Unlocking the Power of Body Doubling

by | Productivity

Can something as simple as another person's presence make it easier to focus on the task?

While no concrete research proves its effectiveness, body doubling is helping many people get things done. 

According to a 2022 study, structural and functional differences exist in the brains of people prone to procrastination. This study shows that people can overcome procrastination when they work in groups where they can observe others with better productivity skills.

Body doubling (not like a stunt double) is working alongside someone who can motivate you to stay on a task that you find challenging. You don't even have to be working on the same thing. If you tell your body double what you’re going to work on and work together on your individual tasks, then you're more likely to be productive.

It’s one of those productivity tools we often use without ever calling it by name or consciously thinking of it as a hack. 

For example, we might head to a coffee shop to work in the presence of strangers rather than completing tasks at home. We also tend to push ourselves harder at the gym, surrounded by others doing the same thing, than we might while working out at home.

There is additional research that suggests that social encounters activate the dopamine pathway, which is important for motivation and reward. Engaging with a body double may also help boost dopamine levels.

Six potential benefits of using a body double:

“I don’t need you to help me, I just need you to keep me company as I do this.”- Unknown

  • The body double may model more effective ways to complete common and mundane tasks. People can also become more effective using tools such as Focus booster*. Using them individually or with your body double will only provide a positive effect. 
  • Working with a body double can make boring tasks less frustrating, creating an incentive and motivation to complete them.
  • The body double provides some accountability and may even be able to offer feedback on distracting or self-defeating behaviors. 
  • If the strategy works, it may promote a sense of mastery and self-efficacy that inspires a person to develop additional techniques for focus. You can try out other techniques like Apollo Neuro**. An ankle or wrist device can help your sleep, focus, and relaxation by activating the parasympathetic rest and digest response. 
  • Increased sense of calm. A sense of ease can be induced through other means as well. For example, meditation apps like Calm can boost your focus levels.
  • Body doubling works by targeting executive functions. It can also make an unpleasant task more enjoyable.

There’s currently limited research to support body doubling or to explain how it might work, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find it helpful. There’s lots of anecdotal evidence in support of this technique.

Choosing a supportive person who won’t distract or shame you is important. It’s also important to know other science-backed options can help you become more productive if you don’t have access to a body double.

Asking someone to be your body double might feel awkward, but the best approach is often straightforward. You could say, “It's something I heard can help with productivity. Would you mind just being around me while I work on this? Maybe you have something you could work on, too. Together, we can focus and achieve our goals”.

Bob Proctor (Author of Think and Grow Rich) perfectly captures the impact of this technique:

‘Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result.’

Post written by Marcey Rader and Rijul Arora.

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