When you want to get something done, but can’t seem to do it, “body doubling” may be able to help. 

Body doubling might sound strange, but it’s a simple technique where you use the presence of someone else to help you focus.

Although body doubling is a method popularized within the ADHD community, it can be of use for virtually anyone who struggles with procrastination, regardless of the cause.

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 completing 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 people, and could pair with body doubling.)

For those who face procrastination, body doubling can relieve nerves, make things more enjoyable, or act as a unique and subtle form of peer support. When you body double, the other person is an anchor, binding you to the task. Their presence helps you get started and/or stay engaged, regardless of why you may find the task tough.

In short, it can be easier to get something done with another person there. And while many of us have experienced that boost, it may not occur to you as an actual tool for productivity.

Why try body doubling?

Since body doubling is often used and talked about among people with ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), 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.

Sometimes, there is just a wall between you and productivity. No matter who you are, this can be challenging and may disrupt your life. This executive dysfunction can lead to negative feelings about oneself, added stress, and other causes of emotional strain.

Reality check? It isn’t productive to continually beat yourself up, which can make things worse.

Stress magnifies executive dysfunction. That may be a main reason why body doubling can help. Having someone around can create a feeling of safety and security, so your executive dysfunction calms down.

How to body double

We’ve established that body doubling can help if you’re struggling to be productive, or helplessly procrastinating. Now, here’s how to do it!

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.

Body doubling can be in-person: this can look like…

  • A friend sitting 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
  • A classmate working 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. 

However, body doubling doesn’t have to be in-person: 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…

  • Calling a friend and completing a task while on the phone
  • Listening to a shared playlist together while you work, checking in before and after the task is done
  • Getting on video chat and completing a task together

How do you ask someone to body double with you, for productivity?

For some, the real question is: How do you ask someone to body double with you?

First off, you can just share this article to help explain the concept, and why you think it would help!

Alternatively, you don’t have to explain the concept or even name it. 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.

What if body doubling doesn’t work for me?

If body doubling doesn’t help you (or doesn’t help enough), don’t fret. There are other tools one can use to aid with procrastination, and the best choices may vary from person to person. Sometimes, getting to the root of why you procrastinate can help. 

Why do we procrastinate?

Procrastination is rarely about willpower or self-control. Many sources 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
  • fear of failure
  • insecurity
  • trauma
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • difficulty with self-esteem
  • stress
  • lack of sleep

Either way, you aren’t “bad” for procrastinating, and there are tools available to you. It’s okay if body doubling doesn’t work, and if it takes time to find what works for you. And, if you need support in the process, you should feel free to open up about the struggle (with trustworthy people, of course). 

Peer support

In more ways than one, it’s important to have someone by your side–with productivity struggles, or anything else.

Available 24/7, peer support through Supportiv is here for you when you need it. It’s anonymous, moderated, and affordable, with over 1.2 million users to date. When you use Supportiv, you can discuss what’s on your mind with someone who gets it. Learn more about Supportiv, or click Chat Now to connect with peers immediately.