Give your productivity a turbo boost!

Are you a work-from-homer who struggles to stay motivated and on-task? Do your office colleagues constantly distract you to the point where you’re not hitting your deadlines? Are you feeling like a failure when you keep ignoring those piles of laundry that have grown to the size of Mt. Everest?

Body doubling may be just the ticket you need to get out of procrastination/distraction town. But first… what the heck is it if not an alien abduction? While it may sound creepy, you’ve likely done it already at various times in your life.

Think of study sessions with your friends when you were in high school and college. Or your diet or exercise accountability buddy. Doubling is similar but also a bit different. Originally, it grew out of a particular need folks with attention deficit disorders (ADHD) have: they struggle with lower levels of dopamine in the brain than the average human, and that lowers focus and concentration, particularly when it comes to boring or tedious tasks. And low dopamine also reduces motivation to begin and stick with a task until completion.

Enter body doubling! Working quietly and simultaneously with others, whether in the same room or virtually, can help boost productivity in a variety of ways:

  • It can increase dopamine having another person there, even if you aren’t engaging together socially.
  • The body double can share new ways of focusing and working that can be a catalyst or model to greater concentration.
  • Knowing you are accountable to another can be inherently motivating.
  • The camaraderie and social engagement, however brief, can give just enough of a dopamine hit to keep distraction at bay.
  • And the increased productivity in body doubling sessions can keep folks coming back for more.

I can speak from my own experience, as a person with ADHD diagnosed late alongside chronic illness, that body doubling has had a profound and positive effect on my mental wellbeing, my career, my connection with others, and my productivity in general. Even before I had a name for it, I was seeking out or creating groups with other writers where we would come together to work on our novels in coffeeshops and libraries. And, later, after discovering the ADHD, I sought out ADHD groups on Facebook, many of which had set times for body doubling sessions. And now I run a Facebook group filled with all manner of creative colleagues, and we set up virtual Zoom sessions to work.

If you’d like to give body doubling a try, you can join online groups (you can find many on Facebook, Instagram, Discord, and TikTok). Or you can ask a family member, friend, or colleague to meet with you at a coffeeshop or your living room to work.

The way I run mine is similar to what I’ve seen elsewhere. We chat for about 10 minutes to start, and discuss what we hope to accomplish. While you can do these sprints in 30-35 min increments, I find that that’s the point where I really get into “The Flow” where I’m most productive. So when I run time, I almost always set a timer for 1 hour. I typically set the timer on my watch, since it buzzes my wrist when the time is up, which I find very distracting. It pulls me out of “The Flow” and then we all check in with each other to see how the hour went. We continue that same work-break-work process until we get tuckered out or finish our projects.

I’ve also done a form of this using YouTube. There are various types of pre-recorded body doubling videos on there, some with a person there working on their computer and some featuring ambient sounds, focus music, binaural beats, or green noise against a single animated image. I keep a growing playlist of those on YouTube, which you can view here:

I should note that body doubling isn’t for everyone—particularly if any body doublers are super chatty or tend to be more productive when alone. So you may need to pick and choose who you double with to find the right pairings. Or it’s possible that you are already stellar at focusing and don’t need anything extra to get down to business.

That said, I recommend anyone try this method of working at least once (whether it be for household chores, writing that Great American Novel, doing bookkeeping, or learning how to code—and incidentally I’ve used it for all of the above).

Without body doubling, I’m certain I wouldn’t have six published novels under my name. I wouldn’t have struck out on my own as a freelance editor, designer, stock artist, or book formatter either. So as you may well imagine, I’m a huge fan of it, even if it sounds a bit like an alien abduction. I rather dislike the name, to be honest, so I now call them schzoomies because I typically do them over Zoom and schzoomies is simply far more fun to say. 😉

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An exploration of the mind… Tools, apps, tutorials, and fascinating tidbits on the topics of forming successful habits, rewiring the brain, managing ADHD, and cultivating a better work/life balance.

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