First Published: ;d | Last Updated: November 4, 2022

The gist: Body doubling can help ADHD-ers stay focused and on task. Here's how body doubling works, why you should try it, and how to get started.

Nerd confession: I was a "library kid" all through school.

You know, one of the kids who hung out and worked in the library way more than I needed to. It was a safe space.

I just found it easier to focus on my work when people were doing similar work around me.

That’s one of the benefits of body doubling at play.

And regardless of whether you’re still in school or have access to a library, you can still use the tactic to help you stay focused, too.

What is body doubling?

Body doubling is a productivity strategy focused on having someone present with you to help you stay focused and accountable to the task you intend to do.

body doubling: a productivity strategy focused on having someone present with you to help you stay focused and accountable to the task you intend to do

That presence can be either physical or virtual, they can be working on the same task or something different, and you can interact with each other or do your own thing.

What matters is that you can feel their presence somehow.

Why body doubling works

There are a few reasons why body doubles can help those of us with ADHD stay focused and productive.

why body doubling works list

First of all, there’s social or peer pressure.

It doesn’t always have to be a bad thing!

When there are people around you working, it acts as a nudge or encouragement to do so as well. For once, the desire to fit in can work in our favor.

Secondly, having a set time to meet up and body double with someone can act as an implementation intention, or an “if…then…” statement about a task you want to complete.

Just creating an implementation intention for a task or habit has been shown to more than double the chance you’ll actually do it. But combined with the other factors that make doubling effective, it becomes even more powerful.

Additionally, while the tactic hopes to prevent you from going off-task, it can also help you get focused again if you do get distracted.

A common body double ritual is telling each other what you’re working on. So if you end up getting distracted and forgetting, there’s someone right there to remind you and encourage you to get back to it.

Finally, it can just make boring work more fun.

Which means you’re more likely to actually do it, you’re more likely to be in a good mood afterwards, and all those other benefits of fun.

Benefits of body doubling

The effects go beyond just helping you be more productive. For example:

  • It’s a way to hang out with friends or other people important to you when you’re both busy. You may not have time to meet up with a friend for a meal, but you could meet up and body double while you do the stuff keeping you busy.
  • It offers an easy, low pressure way to socialize. For neurodivergent people who might be introverts, have rejection sensitive dysphoria, or get socially anxious for another reason, a coworking session with minimal socializing may be less anxiety-inducing than something more high-contact (speaking from experience here!).
  • It can also be amazing for motivation and your confidence in your work, if you and your body double make sure to support and encourage each other. That encouraging outside voice can help combat the negative self-talk we tend to run on replay in our heads.
  • It can lead to casual collaboration. If they’re knowledgable enough about what you’re working on, you can ask for their advice or feedback. Even if they’re not, if you get stuck somewhere, you can “talk it out to them.” This is commonly known as “rubber ducking.” Sometimes you just need to talk “at” someone for a bit to arrive at the solution on your own.
  • It can make boring tasks more fun. Between the novelty of doing the task differently plus the fun of a social experience, it can easily liven up boring work like repetitive admin.

Are you ready to start working brighter?

Productivity isn't black and white, it's personal as hell. And there's no single lifehack or framework to solve your problems. 

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Downsides of body doubling

Of course, like almost everything good, it comes with some bad.

Some of the downsides can include:

  • Logistics. If you work at odd hours (for example, I like to write at night), are in a different time zone than your coworkers or peers, or have an unpredictable schedule, arranging times to meet with your body double can get complicated.
  • Distraction. Of course, your body double is only human, just like you. While the goal is to help each other focus, sometimes you can end up distracting each other too.
  • Pressure. While it's designed to add just a bit of social pressure, for those of us with social anxiety, it can end up being too much to focus on work.

Ultimately, there’s no harm in trying it out a few times to see if it works for you.

You may need to make some adjustments to how or when you do it or who you body double with before you get into the right groove.

Examples of using body doubling IRL

Even if something isn’t called a body doubling session, it can effectively function as one.

In fact, you’ve probably body doubled before without realizing it.

body doubling examples list

If you’ve ever…

  • Participated in a study group or study hall
  • Taken a group fitness class
  • Joined a walking or running club
  • Called someone to talk on the phone while you did chores
  • Watched “clean with me” videos while you cleaned
  • Watched “work with me” or “study with me” videos
  • Gone to work at a library, coffee shop, or coworking space because you felt more productive there than working alone

…then you’ve already experienced body doubling at work!

When to use it

You may be thinking, “maybe I can just body double all day and stay productive and focused all day!”

I know I’ve been tempted to do that, so you wouldn’t be alone.

But body doubling is best used selectively, for when you really need it.

To choose which activities to use body doubling with, consider:

  • Boring tasks
  • Repetitive tasks
  • Tedious tasks
  • Tasks you tend to procrastinate
  • Tasks you tend to get distracted during
  • Tasks you find difficult and would benefit from a brainstorming partner for

Tasks like those will be the ones you can benefit the most from adding body doubling to.

Where to find body doubles

So, where do you find people to body double with? They’re all around you!

The easiest place to start is with people you already know.

Coworkers might want to body double at work with you. You can see if any friends are interested in body doubling with chores, exercise, or a hobby. Your family or roommates might be interested in a weekly chores body doubling session.

From there, you can look to your wider community. 

There might be groups at your local library or community center, on Meetup.com or Facebook, or a religious organization you’re a member of.

And of course, there’s always the internet.

There are multiple options for virtual body doubling too, from FaceTiming a long-distance friend, to accountability sessions inside larger online memberships (like our body doubling in the Work Brighter Clubhouse), to specialized body doubling services.

How to get started with body doubling

Now that you know what body doubling is, when to use it, and where to find accountability partners, it’s time to get started!

If you’re not sure how to begin, here's how a good body doubling session can go (although you should adapt it to what works for you and your accountability partner):

  • Agree on a time to body double with your partner. Try doing it for an hour at first, and you can make your sessions longer or shorter as needed.
  • Set some ground rules, like whether you'll take breaks (the Pomodoro technique is helpful here), if you'll have background noise, if you'll talk to each other, and whether you should call each other out if you notice each other going off-track.
  • Choose a specific task or activity you want to focus on during the body doubling session. Sharing it with your body doubling partner can help increase accountability even more.
  • Get started. It can be helpful to have lofi or focus music playing or a Pomodoro timer in sight.
  • Take breaks as needed.
  • Celebrate any progress you made before ending the session to help boost your motivation and mood.

Are you ready to start working brighter?

Productivity isn't black and white, it's personal as hell. And there's no single lifehack or framework to solve your problems. 

Sign up to get weekly tips and stories to help you create your OWN definition of productivity working better and brighter.

FAQs about body doubling

Is body doubling just an ADHD thing?

Nope!

Body doubling can be helpful for anyone who struggles with executive functioning like focus, procrastination, or motivation.

Do I have to be friends with my body double partner?

No, you don’t have to be friends with your partner, or even know them ahead of time.

But it definitely makes the experience more enjoyable if you have a relationship or shared interest.

Are body doubling and mirroring the same thing?

Mirroring is often used as part of body doubling, but they’re not the same thing.

Mirroring is when you match another person’s actions, like breathing or nodding, to help create rapport and increase trust.

Body doubling is when two people work on the same task at the same time to increase focus and accountability.

Can you combine body doubling with other productivity techniques?

Of course!

Like chocolate and peanut butter, productivity techniques often work better together. It's about building the right mix for the situation.

For example, you can use the Pomodoro technique to structure your body doubling sessions, you use your body doubling schedule as an implementation intention, you can time block how you'll spend your time in the session, and more.

Is body doubling proven to help ADHD?

There's not scientific proof that body doubling works, but because there's been limited research to try and prove it in the first place. As they say, an absence of evidence isn't always an evidence of absence.

There's anecdotal evidence and a lot of stories, including my own, backing up the effectiveness of body doubling for those of use with ADHD.

Find your body double

Coworking is a great way to increase focus and accountability, whether you have ADHD or not.

If you want to give it a try, the worst thing that will happen is that you waste an hour.

But there's a good chance that you'll get a lot of work done, and you may even find a new accountability partner or two in the process.

To try it out, join us for a session in the Clubhouse.