In the spirit of full disclosure and the all-too-human need to connect, I stand before you, metaphorically speaking, as an ADHD try-it-and-tester.
My life might seem like a haphazard collection of thought fragments, half-finished tasks, and lost AirPods to the untrained eye.
Sometimes I’m a productivity rocket.
Other times, my brain checks out before the week has even begun.
But, having always positioned myself as an optimist, I embraced an experiment to help manage my ADHD: body doubling.
Here's a window into my experience and the 10 revelations that came my way.
What is Body Doubling?
Body doubling is a technique used to mitigate the effects of ADHD (e.g. time blindness, ADHD paralysis, and inattentivness)
It simple working alongside another person who shares the same space as you, working on their own tasks.
They are not there to interact, engage, or disrupt but simply to exist in your environment.
It might seem oddly simple, but this method has a profound impact for anyone with ADHD.
The presence of another person - their breathing, the soft clicking of a keyboard, the rustling of paper - acts as a physical anchor, tethering us to the task at hand.
I thought it’d be too distracting, but it turns out it’s the opposite!
It's a shared journey of sorts, where each one is engaged in their own world yet unconsciously lends support to the other.
Why is Body Doubling Useful for People with ADHD?
If you have ADHD, you’re probably accustomed to the cascade of thoughts, each vying for our attention, making concentration herculean.
Enter body doubling.
The presence of another person brings an inexplicable sense of calm and focus, tempering the tumultuous tides of the ADHD mind.
It is like having a silent ally, a sentinel, guiding us gently towards getting things done.
The shared energy reduces feelings of isolation, having an ADHD accountability buddy makes tasks seem less overwhelming and even more enjoyable. It fosters a sense of accountability, nudging us away from procrastination.
Reducing anxiety and distractions and increasing productivity and task completion add an element of stability in the typically chaotic world of ADHD.
It’s a simple yet powerful technique, a beacon illuminating the twisty-turny ADHD journey.
1. Shared Energy
The first thing that struck me was the shared energy.
Having someone else physically present, even if they were engrossed in their own tasks, made my tasks seem less daunting and more achievable.
There’s a sense of getting stuff done together, even when you’re working on separate projects.
Plus, you feel a tad guilty picking up your phone every two minutes when they’re pounding through their to-do list.
And it becomes almost a mini-challenge in its own right without the pressure of competition.
2. Reduced Procrastination
And on that note…
With another person around, procrastination took a backseat. I was less inclined to postpone tasks and more motivated to tackle them head-on.
Usually, I find myself stalling or in task paralysis, always moving my to-do list around or feeling like I don’t have the energy to get started.
With someone else by my side, I felt more confident in my abilities and just got on with it.
ADHD body doubling online held me accountable.
Knowing someone was sharing my workspace made me more responsible and focused on completing tasks.
I didn’t want to distract them, and somehow it stopped me from checking the fridge every two minutes.
I never gelled too well in a normal office environment because there was too much going on, but having another person there really put me in the zone.
One area where it was incredibly helpful was getting a personal trainer - yes, that’s right, your PT can be your body double.
Getting to the gym is hard enough, but remaining focused is another battle. With a PT by my side, I remained focused throughout the workout and also felt more motivated to get out of the door in the first place!
4. Distraction Management
I found that body doubling helped me manage distractions.
The shared presence provided a subtle check against wandering thoughts and unnecessary detours.
I’m a total daydreamer and certified TikTok addict, so it was useful to have someone catch me staring off into space and bring me back to reality.
Your body double becomes a physical and mental anchor. They are a sensory cue that helps refocus your attention without being told to do so.
It’s brilliant because, if you’re anything like me, being told to do something increases the likelihood of it not being done by 100000%.
5. Task Completion
My tasks seemed to finish themselves almost magically.
The mundane, boring tasks and those five-minute ones I’d been putting off for two weeks - boom, done!
It was Asana Unicorns and Narwals all day long!
Body doubling can make the most mind-numbing of chores seem less…well, boring.
Having someone around can make the dull stuff fun.
The presence of another person acted as a catalyst, propelling me towards completing my tasks. We also gave each other encouragement when we checked things off our lists!
I loved how it encouraged me to tackle the difficult activities I’d usually delay.
It gave me a perspective on how to get started on these mundane tasks even when I don’t have someone to body double with me.
6. Light Social Interaction
Body doubling also offered an element of light social interaction.
Yes, the focus was on work, but it felt like we were a team that could have a laugh in between.
Remote work can be isolating and lonely; without anyone to bounce ideas off or talk to, you can end up in the depths of ADHD rumination, overthinking and loneliness.
Not with ADHD body doubling, though!
7. Reduced Anxiety
I observed a noticeable reduction in anxiety.
The shared environment created a supportive space that eased my stress and worry.
I’m constantly second-guessing myself, so it’s nice to have someone there to help me organise my thoughts before I convince myself I’m the worst writer ever to exist.
8. Increased Productivity
Productivity levels saw a marked rise.
The body doubling method seemed to act like a hidden force, driving me to accomplish more in less time.
I felt more creative and focused - but perhaps that was the pizza we agreed to order if we got everything boxed off?
9. A Sense of Normalcy
Perhaps one of the most profound realisations was the sense of normalcy.
I’ve been working from home, like many of us, since the start of the pandemic. Running my own business has swiftly turned into 24/7 remote work.
ADHD body doubling online helped add structure, making my day feel 'typical' and less chaotic.
10. Personal Growth
Finally, this experiment in body doubling has been a journey of personal growth.
It has encouraged introspection, resilience, and a deeper understanding of how my ADHD functions.
I’ve worried that having people around would lead to too much distraction or hyperactivity, but the result has been calming.
10 /10 recommend!
Body Doubling Apps
Body doubling doesn’t need to be done in person.
You can try a body double app if you don’t have an in-person body double.
ADHD coworking platforms like Deepwrk are a great option when you work from home - they can be as effective as someone sitting next to you in person.
Other ADHD productivity tools
There are now a ton of ADHD productivity tools. In fact, there are so many that it's a challenge to find the ones that actually work.
But we've done the hard work for you.
Some of these might cost an arm and a leg, but if you live in the UK, the government's Access to Work ADHD grand can help you cover some of the costs.
In retrospect, body doubling has been an enlightening exploration.
As I've navigated its pros and cons, it has transformed from an experiment into an effective strategy for my ADHD management.
It has also highlighted the unique interplay between my own quirks and strengths, leading me to this moment of sharing and connection.
When you think about it, our journeys, no matter how personal, always seem to reflect a larger shared experience.
And so, if my revelations encourage even one individual to look at their ADHD in a new light or help them explore a new coping mechanism, then this endeavour would have served its purpose.
That’s what human connection is all about, right?
So here's to body doubling, to ADHD, and to the uniquely human journey of self-discovery and growth that life offers us in all its chaotic glory.