Body Doubling Productivity Hack to Keep You Focused in 2024

body doubling productivity

In a world filled with distractions, staying focused on one task can feel like a grueling effort. Whether you’re a busy professional with a hefty to-do list, a student striving for academic success, or a person with ADHD seeking effective strategies, it’s time to consider a unique tool in the productivity arsenal: body doubling.

Imagine having an accountability partner, virtually or in the same room, whose mere presence helps you stay on track, complete tasks efficiently, and harness motivation that might otherwise fade away.

Let’s explore how body doubling productivity, originally a strategy associated with helping people with ADHD is proving to be a universal productivity strategy — a focused work companion that the distracted person feels responsible for, setting the stage for a surge in efficiency and a dramatic reduction in procrastination.

What is Body Doubling?

Body doubling is a productivity strategy where a person works alongside another individual, aiming to stay focused and complete tasks. Having another person present, either in the same room or through virtual sessions, serves as a physical anchor, keeping you on track.

This “body double” acts as a subtle, constant reminder to stay focused, transforming a daunting to-do list into a manageable plan.

Initially designed as a tool for people with ADHD, body doubling has gained acceptance among various groups, including professionals, students, and anyone finding it hard to stay focused. It’s not about the body double managing the work; it’s about their presence promoting a focused environment.

man focusing on work at his desk

This could be a professional organizer, a family member, or a virtual body double, consistently boosting motivation and productivity.

In today’s digital age, virtual body doubling has emerged as an accessible and convenient option. A simple video chat can lead to hours of focused work, eliminating the need for physical meeting spaces and reducing distractions.

This seemingly simple strategy, backed by both anecdotal evidence and psychological principles, is becoming recognized as a life-changing practice for many.

The Psychological Science Behind Body Doubling Productivity

At first glance, body doubling appears simple, yet it is rooted in complex psychological processes that have a large impact on productivity and focus.

A critical aspect is accountability; the presence of another person externalizes our internal motivation, acting as a subtle but effective accountability partner that helps us stay on task and minimizes distractions. This is notably beneficial for people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), who often grapple with internal motivation and organization.

cartoon depiction of chaos in someone's head and order outside of it

Psychologists describe the effect of body doubling through ‘social facilitation,’ the idea that another person being present can meaningfully influence our behavior.

When a body double is nearby or on a video chat, individuals—even those prone to distraction—subconsciously feel a sense of responsibility to work, just like the focused atmosphere of a quietly bustling coffee shop.

Empirical studies, including those on ADHD, show positive outcomes for many participants, helping them complete tasks that might have been avoided or ignored entirely. Having a virtual or physical body double serves as a reminder, gently pulling a person back when their attention begins to fade.

This strategy is diverse and adaptable to individual needs, highlighting its widespread use for people aiming to enhance their productivity and focus.

How Body Doubling Enhances Productivity

In a world brimming with distractions, focusing on a single task is increasingly challenging. Here, body doubling emerges as a powerful ally for boosting productivity. But how? At its core, it’s about accountability.

man sitting poolside working on his laptop

Having another person—be it a professional ADHD coach or a friend—working alongside you fosters a sense of obligation to stay focused. Their mere presence, without actively monitoring your work, is often enough to keep you on task, a particularly potent aid for people with ADHD.

For monotonous or repetitive tasks, being around another person shifts the dynamic, breaking the monotony and making the process feel communal, fueling motivation. It also has a calming effect. For those with ADHD, a body double can reduce feelings of being overwhelmed, making it easier to start and complete tasks.

Virtual body doubling, proves equally effective as physical, securing its place in today’s remote work environment.

The many benefits extend beyond tasks; it’s valuable for creative or contemplative work, where quality matters as much as quantity. It enables a more profound focus, keeping distractions at bay through external accountability.

the word focus spelled out in scrabble tiles

Ultimately, this strategy is more than a productivity tool; it’s a wellness tool, diminishing feelings of isolation at work and nurturing a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose.

Who Can Benefit from Body Doubling?

While body doubling initially emerged as a strategy for individuals with ADHD, it’s also beneficial for neurotypical people. Essentially, anyone seeking to boost productivity or combat distractions could find value in this technique. Let’s jump into who might find body doubling particularly helpful.

People with ADHD: For many with ADHD, an accountability buddy creates a focused, calming environment, aiding their ability to stay on task.

Remote Workers: As more people work from home, remote workers can utilize virtual coworking spaces to recreate a focused office environment, combating the isolation that may accompany remote work. If you need more functionality for collaboration, especially for a small group, you may benefit more from a full virtual office space.

Students: From high schoolers to Ph.D. candidates, students can use this technique to help sustain focus, much like studying in a library.

Creative Professionals: Writers and artists, often working alone, can employ a body double to maintain motivation during their extensive solitary hours.

Individuals Seeking to Build a Habit: Whether establishing a new exercise routine or organizing a space, using a body double, even virtually, enhances accountability and encourages you to stick to a task.

Family Members: Families can spend time together, enabling parents, children, or siblings to work together on chores, homework, or projects.

woman looking at an interlinked photomontage of faces

In essence, body doubling can be about more than focusing—it’s about nurturing a sense of presence and shared purpose, reducing feelings of isolation or being overwhelmed, and enabling individuals to thrive while they check tasks off their lists.

How to Find Your Ideal Body Double

Finding the perfect body double is just like finding a great workout partner: someone reliable, compatible, and committed to similar goals. Here’s a simplified guide to help you find that ideal companion in your quest for focus:

  • Identify Your Needs: First, clarify what you hope to gain from a session. Do you need a passive or an engaged partner who checks on your progress?

  • Explore Your Network: Begin with familiar faces—family, friends, or colleagues. Find someone who can be present, virtually or in person, to help you stay on task.

  • Consider a Professional: For those with ADHD, an ADHD coach trained in body doubling techniques could be invaluable.

  • Use Social Media and Forums: Engage in online communities, such as ADHD support groups, productivity forums, or virtual coworking space communities to find a like-minded body double.

  • Assess Compatibility: After identifying a potential partner, have a conversation to ensure your schedules align and the level of interaction suits both parties.

  • Trial Session: Before committing, arrange a trial session, allowing both of you to adapt without a long-term commitment.

  • Evaluate and Adjust: Reflect after the trial. Was it helpful? If yes, continue; if not, consider searching for another body double.

  • Set Clear Boundaries and Expectations: Clearly outline your needs and expectations, such as session frequency and communication methods.

silhouettes of men helping each other up a hillside in front of a sunset

Remember, the goal is to find someone whose presence enhances your productivity and accountability, fostering a mutually beneficial environment with the structure and focus that body doubling can offer.

Setting Up a Successful Body Doubling Session

Setting up a successful session is like preparing for a great performance. Here are streamlined steps to creating a focused, productive, and distraction-free environment:

  1. Define Purpose and Goals: Clearly articulate what you hope to accomplish, whether it’s completing a task or staying focused for a set period. Specific goals give direction.

  2. Choose the Right Environment: Opt for a comfortable, distraction-free setting—like a quiet room, a library, or a video call.

  3. Schedule the Session: Set a definite date and time, treating it with the seriousness of an important meeting. I like to put the session into my calendar. For me, this makes it more concrete.

  4. Prepare Your Tasks: Organize a list of tasks by priority before the session begins.

  5. Set Session Duration: Decide and communicate how long your session will last, from a focused 25-minute Pomodoro to a few hours with breaks.

  6. Clarify Your Body Double’s Role: Are they a silent partner, a gentle reminder, or an accountability partner? Set expectations upfront.

  7. Eliminate Distractions: Disable unnecessary notifications and create a physical space—or virtual—that minimizes interruptions.

  8. Check-In Regularly: If you feel you need it, establish times for brief check-ins with your body double to reinforce motivation and focus.

  9. Use Presence Effectively: Allow your body double to serve as a subtle form of accountability, helping you stay on track.

  10. Reflect and Adjust: Afterward, assess what worked and what didn’t. Use this reflection to enhance future sessions. Typically I share how much I achieved in the session and how I feel about the progress I made.

arrows in flow chart depicting adaptation and change

Remember, body doubling’s beauty lies in its flexibility. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach but a dynamic tool that adapts to various tasks and working styles, becoming a significant asset for your productivity toolkit as you tailor it to your unique needs.

Tips for Making Body Doubling Work in the Long Term

Body doubling can be a powerful tool to enhance focus and task completion, but its effectiveness hinges on how it’s utilized. Here are key tips from my experience for a sustainable, long-term strategy:

  • Consistency is Key: Schedule regular sessions—daily, weekly, or bi-weekly—and adhere to this routine to foster habitual productivity.

  • Choose the Right Body Double: Select someone who enhances your focus and with whom you feel comfortable, whether a close friend, family member, or professional coach.

  • Set Clear Boundaries and Expectations: Define the session’s purpose and your body double’s role upfront, ensuring mutual understanding and preventing conflicts.

  • Adapt as Necessary: As your needs change, so should your strategy. Periodically reassess and adjust the setup, time, and frequency of your sessions.

  • Celebrate Progress: Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, big or small, to fuel future motivation.

  • Use Sessions Selectively: Identify the tasks most effectively tackled with a body double and reserve sessions for those tasks.

  • Manage Distractions Effectively: Use strategies to minimize distractions, like turning off notifications, establishing a dedicated workspace, or setting communication rules with your body double.

  • Experiment with Session Length: Find your optimal duration, whether shorter, focused stints or longer working periods and adjust as needed to prevent burnout.

  • Embrace the Human Element: Cherish the unique support that your body double’s presence, even if silent, provides. Let this companionship help you remain on task.

  • Be Kind to Yourself: Acknowledge that not every session will be perfect. Be patient, viewing each session as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than a pass-fail test.

startup, start-up, people

By integrating these tips into your routine, you can tailor body doubling to your unique needs and lifestyle, crafting a practical, adaptable tool for boosting productivity.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

While body doubling is an effective strategy for boosting productivity, especially for individuals with ADHD, it comes with its own set of challenges. Here are common issues I’ve come across and solutions to make the practice more effective:

  1. Finding the Right Body Double:
    • Challenge: Finding a compatible person who helps maintain focus.
    • Solution: Experiment with different accountability partners—friends, family, or professionals—until you find a compatible and productive match. Virtual coworking spaces have communities dedicated just for this.

  2. Feeling Self-Conscious or Anxious:
    • Challenge: Being in front of another person can induce anxiety.

    • Solution: Communicate your feelings with your body double. They may be feeling the same, in my early sessions I was feeling nervous. Start with short sessions and extend time as comfort increases.

  3. Dealing with Distractions:
    • Challenge: Distractions can pop up despite a body double’s presence.

    • Solution: Create a quiet, dedicated workspace and establish rules for allowable interruptions.

  4. Maintaining Regular Sessions:
    • Challenge: Scheduling and upholding regular sessions can be challenging.

    • Solution: Prioritize and mark your sessions in your calendar.

  5. Lack of Motivation:
    • Challenge: The motivation to start a session can be as elusive as the motivation for the task itself.

    • Solution: Remember your past successful sessions and use that memory as fuel for your next session.

  6. Choosing the Right Tasks for Body Doubling:
    • Challenge: Not all tasks are suited for this technique.

    • Solution: Prioritize challenging tasks that you can benefit from having a person there keeping you focussed and reserve simpler tasks for solo work.

  7. Managing Session Time Effectively:
    • Challenge: Balancing session length for effectiveness and sustained focus can be difficult.

    • Solution: Experiment with session lengths, starting shorter and adjusting as needed. Use a timer for staying on track. My favorite timer is a Pomodoro clock.

  8. Communicating Effectively with Your Body Double:
    • Challenge: Determining the level of communication needed during sessions.

    • Solution: Set clear expectations with your body double at the start regarding check-ins and communication style.

By identifying and proactively addressing these challenges, body doubling can evolve into a significant part of an overall strategy for successful living and working, benefiting many people, including those with ADHD.

Closing Thoughts

little lightbulb robot plugging itself in

Body doubling is a proven strategy, especially transformative for people with ADHD. Based on the simple premise that another person’s presence, virtually or physically, serves as a powerful motivating force, this practice cultivates a productive environment where daunting tasks become achievable through focus and determination.

Anyone looking to increase productivity can reap the benefits, not just those with ADHD. It encourages accountability, reduces distractions, and ignites motivation to conquer that intimidating to-do list.

As virtual connections become increasingly integral to our world, consider exploring virtual coworking spaces. These spaces extend the benefits of a body double and nurture a community of focused, driven individuals. Don’t wait—let the transformative power of body doubling guide you toward your most productive self.

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