.
- Be clear who you are and what you want — don’t try to follow someone else’s path.
- And build things that you truly want to exist.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.