Body doubling and you: unlock your focus whether you have ADHD or not

      Body doubling and you: unlock your focus whether you have ADHD or not

      I’ll admit when I first heard the term body doubling I too began conjuring images of mannequins and stuntmen. But through running countless body doubling sessions and tons of research, I’ve discovered it to be one of the most powerful work hacks out there.

      If you’ve ever found yourself buried in emails and Slack pings, only to reach the end of the day with your major projects still staring you down, body doubling may be just what you need.

      So, keep reading to discover everything you need to know about what body doubling is, how to do it, and how you can use it to kiss burnout goodbye and transform your daily grind into a flow of productive success.

      What is body doubling?

      Body doubling is a term used to describe the practice of performing a task with someone else present. Sounds simple, yet works like a charm when it comes to staving off procrastination to concentrate on your tasks.

      As a productivity coach, I’ve seen firsthand how body doubling can help folks get kickstarted with their meatiest projects. Which is why I always talk about its benefits, whether consulting with businesses or delivering talks to students and faculty at places like Oxford University.

      Whether you’re writing a thesis, slogging through emails, crafting a killer presentation or decluttering your home, something about having a group of quiet companions alongside you as you work helps you hunker down to get things done.

      Try an online body doubling session

      Online body doubling sessions are designed to free you from distraction and take the willpower out of productivity.

      Try online body doubling with FLOWN for FREE today.

      Get a 30-day trial, no credit card details required, with unlimited body doubling sessions, and see how much you can tick off your to-do list!

      What does body doubling mean?

      The term ‘body doubling’ was first coined in 1996 by Linda Anderson, an executive productivity coach who later became popular among the ADHD community.

      However the true origins of body doubling go all the way back to the play theorists of the early 20th century. Back then you had the likes of Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, Mildred Parten and others exploring the psychology of learning and play among children.

      Parten observed that when young children played independently alongside one another — a phenomenon known as parallel play —  they’d continue playing for far longer than when playing alone.

      Through her work with ADHD clients, Anderson discovered this same phenomenon to be apparent among adults.

      “The body double,” Anderson explains, “serves as a physical anchor for the distracted individual who feels more focused by the presence of another person in their space. The distracted person feels responsible to and for the body double. This perception translates as­–I can’t waste this gift of time.”

      And voilà — the body doubling effect.

      Having led hundreds of communal online body doubling sessions for remote workers — those with and without ADHD — I’m continually struck by how consistently impactful and empowering the body doubling experience is, both for me and those in the sessions.

      Those who try it invariably end up getting more work done than they’d expected.

      A question I’m often asked is why does body doubling work so well?

      Put simply, human beings are inescapably social and communal animals. We’ve got millennia’s worth of tribal wiring based around doing things together.

      It’s why we train harder alongside a gym buddy; laugh harder, and more often, in the presence of friends. And it’s why we tend to find it easier to do things we’re nervous about when accompanied by the support of others.

      Body doubling is basically the same thing, but for work tasks. It allows you to leverage the deepest elements of your cognitive architecture in service of modern-day goals.

      The mechanism behind body doubling comes down to mirror neurons — a fascinating class of brain cells that basically allow us to "mirror" or emulate the people around us.

      They help us pick up on social cues and behaviors, whether we're trying to fit in, climb the social ladder, or even compete with others. They’re like a built-in guide to help us navigate social interactions and learn from others by reflecting what we see. This is how babies learn to smile, walk etc.

      Body doubling uses this same neurology to anchor your attention on your work, causing you to focus on your tasks more easily when you’re in the presence of others who are doing the same.

      If you’ve ever had trouble tackling a swamped to-do list or prioritizing your time, then, like the many professionals I’ve led in online body doubling sessions, you’ll discover body doubling to be a surprisingly powerful aid.

      Real-life body doubling

      You’ve probably experienced the body doubling effect in places like a library, coffee shop, office, or coworking space. The quiet presence of others, each absorbed in their own tasks, helps to quiet the mental 'noise' that often leads to procrastination by activating those nifty mirror neurons in your brain.

      Body doubling with a friend provides the accountability needed to tap into this effect, shift your mind into focus mode, and nip procrastination in the bud, allowing you to consistently complete your tasks.

      It's a powerful tool you might not have realized you needed. However, there can be pros and cons to this:


      Working alongside a friend can help you:

      • Feel more accountable

      • Stop procrastinating

      • Stay focused


      Working alongside a friend can also:

      • Disrupt your momentum if they have to take a rain check

      • Distract you if they’re prone to chattiness, fidgeting, or not diligently working on their task

      • Trigger body halving, where being aware of another person actually disrupts your attention and stops you getting stuff done

      The benefits of online body doubling

      Online body doubling, where you join a video call to work alongside a community of others who are focused on work tasks, helps to eliminate the risk of body halving in a few ways:

      • Online body doubling sessions use a facilitated structure to minimize distraction and prime your mind for focus.

      • Working alongside others on a screen adds a layer of separation. With participants muted, the impact of unexpected behaviors (coughing, getting up to use the loo etc.) is dampened. This removes interruptions, further lessens mental noise and allows the brain to focus with greater ease.

      Although for many body doubling is a fairly recent term, the psychology underlying it has been around for quite a while, known among researchers as ‘social facilitation theory’.

      The phenomenon was first discovered by American psychologist Norman Triplett in 1898, when he observed that cyclists performed better (i.e. their performance was ‘facilitated’) when training in groups.

      A couple decades later, psychologist Floyd Allport coined the term ‘social facilitation’ to describe this phenomenon.

      Social facilitation can be categorized into two types:

      Co-action effects: the feeling of being spurred on by others engaged in the same activity as you

      Audience effects: the added motivation that comes from the feeling of being watched by others, also known as the Hawthorne Effect.

      What is the Hawthorne Effect?

      In an online body doubling session participants join a video call to work on-camera alongside others focused on their tasks, allowing each person to experience the benefits of both co-action and audience effects (the Hawthorne Effect).

      This takes the willpower out of productivity and makes it easier to stay focused on work tasks.

      Though a person might not realize it, groups have a very powerful and dramatic effect on human behavior. Everyone acts differently when they are around people versus than... when they are alone. Social Facilitation… the most basic theory regarding social psychology is that when a person is alone, he or she is more relaxed and not concerned about the appearance of their behavior.

      - — Paul Kleinman, author

      For busy professionals and students with ADHD, focusing on important work can be especially difficult.

      Research has shown that with ADHD…

      👉🏽 You’re more likely to experience lifelong difficulties with focus

      👉🏽 Five times more likely to struggle with obtaining and maintaining employment as a result

      👉🏽 Three to six times more likely to suffer multiple burnouts

      👉🏽 And three times more likely to experience anxiety or depression

      Through speaking with ADHD experts like Dr Tony Lloyd (CEO, ADHD Foundation), I discovered many of these challenges can be exacerbated by experiences in education and at work.

      “The ADHD population — which is one in 20 people… have been very misunderstood, stigmatized, experienced a lot of exclusion (some of it overt, some of it subtle), particularly within an educational context, but also in terms of access to health services.”

      - — Dr Tony Lloyd (CEO, ADHD Foundation)

      Body doubling helps to reduce the challenges common for people with ADHD in a number of ways:

      Increase accountability when body doubling with ADHD

      Having someone else present while you're working can create a much-needed sense of accountability and support. This presence acts as an anchor to keep your attention from drifting, blunting the executive dysregulation common to ADHD, which in turn helps keep you on track and discourages distractions.

      Nix procrastination paralysis through body doubling with ADHD

      Contrary to popular belief, procrastination isn’t an organization or time-management issue, it’s an emotional regulation issue.

      You have a tricky or daunting task. This elicits feelings of stress or anxiety, so you naturally go do something fun or relaxing to regulate those feelings, which in turn takes you away from the task and lessens the time available to do it.

      End result: more stress.

      Sound familiar? You’re far from alone.

      Most of us procrastinate, whilst studies suggest 1 in 5 of us experience procrastination as a chronic issue.

      Body doubling helps to break this cycle by providing a sense of companionship as you work. This ambient emotional support can alleviate feelings of isolation or frustration, making it easier to tackle challenging tasks.

      Structure your time by body doubling with ADHD

      If you have ADHD you’ll know that time blindness is a ruthless and unforgiving thief.

      • It can be a struggle to estimate how long something will take

      • Can make planning and sticking to a schedule especially tricky.

      • You might find yourself running late, missing deadlines, or just having a tough time figuring out what to do first.

      Body doubling regularly can:

      • Help establish a routine

      • Create a physical cue that makes it easier to start and complete tasks.

      • Plus, by body doubling online via scheduled sessions, you’ll get a better grasp of how long your tasks will typically take.

      Discover how to manage your ADHD at work

      Check out our comprehensive guide for resources, tools, and support with ADHD in the workplace.

      Although body doubling can be a hugely impactful practice for anybody, those with ADHD find it an especially powerful tool, and not just for work.

      “Many people with ADHD find it easier to stay focused on housework, homework, bill paying, and other tasks when someone else is around to keep them company. The body double may just sit quietly. He may read, listen to music on headphones, or work on the task that the person with ADHD is working on. Hard work is simply more fun when someone else is nearby.”

      - — Dr Patricia Quinn, developmental pediatrician and ADHD expert

      Dr Lloyd notes there’s been a whopping 400% increase in people seeking ADHD diagnoses since 2020. And yet, even though confirmed diagnoses for both men and women have jumped by 80% across this same span, we still lack proven tools to support ADHD professionals at work.

      Enter online body doubling.

      A study by the University of East Lancashire found that using FLOWN's online body doubling sessions has a significant positive impact. A game-changer for those needing that extra boost in productivity and focus.

      The study found:

      • 95.7% of participants experienced improved focus

      • 94.6% claimed an increase in productivity

      • 85.8% observed a boost in the quality of their work

      • 93.5% experienced an elevated state of mind

      • 87% of members experienced reduced levels of stress

      Around half of those surveyed during this study had ADHD. Further evidence of how impactful facilitated body doubling can be, whether you experience ADHD or not.

      The great thing about body doubling is it can be used by anyone, for just about anything —whether it's work-related, organizing, pursuing hobbies, or more.

      On the whole, body doubling is particularly favored by:

      • Remote workers

      • Students seeking structure

      • Individuals with ADHD

      • Creatives or academics needing a sense of community.

      The silent camaraderie of body doubling allows you to achieve a deeper focus and stay on track regardless of the task.

      Transform your work life with body doubling sessions

      Writer and content strategist Jo Gifford shares her experience on the incredible perks of online body doubling

      Body doubling for students

      When working with universities, I’ve found that maintaining focus and completing important tasks can be especially tough for busy students and academics. The rise in remote learning has only exacerbated this issue, leaving many struggling with dwindling motivation and well-being.

      Research indicates:

      • 75% of students currently struggle with procrastination

      • University dropout rates have surged since 2021

      • Student burnout is increasingly common

      Body doubling sessions give students a way to combat procrastination, reduce the workload, and manage their coursework and revision more effectively.

      With evidence to suggest that body doubling sessions can even enhance well-being, it’s an ideal solution for students and academics facing the pressures of exams and tenure deadlines.

      Body doubling for remote workers

      One of the biggest challenges of remote work is managing the blurred lines between personal and professional life. Hammering out a budget report amid the whir of a washing machine and laundry chores can be tricky.

      Research shows that working and living in the same space can make it hard to 'switch off' from work at the end of the day.

      • A 2023 study found that 69% of remote workers reported increased burnout specifically due to digital communication tools that are part of working remotely.

      • A two-year study by the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics revealed that over half of WFH employees now work more hours than when they were in the office.

      • Whilst a report by revealed 40% of remote workers struggling to unplug from work at the end of the workday.

      Against this backdrop, finding practical ways to separate professional and personal life is crucial.

      Facilitated body doubling helps address this issue in several ways:

      • Sessions often have a defined start and end time, enabling time blocking to prevent overwork.

      • Body doubling sessions allow you to set realistic goals and get a sense for how long things take, effectively managing time and countering Hofstadter's Law, which leads to overestimating task completion times.

      • Body doubling prevents context switching by focusing on a single task or goal per session, avoiding the negative effects of multitasking.

      • The experience of online body doubling facilitates task progress, offering a sense of momentum that makes work feel more positive.

      Body doubling for entrepreneurs

      Entrepreneurs are frequently switching between client meetings, focused desk work, and presentations; and they often pay a heavy price for this constant context switching.

      This rapid shifting of attention can lead to 'attention residue,' which is sort of like a mini-hangover the brain experiences whenever concentration is interrupted or tasks are changed.

      Attention residue can:

      • Impair productivity

      • Compromise memory

      • Increase stress

      • Cause inattentional blindness, leading to missed details and mistakes

      Body doubling minimizes these effects by allowing entrepreneurs to fully immerse themselves in tasks and properly shut down afterward. This mental buffer helps smooth transitions between tasks, structure time, and keep minds fresh.

      Body doubling for people with ADHD

      Body doubling can be particularly beneficial for those with ADHD.

      Unlike many ADHD aids, body doubling isn't another productivity strategy, learning resource, or to-do list. It's a tool to use while you work to enhance focus, structure the day, and complete important tasks.

      By accessing an online version of this practice, those with ADHD can benefit more easily, without the typical barriers of physical body doubling like travel and scheduling.

      All of the benefits, none of the hassles.

      ‘This platform has changed my life! I have long struggled with ADHD, time management, procrastination and accountability. Using FLOWN daily has greatly increased my ability to do focused work (and my confidence in sticking to my goals).

      - — Ashley, FLOWN member
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      Is body doubling only for people with ADHD?

      Body doubling helps people with all kinds of brains, and all kinds of roles.

      While it’s true that body doubling can be particularly impactful for those with ADHD, it’s a technique that anyone can benefit from.

      Whether you’re a student trying to study, a professional tackling a project, or a writer facing a deadline, working in the company of others can help to enhance your productivity, regardless of your neurotype.

      So, whether or not you have ADHD, body doubling can be a valuable strategy to help you get things done.

      Of course, when it comes to finding effective ways to make use of body doubling there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

      For some, establishing a solid routine with a work buddy can prove effective. For others, being part of a study or work group dedicated to working on specific goals (i.e. a book club, a coding group, a writing circle etc.) can provide the structure and motivation they need to stay on track.

      Body doubling comes in many shapes and sizes. Here are a few popular techniques you might try out:

      Body doubling with a mirror

      One of the more surprising ways to experience the body doubling effect is by using a mirror.

      I know, sounds weird, but, although this isn’t as effective as other methods, the simple act of seeing your own reflection as you work can mimic the presence of another person, engaging your brain's mirror neurons to trick your mind into focus mode.

      Simply position a mirror on your desk or workspace so you can see yourself as you work. This creates a sense of accountability as if you are being observed, which can enhance your focus and productivity.

      When you find yourself getting distracted, you can even take a moment to look at your reflection and mimic the actions of a focused worker. This can help reset your concentration and get you back on track.

      Body doubling on social media and live streams

      Live streaming work sessions on platforms like YouTube, Twitch, TikTok or Instagram is a growing trend.

      By broadcasting yourself as you work, you invite others to join you in real-time, fostering a shared focus and mutual motivation. The knowledge that others are watching and working alongside you can help you feel more accountable, boosting your concentration and productivity.

      Dedicated body doubling platforms

      The most effective way to harness the body doubling effect is through using a dedicated body doubling website.

      As these platforms are specifically designed to create an optimal environment for focused work, they often provide a smoother and more reliable means of being at your most productive.

      Unlike using social media or teaming up with a friend for body doubling, these websites offer more structured virtual work sessions where you can hop on a video call and work alongside others. The consistency and predictability of these environments, where everyone’s focused on their tasks, help promote what’s known as 'hypofrontality.'

      This is where your brain’s executive centers grow calm enough to allow you to enter a flow state, helping you to find deeper focus and accelerate your work.

      Along with the community aspect, these websites often include features that enhance the body doubling experience, such as:

      • Timed work sessions

      • Break reminders

      • Goal-setting tools

      By following these structured routines, you get to build and maintain a consistent workflow and achieve a balanced approach to work and rest that causes your productivity to soar.

      Check out our guide to choosing a body doubling app

      Focusmate review and other virtual coworking alternatives

      Supporting body doubling methods that can help

      To get the ultimate body doubling experience and maximize its effects, you need supportive techniques like:

      Accompanying a body doubling session with these evidenced-based practices can help you make the most out of working alongside others.

      With a FLOWN focus session, you get all of the above and more.

      Here’s how a typical session works:

      1. First, you join a video call to find 50 or so others like you — freelancers, solopreneurs, professionals — all preparing for an hour or more of focused work.

      2. What will you work to achieve during today’s session?” the facilitator invites you to consider.

      3. After meeting two or three strangers in a breakout room to share your answer, you go on to work on your task in the virtual presence of your new companions.

      4. When the timer goes, you rejoin your breakout room to share the progress you made. By the end, you invariably end up having gotten far more done than you’d thought possible.

      What happens in a FLOWN body doubling session?

      Through the facilitation of these social cues, each session taps into subtle neural triggers designed to enhance concentration and productivity, so that you can get more done, more easily.

      Add to this the break sessions, where you can access live facilitated breathwork, yoga and mindfulness classes, and you have everything you need to work at your best wherever you are, whenever you need.

      With technology making remote work and remote learning easier than ever, body doubling is fast moving beyond being a mere trend—it ticks all the boxes for the modern workforce: flexibility, autonomy, and a sense of community.

      Whether you're a freelancer, remote employee, someone with ADHD, or a student, body doubling is your ticket out of the isolation that can come with being office-free. It's becoming the go-to solution for modern professionals keen to add a splash of camaraderie to the daily grind, to make remote work work for them.

      Get more done with body doubling

      Don't slog through your workday. FLOWN's body doubling sessions are designed to help you get more done and feel good doing it.

      Try a session for free today, and see how much you can tick off your to-do list!

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