Get Work Done Together with Body Doubling

Body doubling is the best technique I’ve found to help me get work done. For me, working alone is challenging and requires a ton of willpower. When body doubling, you work alongside someone else, either in person or through a video call.

It’s essentially an accountability partner. We don’t chat, collaborate, or help each other. I work better just by being in the presence of someone else working.

It sounds simple and maybe even strange, but it’s absurdly effective for me, and I’m not alone. Body doubling services popped up all over the place during the pandemic.

You can body double a number of ways. Try in person with a friend, over video calls with friends, or several services that match you with work partners. Some YouTubers even post ‘study with me’ videos where they quietly work on camera with music and a timer.

It’s especially effective for folks with ADHD, like myself. I fell in love with body doubling before my ADHD diagnosis and didn’t realize the strong correlation. If you Google ‘body doubling,’ all of the top results mention ADHD somehow.

My go-to body doubling tool is Focusmate, where I’ve clocked over one thousand hours in focus sessions. Each focus session is 50 minutes of work with a 10-minute break at the end.

Focusmate’s structure and body doubling overall helps me for many reasons.

  1. I schedule my focus sessions in advance, committing to work during those hours.
  2. It promotes goal setting. At the start of each session, each person says what they’re working on. This small habit makes me choose my most important task.
  3. It keeps me accountable, even to strangers. They rely on me to stay focused, just as I count on them to do the same. If I get up or check my phone, I implicitly allow them to get distracted. That’s not being a good partner.
  4. The structure of 50 minutes on and 10 minutes off quiets my inner child. Knowing I have a break coming assures my mind that it’ll get to rest, and I can hold off on checking my phone or email till the end of the session.

That’s my favorite way to body double, but only some people love working one-on-one with strangers. Large groups like the London Writer’s Salon do daily focus groups on one big Zoom call. Study with Me YouTube videos are a fun way to dip your toes into the concept. If you want to try Focusmate, they do have a free plan, so you can test it out.

Give body doubling a shot. You might find that sharing a quiet work session with someone is highly effective for you, too.