Body Doubling for ADHD: Your Ultimate Guide

How To Optimize Your Body Doubling Sessions

Published on
January 26, 2024

Have you ever found yourself staring at a blank screen, unable to focus on the task at hand? Maybe you've embarked on a mission to declutter your living space - only to find yourself knee-deep in that dusty box of keepsakes from middle school five hours later (may or may not be a personal anecdote 😅).

If these scenarios sound all too familiar, you're not alone. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often brings with it challenges with concentration and productivity. One of the more recent trends in the ADHD space, called Body Doubling, is a great way to combat those challenges.

In this blog, we'll delve into the concept of Body Doubling, exploring its roots and discovering how to get the most out of this simple, yet powerful tool and unlock your productivity potential.

What Is Body Doubling?

Body doubling is a technique where one person works in the same space as another person—either physically or virtually—even if they're working on entirely different tasks. For many struggling with adult ADHD productivity challenges, this collaborative technique can help to create a structured and focused work environment, grounding them and making it easier to stay on task.

The concept is straightforward but incredibly effective. Your ADHD body double doesn't necessarily need to engage directly with your work; their mere presence serves as a quiet anchor, promoting a sense of accountability and shared dedication to the task at hand. In essence, Body Doubling harnesses the power of social reinforcement to help individuals stay on track and boost their productivity. Whether it's working alongside a friend, family member, or even a virtual accountability partner, Body Doubling has become a go-to strategy for many seeking to navigate the challenges of ADHD and reclaim control over their daily tasks.

Is Body Doubling Only for ADHD?

While Body Doubling has gained recognition and popularity within the ADHD community, its usefulness extends beyond individuals with ADHD. The concept of having a supportive partner to enhance focus and productivity can benefit a wide range of people facing various challenges in maintaining concentration or staying motivated during tasks.

For instance, individuals with anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions may find Body Doubling to be a helpful technique. The presence of a supportive companion can provide a sense of comfort and reduce the feelings of isolation that often accompany mental health struggles. In fact, anyone facing procrastination or general difficulty in initiating and completing tasks can leverage Body Doubling to create a more structured and accountable work environment.

In essence, while Body Doubling has proven to be particularly beneficial for individuals with ADHD, its versatility makes it a valuable tool for anyone seeking to improve their focus, productivity, and overall task management. The key lies in the supportive dynamic created by working in tandem with someone else, which can be universally applicable to diverse situations and challenges.

Why Body Doubling Works

There’s not (yet) enough science to say for sure why body doubling is so helpful for so many people, but a few theories include:

  1. External Accountability: Knowing that someone else is aware of your work or study goals creates a sense of external accountability. The presence of a body double, even if virtual, can make you more committed to staying on task. Plus, knowing that you have a dedicated time to work on a task makes it less likely for you to delay or avoid it.
  2. Social Facilitation: The presence of others, even if they are working independently, can enhance individual performance. It taps into the concept of social facilitation, where people tend to perform better when they believe they are being observed.
  3. Structured Time Management: Body doubling often involves structured time management, such as using the Pomodoro technique. Breaking work into focused intervals with short breaks helps maintain concentration and prevents burnout.
  4. Shared Energy and Motivation: Working alongside others, either physically or virtually, creates a shared energy and motivation. The collective effort of a group can be motivating and help you stay focused on your tasks.
  5. Elimination of Distractions: Working with a body double often involves creating a dedicated and distraction-free environment. This can be particularly helpful in minimizing interruptions and allowing for deep concentration.
  6. Positive Peer Pressure: Working in a group or with a body double can create positive peer pressure. Seeing others engaged in productive activities can inspire and motivate individual performance.
  7. Routine and Habit Formation: Regular body doubling sessions can contribute to the formation of productive habits. Over time, the structured approach becomes a routine, making it easier to stay focused on tasks.
  8. Social Connection: For virtual body doubling, the sense of connection with a partner can combat feelings of isolation, especially for remote workers or students.

By combining elements of accountability, structure, and social influence, body doubling leverages psychological factors to enhance productivity and concentration during work or study sessions.

When To Use Body Doubling for ADHD

Body Doubling is best used selectively, especially if you have ADHD. If we get too familiar with something, it loses its novelty, which is a huge part of ADHD motivation. So, use body doubling for:

  • Boring, repetitive, or tedious tasks
  • Tasks you tend to procrastinate
  • When you’re more prone to distraction, and need a little extra something to remain focused
  • When you’re struggling with motivation
  • When you’re struggling with time management

How To Optimize Your Body Doubling Sessions

I learned pretty quickly that not all Body Doubling sessions are made equal. Here are some of my tips for making sure you get the most out of your Body Doubling.

  1. Set Clear Objectives: Before starting, both individuals should outline what they aim to accomplish. This will give direction to the session and help in maintaining focus. It also adds some accountability.

    ❗ I noticed that there was a very obvious difference in the body doubling sessions in which I shared with the other person/people what I was working on, vs the ones in which I didn’t. When I didn’t verbalize up front what I was working on, I didn’t end up using the time productively. When I did verbalize my objective up front, I did get work done - even if it wasn’t on the task I intended to do, I still spent it productively, and I call that a win!
  2. Pick the Right Partner: Choose an ADHD body double you're comfortable with and who understands the purpose of body doubling. They don’t necessarily need to have ADHD; they just need to be respectful and cooperative. In this context, respectful and cooperative means not trying to engage you in non work-related conversation, and generally agreeing to minimize distractions on their end as much as possible.
  3. Set the Stage: Whether you’re working alone or body doubling, environment is key to being able to focus. In general, you want to choose a quiet space with minimal distractions - though everyone has their own needs and preferences when it comes to setting up a productive workspace for ADHD. If there are potential interruptions, discuss them beforehand to find solutions and minimize distraction for your partner.
  4. Establish Ground Rules:
    - Decide if talking is allowed and to what extent.
    - Set clear boundaries regarding breaks and interruptions.
    - Determine if you'll have check-ins to share progress or challenges.
  5. Use a Timer:
    - Implement techniques like the Pomodoro Technique. Work for a set amount of time (e.g., 25 minutes), then take a short break.
    - The timer provides structure and can enhance productivity.
  6. Maintain Visibility: It may seem obvious, but ADHD body doubling is most effective if you remain in each other's line of sight. If you're working virtually, keep the video on. Just knowing someone else may see if you get distracted can be an effective, yet subtle environmental cue to discourage yourself from picking up your phone.
  7. Optimize the Time: If you know there are certain times of day where you're more or less focused, you can schedule accordingly. Personally, I schedule body doubling sessions during times I know I’m going to be struggling more to focus, like later in the day when my meds are wearing off. You may decide to schedule them during your “peak” hours, instead; whatever makes most sense for you.
  8. Reflect and Adjust: After the session, take a few moments to reflect on what worked and what didn't. Were there any distractions you could avoid next time with some planning? Adjust your strategies accordingly for next time.

Remember, the primary goal of body doubling is to provide a supportive presence that helps both participants remain focused. It's okay to experiment with different approaches to find what's most effective for you!

How To Get Started With Body Doubling

From ADHD Body Doubling apps, to an in-person co-working sesh, there are a ton of different ways to practice body doubling for adult ADHD.

  • ADHD Body Doubling Online: You can find an ADHD body doubling app, or a site for ADHD body doubling online free with a quick google search. This article dives deeper into some of the most popular Body Doubling apps for ADHD, with a detailed breakdown of features and pricing.
  • Physical Body Doubling: If virtual isn’t for you, body doubling is just as helpful (if not more so) in person. Pair up with a friend, family member, or work colleague for some focused work.
  • Solo Body Doubling: I do this all the time. If you don’t have someone who can act as your body double for ADHD, and prefer not to go virtual, you can still get some degree of benefit from working in a public place like a library or coffee shop. Ideally, you choose a place where you can see other people also working. Even if you don’t interact with them, there’s something motivating about being in a room of other productive people.
  • Group Body Doubling: You may have already done this at some point - ever participated in a study group, fitness class, or team work sprint? These are pretty similar to body doubling, with much of the same effect. Even if you’re not in school any longer, or work from home, you may find a group of friends, family, or co-workers who are also looking to up their productivity game to form a body doubling group, either in person or virtually.
  • Body Doubling Videos: Want to go virtual, but not enthused about the whole social aspect? There are a ton of body doubling videos on YouTube. In these, people record themselves performing tasks like cleaning and organizing, doing the laundry or dishes, homework, and more. You may find that just seeing someone else doing the task - even if it’s not in real time - is helpful for getting your brain in gear.

Final Thoughts

As an ADHD coach, and as a person coping with adult ADHD, I’ve found body doubling to be one of the most effective strategies for improving time management, motivation, and reducing procrastination. It may not be for everyone, but if you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend giving it a shot. Here at Shimmer, we host weekly body doubling sessions for members - so maybe it’s time to give online ADHD coaching a try! Or, check out one of the body doubling apps in our comparison guide.

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