Body doubling is a term originally used in Hollywood to refer to someone standing in for a movie star to perform an activity the credited actor can’t or won’t do, like playing the piano or jumping through a ring of fire. Hold on, I know what you’re thinking. “I can get someone to put this work presentation together for me while I do something else completely?” Well, sure you could, if you paid them! But something like hiring an accountant to do your taxes, which I STRONGLY endorse, isn’t what we want to share with you. Linda Anderson, a master certified coach, claims to have repurposed the term body doubling to describe the strategy of having another person in physical or virtual proximity to improve clarity and focus for someone with ADHD.
There are a few reasons this hack might work for you:
- Because humans are naturally drawn to connection, some ADHDers are more productive when they are working with others who are also working.
- You might just need that little boost started, and committing to a session with other people does that.
- When you physically see another person working that may psychologically anchor you.
- Science isn’t 100% on this but research suggests working in a body doubling style might trigger a mirror neuron that is responsible for our ability to emulate and empathize with others.
What does body doubling look like
Working from home can be incredibly difficult at times with so many distractions (dogs, husband, chores, projects)! So to hack my ADHD I frequently use the body doubling method. Sometimes I’ll book a session for a specific task like writing a blog post or doing paperwork. Occasionally to start my day off right, I’ll have a morning session just to knock out items in my admin list. I’ve heard of people using this method to exercise, fold laundry, clean rooms even! Here’s how it works. Regardless of the medium (video, in person, audio) you’ll start your session by sharing a specific task you’d like to achieve. Don’t overthink it, you can say “Tackle items off my to do list” if you want. Your partner will then share what they’re working on. At this point if you’re anything like me you’ll be tempted to talk more. Small talk is not encouraged while you’re in a body double session—which is good for some of us overly chatty ADHD types. Then at the end of the session you report success or failure on your goal. That’s it!l You can do it in person, over the phone or on the computer. The only limit is your imagination for trying this productivity hack. (Side note: FlexYourADHD is always here if you need more inspiration!
Here are some additional resources to learn more about body doubling.
- The always entertaining How To ADHD explains body doubling in an easily digestible video.
- ADDA breaks down this unique tool and how to make it work for you.
If you’re ready to try it out, read on.
How to get started
A word about costs. Although we’re not the best with financial budgets, we ADHDers have a built-in limit for daily attention and decision making ability. Below I clarify between the energy costs and financial costs of the different options available. The less physical and mental energy that goes into setting something up and getting logged in, the more time and energy you’ll have available to use elsewhere. And I’m sure, like me, you want to save money wherever you can so I’ve provided the breakdown between free and paid options.
Ask a Friend
This is the lowest investment you’ll make. If you have a friend who also needs to do they’re taxes, have them over and make a night of it! If you have a coworker who also struggles with working from home, why not have them over for a few hours of focused work time, just don’t spend too much time socializing.
Energy Cost: Potentially high until you find a regular buddy and a system
Financial Cost: None!
Focus Mate is a browser-based service that enables users to anonymously schedule and join video calls with each other. Known as virtual coworking, Focus Mate has a free offering as well as paid.
It takes five minutes to sign up and book a session. When you start your session you’ll tell your partner what you plan to work on for the next 50 minutes then you’ll put your microphone on mute and get to work. It’s that simple. At the end of the session you’ll check in with each other to share what you accomplished before signing off.
Flex Tribe Review:
“I’d never tried Body Doubling with a stranger before, but had been putting off the excruciating chore of cleaning up and consolidating my digital files. In desperation, I decided to try Focus Mate and booked a time slot for the next day. I joined the session with a FocusMate regular in Denmark who had, literally, filled her day with back-to-back Focus Mates to work on her final review of her masters thesis. I ended up getting even farther on my task than planned and was able to spend the last minutes of the session jotting down next steps. I highly recommend trying it for yourself!” – Tori, Flex Tribe member and contributor
Energy Cost: Low energy and low commitment. Use it only when you need to.
Free – 3 free sessions a week
Paid – unlimited weekly sessions for $5 a month.
Unlike Focus Mate, Clubhouse is a voice-only app for group calls. There are a few established ADHD Clubhouse rooms that have daily body doubling sessions. These rooms typically run sprints for 45 minutes then reset similar to how you check back end at the end of a Focus Mate session.
Flex Tribe Review:
“This was a unique way to body double but I wasn’t such a big fan of the music playing during the sprint. I was worried if I muted the sound I’d miss the cue to end the sprint.” – Dorsey, Founder of Team Flex
Energy Cost: High initial investment to set up the app on your phone and potential energy cost to avoid distraction of the multiple other rooms.
Financial Cost: Free!
Join our Slack group and find your tribe. We use an Accountability channel to share important to-do’s with each other. We then check in during the week via our Slack channel for accountability. If a member wants to do a body double session, they can put a request in our accountability channel and we’ll pair them up!
As more members join and express interest we will add additional times to ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate.
Energy Cost: Low initial investment to log in to Slack and positive energy available by connecting with the Flex Tribe.
Financial Cost: Free!
There are a few free Facebook groups where you can try body doubling, but there are also quite a few that you’ll have to pay to be in. To search for those on Facebook simply use the eyeglass search option in the app or on desktop and search for “ADHD Group Body Double Session”.
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