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“Need to Get More Done? (Don’t We All?)”

Body doubling is a tool every person with ADHD should be using. It combines accountability with community in a way that seems to work “getting things done” wonders for those of us with executive function and attention issues.

According to author Patricia Quinn, MD, “A body double is someone who sits with a person with ADHD while they perform tasks that are difficult to accomplish alone.” SOURCE

Getting Started is Easier

You know how when you sit down to do some unpleasant task….getting started is just.so.stinking.hard? Sometimes it’s tough to begin even when it’s a task you enjoy.

People with ADHD have a problem with what psychologists call “activation.”

When we have company we have less trouble getting things done. When someone else is there we tend to settle into the activity faster and complete it faster, which leads us to even more productive behaviors. It’s like a Jedi mind trick.

Motivation is Built-In

When we observe someone working diligently we instinctively want to emulate their behavior. There is some research to back this up involving what are called “mirror neurons.”

Frankly, I couldn’t care less why or how it is happening. I am just glad that my body double friends can motivate me with their presence. And that I can do the same for them.

Body Doubling Changes Our Perception of Work

Normally when we think about working, we think about doing things we do not want to do. We also picture a solitary activity – sitting alone at a desk, typing away.

Isolation makes people with ADHD feel like we’re missing out something – namely, fun activities that aren’t tasks we “should” get done, or “should” finish before the end of the day.

Body doubling gives me just enough social interaction that I do not feel alone. Though my body double and I have different projects and goals, we are both working on something, together.

What’s that expression? Teamwork makes the dream work?  It’s cheesy, but true.

Somehow, having another person in the room helps us identify and focus on what we are trying to get done. And there is built-in accountability because we can see what each other are doing. Or not doing as the case may be.

So, How Do You Do It?

Picture this: It’s noon on a Saturday and you have been online body doubling for a couple hours. You have completed your meal plan for the week, wiped down your kitchen, and cleaned out your email inbox.

How would you feel?

Believe it or not you can use body doubling for exercising, studying, organizing…virtually anything. The possibilities for body doubling are endless. All you need is a partner and a plan.

Things a body double could help you get done:

  • Clean out your closet
  • Dust your living space
  • Vacuum
  • Organize your desk
  • Research for a school project
  • Create a meal plan for the week
  • Write in your journal
  • Return emails
  • Pay bills

Getting started with body doubling is fairly simple. Sometimes I wonder why it took me so long to try it. I mean, how did I not hear about this until now?

First, spend some time thinking about the people in your life that would make good accountability and body doubling partners. You want your partners to be supportive and understanding of what you are trying to accomplish.

Look for a body double who understands how ADHD works and why it’s so hard to get things done. Then, explain that you would like to work beside him, either virtually or in person.

I like to use Zoom conferencing, but you could easily use Facetime or some other streaming video. In person, all you need is a small space for each of you to work and get comfortable in.

There is no need to talk while your work, unless you want to. In my body doubling group, we often chat at the beginning, and then intermittently throughout our work time. Each person does her own thing. Some ask for advice as needed, others make small talk about the household noises in the background. It’s comforting to have another person there even when you are not talking.

Body doubling combines accountability with community in a way that seems to work for people with executive function and attention issues. For those of us living, working, and parenting with ADHD – it’s a real game-changer.

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