Do you ever start to fold your laundry or work on a report for work, only to get distracted or bored? Before you know it, the day has passed, and you realize you haven't accomplished much. Unfortunately, this happens to me and others with ADHD quite frequently, even with treatment.
I've discovered a helpful technique called body doubling that has made a big difference in staying on track. It's like having a buddy or accountability partner who:
- Knows that you're trying to get your work done; and
- Is also working on their own to-do list at the same time
If you think that the body doubling strategy could be a good fit for you, keep reading to learn why it works for adults with ADHD and how to use this tool effectively.
Too long; didn't read
- Body doubling helps people with ADHD stay on task and overcome challenges in starting, continuing, or finishing projects.
- Body doubling can be done in-person or virtually, depending on your preferences and circumstances.
- Working on the same task with someone - or having another person in the room - can enhance performance and productivity.
- Body doubling can be practiced with friends, coworkers, mentors, or even complete strangers.
What is body doubling?
Body doubling is a technique where you work alongside another person, either physically or virtually. A body double's role is to simply be present while you tackle your to-do list, but often, body doubles also work on tasks of their own. So, it's basically like having a friend by your side while you finish your work.
When used correctly, a body double can provide a structured and focused environment that improves concentration and productivity.
Because body doubles hold you accountable for completing your prioritized tasks, they can be especially helpful if you struggle with focus. In other words, body doubling is the perfect productivity hack for people with ADHD.
(Did anyone else think body doubling was like a clone of some sort before reading into it?)
Ready to try body doubling? The Inflow app has tons of coworking sessions and focus sessions every week to help you stay on task and crush your goals. Get started with Inflow today!
The science of how body doubling helps ADHDers
A lot of people with ADHD struggle with executive dysfunction, which can make it difficult to initiate tasks, stay focused on them, and complete them. That's where body doubling comes in! It offers a valuable solution by leveraging the power of social interaction to enhance executive functioning.
Difficulty with time management
In addition to difficulties with task management, executive dysfunction can make it harder for ADHD brains to manage their time.
Fortunately, a body double can visually represent time, a slippery concept for ADHDers. Just like adjusting your pace when walking with someone, body doubling can show similar pacing, which is helpful if you're often distracted by external stimuli and get off track.
Social facilitation (aka accountability)
Body doubling, also known as social facilitation, taps into the influence of having someone else present. It's a motivational technique that takes advantage of two psychological principles: co-action effects and audience effects.1
Co-action effects of body doubling
Co-action effects refer to how the presence of other people can affect individual performance and behavior. When humans work or engage in activities alongside others, they may experience co-action effects, which can improve overall performance.
For example, have you ever noticed that you run faster or exercise harder at the gym when other people are around? That's the co-action effect at play.
Audience effects of body doubling
Audience effects, similar to co-action effects, describe how an audience's mere presence can shape your performance, behavior, and self-presentation.
While the above effects can positively impact performance—which is the goal of body doubling—they can also negatively impact it. Modify the technique to fit your needs to avoid this!
For instance, if you're prone to experiencing social anxiety, you should only try body doubling with someone that you already know personally.
Or maybe you fear judgment or criticism, a common experience of those dealing with rejection sensitive dysphoria, or RSD. In that case, it might be better if you were part of a larger coworking group with people who better understand your struggles with ADHD and RSD. For example, you could benefit from using Inflow, an ADHD management app, which holds daily coworking and focus sessions for all members.
Accountability in the workplace
Consistent accountability is essential for ADHDers to experience success in the workplace. That doesn't have to mean that someone is always watching you. It's more about improving how we manage our time and accurately estimating how long tasks will take, especially ones that feel routine or dull.
Having a body double also means you'll have someone who supports and checks in on you to ensure you have what you need to stay on track. Your workplace can provide this support and guidance as part of an ADA accommodation.
How to use a body double
Ideally, your body double should act as an aspirational mirror. Seeing them working and checking things off their to-do list will help your brain recognize that it's possible for you, too.
🚀 Check out this article for a complete guide on finding the perfect accountability partner.
What to expect when you body double
As you're getting started, remember to give yourself lots of grace. You'll want to think carefully about who you choose to body double with, and don't be afraid to move on from a partner if they aren't offering you the kind of support you need.
Some research suggests that body doubling works better for tasks that are routine or familiar to you, rather than new-to-you, tedious, or complex tasks.2,3
Examples tasks for accountability partners (body doubles)
- Tasks you've been avoiding or procrastinating on for a while
- Anything with an upcoming deadline
- Tedious or boring tasks that you struggle to start and focus on
- Tasks that were assigned to you
Working from home? No problem.
If you work from home or alone, you can body double virtually with an app like Inflow.
Other options include Zoom, Facetime, or even just texting someone to let them know you're working on something and asking them to help keep you accountable.
If body doubling works for you, keep it as a tool in your toolbox. You might have to play around with different methods, mediums, or locations to make it work for your lifestyle, brain, and the tasks you need to accomplish, so don't give up if it's challenging initially.
1 International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings | The Effects Of Co-Action Social Facilitation On Indoor Cycling Performance (2018)
2 Human Factors | Independent Coactors May Improve Performance and Lower Workload: Viewing Vigilance Under Social Facilitation (2018)
3 Human Factors | Determining Effects Of Virtually And Physically Present Co-Actor In Evoking Social Facilitation (2018)