Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs

Brad Neuberg started coworking in part because he wanted more structure and balance in his life.

As much as he wanted a place where he could work with other people, he also wanted to have a place where he could leave his work behind at 5:45pm every day.

Most coworking spaces since then have not adopted that emphasis on balance and structure.

Surely, for many spaces, imposing a uniform time of day when everyone stops working just won’t work, and shouldn’t be implemented— everyone works differently.

But what makes coworking really compelling is that it represents a set of needs for a new group of people who reside ahead of the curve in the workplace— people who have much more autonomy and control over their work lives than what we’re used to accepting as the standard.

And one need those people are going to have is help managing that newfound autonomy.

Because without some constraints, even self-imposed, complete autonomy can become unhealthy.

I just worked 16 hours straight, mostly because I’ve taken on more responsibilities than I should— but did I really need to work those 16 hours, or did I simply work those 16 hours because nobody told me it’s time to go home?

Workaholism is a threat that grows as the number of people working independently grows. Similarly, the threat of information addiction grows as the Internet grows as well— the more unfettered access we get to increasingly relevant information, via Twitter and SMS and RSS and the like, the more tempted we will be to let these things take over.

More on that later.

In both instances, we are encountering a challenge not dissimilar from what society dealt with in the early 1900’s with cereal.

Without getting into too much detail, here’s what happened: one cereal company decided to put a little hint of cane sugar in their cereal, which for some reason they weren’t already doing. People loved it, so somebody else made a cereal with a little more sugar.

People liked the cereal with more sugar, so they bought that one.

Before you knew it, you had Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs.

It’s too much of a good thing. A little sugar in your cereal? Harmless and nice to have. A little more sugar in your cereal? Mostly harmless and an even better experience.

But Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs? Now you’ve gone too far.

Twitter, if not carefully managed properly, could be the Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs of information: a constant heavy barrage of bits of data that leave you distracted, unable to think straight, and downright jittery.

Same with finding yourself in control of your work life and, further, finding something you’re really passionate about.

The only thing I do that I’m not really that passionate about is my day job. Everything else— managing NWC, writing I’m Outta Here, starting the Runway Project, running a panel at SXSW, helping run BarCampNYC4, building the CoSP coalition, how could I resist? Each one of these things gets me so excited that I couldn’t imagine going home at 5:45pm and watching TV with my roommates.

Dedicating a lot of time to these things is great, but without restraints, without some sort of counterbalance, it’s not healthy.

It’s workaholism. And I know I’m not alone.

Brad’s coworking group at the Spiral Muse was as much about not working as it was about working. It put work in it’s place.

I’d like to revisit this, so we can all lead healthier, happier, more balanced lives.

What do you think? Are you in the same boat as me? What shall we do about it?

Look at that; I created myself another project :-)