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ADHD coach Robin Nordmeyer, who has been delaying preparing for her presentations, joins other coaches in a Zoom meeting once a week while she works on writing blogs, administrative tasks, or content.
Nordmeyer has ADHD, and she doesn't need to collaborate to get things done. She just needs someone in the room to motivate her.
"I run my own business and have to balance many different aspects of it," Nordmeyer said, co-founder and managing director of the Centre for Living Well with ADHD in Minnesota, an ADHD coaching group serving people of all ages.
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Nordmeyer explained that "some of these things come easily; they are in my wheelhouse, and they give me energy. I can't get enough to do them." "Some of these things are more difficult, or I am resistant to them."
Nordmeyer's method of completing those more difficult tasks is known as "body-doubling," which is a productivity strategy and self-help technique that involves working together with another to improve motivation and concentration. It has been popular for some time among people with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), especially during the pandemic.
Billy Roberts is the clinical director at Focused Mind ADHD Counseling, a Columbus, Ohio-based ADHD counseling center. "For people with ADHD, whose minds wander and tend to get off task, the body doubles as an external motivation to stay on track."
According to J. Russell Ramsay of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman Medical School and the ADHD Treatment and Research Programmed, body doubling can help people of all ages, but it is especially important for those with ADHD.
Why body doubling works
According to the Centre for the Developing Child at Harvard University, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that's commonly diagnosed during childhood but can last into adulthood. It results from a lack of executive function or self-regulation and may be caused by a low level of development. These skills allow us to multitask, plan, and focus our attention. Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are all symptoms of ADHD. People with the disorder
may have difficulty focusing, staying organized, or managing their time. This can impact their personal and professional lives.
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Roberts explained that if people with ADHD do not have an intrinsic interest in the task at hand, they will struggle to find motivation to finish it or even begin it. Experts say that body doubling can provide this motivation.
Ramsay added that it also appeals to our social nature. "A lot of people with ADHD say that they have trouble getting started if it's just them. But if someone else is counting on me or waiting for me outside to take our walk, then I am more likely to be there. I don't want to let them down."
According to Roberts and other experts, there doesn't seem to be much research on the benefits of body doubling. Roberts stated that externalizing motivation has been a proven method of managing ADHD for many years.
In theory, the method is fairly straightforward. However, there are a few things to consider to get the most out of it.
How to effectively use body doubling
The body doubling technique can be used to help you with any difficult task, whether it's schoolwork, work, chores, or exercise. Body doubling doesn't require the other person to be doing exactly the same activity as you, unless you need it for an exercise or school assignment.
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Choose carefully who you want to be your body double. Roberts says the person you choose should be just as dedicated to your success as you are. They shouldn't distract you with conversations or other distractions. Select someone who makes you feel safe and comfortable and can give you encouragement when needed.
Nordmeyer advised: "It is important to focus a double session on the purpose of it." If you do have a conversation, put it on hold until later.
It might be awkward to ask someone to act as your body double, but Roberts says the best approach is often a simple one. You might say, "I heard it can increase productivity." Do you mind if I just sat around while I worked on this? "Maybe you have a project you could also work on."
Ramsay suggested that you could barter in some way with them. For example, Ramsay said, "You organize my garage this Saturday, and I will organize your office on Sunday", Ramsay said.
He added that the small steps of finding a partner and arranging a session are what get you going and keep you motivated.
Nordmeyer suggested that you can schedule regular sessions for body doubling or simply ask when the need arises. You can decide how transparent you want to be about the reasons you need a double and whether you use more than one.
Roberts replied, "It all depends on the person." If it becomes a distraction rather than a tool for mindfulness, accountability, or behavioral support, you may want to reconsider. You can tinker around with things until you discover what works.
Virtual Body Doubling
You are not out of luck if you don't know anyone who can be your body double.
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Nordmeyer explained that in virtual sessions, "most body doubles will ask you to share the camera. Many people are nervous about being seen." The purpose is to ensure that you are still working in your chair. There are other ways to create accountability, such as using a chat function.
Roberts says that the benefits of passive body-doubling can make people prefer to work in places like coffee shops, libraries, or cowering spaces.
He added, "Some people are more productive with the support of their community and simply being aware of others around them." "You saw it a lot during the pandemic. People learned about the types of structures they needed.
Roberts: "There's no problem with the fact that we all work and think differently.