Enlist Others As An Anti-Procrastination Tactic: Body Doubling

It’s frustrating when you want to get something done but can’t seem to do it. Body doubling, a tool largely popularized within the online ADHD community, may be able to help. 

Although it is a method that many people with ADHD use to combat executive dysfunction, body doubling can be of use for virtually anyone who struggles with procrastination, regardless of the cause.

“Body doubling” might sound strange, but it’s a simple technique where you use the presence of someone else to help you focus. Why can body doubling help procrastination, and how does it work? Get the low-down here.

What is body doubling?

In practice, body doubling is largely what it sounds like. To “body double” refers to the act of initiating or following through with a task with another person by your side to make it easier.

It’s not necessarily about having someone there for accountability, though that is beneficial for some and could pair with body doubling.

When you body double, the other person is an “anchor” that bonds you to the task. Their presence lets you get started and/or stay engaged, regardless of why you may have found the task tough alone. For those who face procrastination (which can stem from many different things, including nervousness or anxiety, tiredness, and so much more) it can also relieve nerves, make things more enjoyable, or it can act as a unique and subtle form of peer support.

In short, it can be easier to get something done with another person there–and when it comes to what you use it for or why, no judgment there. If it helps, that’s what matters.

Why try body doubling?

First, since body doubling is often used and talked about among people with ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) who are struggling with executive dysfunction, let’s talk a little bit about executive dysfunction.

You’re not alone: this popular TikTok account provides virtual body doubling support (“tasking together”)

Executive dysfunction is something that people can experience whether they do or do not have ADHD, but it is a common conversation topic among people with ADHD. Executive dysfunction is not the same as procrastination, but from the outside, it can look like procrastination – one of the most common struggles for those living with ADHD is that it often looks like a person isn’t trying, doesn’t want to engage with a task, or doesn’t want to start on a task, when in reality, they do. No matter who you are, this can be challenging and may disrupt your life.

Maybe, you have a household chore or paperwork you’ve put off continuously, and it’s hard to start when you’re on your own. It could also be something you need to do for school, your job, or your family. This doesn’t just impact the task at hand, although this, of course, is significant enough in and of itself. It can also lead to negative feelings about oneself, added stress, and other causes of emotional strain.

But, the fact is that it isn’t productive to continually beat yourself up, which doesn’t help at best and can even make things worse, leading to a number of potential negative outcomes. Body doubling is something that can be useful if there’s a task that feels overwhelming, boring, or tedious – or if you have a tendency to procrastinate.

Now, here’s how to do it!

How to body double

Body doubling doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be doing the same thing as the other person in the room. They may have something to work on themselves, or they may be present in another fashion. In person, this can look like a friend who sits with you while you make a phone call, a partner washing the dishes while you sit at the table and finish paperwork in the same room, or a classmate who works on homework with you, whether it is or is not for the same class. It can help to have someone else in the same room, even if the activities you engage in aren’t at all the same. 

All of that said, you don’t have to have another person with you physically to be a body double for each other. You can also body double virtually. Virtual body doubling can be done over phone, video chat, or through other creative means. Here are some ideas:

  • Call a friend and complete a task while on the phone.
  • Listen to a shared playlist together while you work and check in before and after the task is done.
  • Get on video chat and complete a task together. 

For some, the real question is: How do you ask someone to body double with you? You can present the concept of body doubling, ask a friend if they’d be willing to use it to support one another, and explain that it often makes it easier to follow through. You can also simply ask someone to sit with you, go somewhere with you, or otherwise exist in the same space while you get done what you need to do. Most of us have used body doubling in some capacity before, even if we didn’t know it.

If it doesn’t work – or if you need more help with procrastination – don’t fret. There are other tools one can use to aid with procrastination, and it varies from person to person. Sometimes, getting to the root of why you procrastinate can also be valuable, especially if it’s an ongoing theme, if it causes notable emotional distress, or if it puts a strain on your life and commitments. 

Why do we procrastinate?

Procrastination is rarely about willpower or self-control. Sources often suggest that, in some cases, it may be something deeper. A vast range of factors may affect a person’s ability to initiate, focus on, or execute a task. These can include but aren’t limited to perfectionism, insecurity, trauma, anxiety, depression, difficulty with self-esteem, stress, or a lack of sleep. Even if that isn’t the case, body doubling is a valid tool to use. It could be that a task simply isn’t a pleasant one, or there might be another block, whether that block is identifiable or not. At the end of the day, it doesn’t hurt to make something more pleasurable! Either way, you aren’t “bad” for procrastinating, and when you have a healthy way to address the problem, it can help you prevent the consequences that can come when you put off a task. It’s okay if it takes time, and if you need someone to talk to in the process, you deserve a trustworthy ear. 

Peer support

In more ways than one, it’s important to have someone by your side. Available 24/7, peer support through the Supportiv is here for you when you need it. It’s anonymous, moderated, and affordable, with over 1.1 million users. When you use Supportiv, you can discuss what’s on your mind with someone who gets it. Learn more about Supportiv, or sign up and chat with someone now.