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  • Writer's picturePetra

Body Doubling: A Powerful Strategy for Busting Procrastination

Body doubling is a simple yet powerful strategy where a person with ADHD performs tasks alongside another person. The "body double" does not need to actively participate in the task (although sometimes this can be helpful and appropriate), but their presence acts as a subtle form of accountability and support. This method leverages the idea that having someone else nearby can help an individual with ADHD focus better and stay on task, making it easier to initiate, continue, and complete tasks.


In my work with adults with ADHD I see body doubling as a strategy with a pretty high success rate, but it is resource-intensive. When someone has a high-stakes project that needs to be completed to avoid significant costs, I strongly encourage a body double. For some lucky clients, they have a supportive partner whose daily routines help to prompt them to complete their own daily daily tasks. But even then, procrastination is a common and insideous ADHD trait which can create a great deal of stress.


How Does Body Doubling Help?

  1. Increased Focus and Productivity: The presence of a body double can significantly reduce the likelihood of becoming distracted, thereby enhancing focus and productivity.

  2. Reduced Procrastination: Starting a task is often the hardest part for individuals with ADHD. Body doubling creates a set time and space to begin work, reducing procrastination.

  3. Enhanced Motivation: Working alongside someone can foster a sense of companionship and motivation, making daunting tasks feel more manageable.

  4. Accountability: The body double serves as a gentle reminder to stay on task, providing a level of accountability that can be incredibly effective.


I have clients who have used body doubling for a variety of tasks: tidying/cleaning their bedroom, working on an assignment or project for study, completing household tasks, working on taxes, and cooking. Sometimes it can happen in the form of study groups. But, I also have clients who cannot suppress their desire to talk to their study partners. I have clients who have found that changing their environment, such as going to a library to study with a friend, or to a friend's house to focus on a work assignment, is additionally useful by reducing the distractions they would find in their usual environment.


Implementing and Enhancing Body Doubling

Implementing body doubling can vary depending on individual preferences and circumstances. Here are some suggestions for effectively using this strategy:


  • Find a Willing Partner: This could be a friend, family member, colleague, partner, or even someone hired for this purpose. The key is that the individual is physically present and can provide the necessary sense of accountability and support.

  • Set Clear Expectations: Ensure that both parties understand the purpose of body doubling. The body double should know that they don’t need to actively help with the task but that their presence is valuable.

  • Choose Appropriate Tasks: Body doubling works best for tasks that are important but often postponed or avoided due to lack of motivation or focus.

  • Regular Scheduling: If a task is repetitive or will take multiple sessions to complete, scheduling regular body doubling sessions can be useful. This can work well in the form of study groups.

  • Virtual Body Doubling: For those who cannot access a body double in person, virtual sessions through video calls, or even talking to someone on the telephone can also be effective. There are even apps where a facilitator and a group of attendees books prearranged sessions where they each work in their own environment through a video call, with virtual support and accountability.

While body doubling can be a highly effective strategy for many, it is resource-intensive, requiring the time and presence of another person. It’s important to choose body doubles who are understanding and non-judgmental around the difficulties that ADHD poses. Someone who is likely to say "you're an adult, why can't you just do your laundry like everyone else?" will not be a good option.


Conclusion

Body doubling is a testament to the power of human presence and support to increase motivation and focus. For adults with ADHD, this strategy offers a tangible method to increase focus, productivity, and motivation for specific tasks. Despite its resource-intensive nature, the benefits of body doubling make it a valuable tool in the arsenal of strategies for managing ADHD, and might be one of the best options for a time-pressured and and high-stakes situation that has not been able to be managed by less intensive measures.




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