Why TikTok's "Body Doubling" Productivity Trick Really Works
It's all about accountability.
If you struggle to work from home, finish chores, or check things off your to-do list without an audience, then you already know and appreciate the benefits of body doubling, a productivity hack that’s been making the rounds on TikTok.
Body doubling is a technique where you work on a task with someone nearby — either in-person or virtually — as a way to stay focused, says Meredith Van Ness, LCSW, a therapist and founder of counseling center Balanced+Well. “This person, known as the ‘body double,’ is simply there for support and accountability,” she tells Bustle. “They provide a sense of presence and structure, which can help you stay focused, motivated, and on-task.”
With the body double in your presence as a witness, the idea is that you’re less likely to scroll Instagram, stare off into space, or get distracted by your dog — mostly because you don’t want to let them down by not doing your work. While it’s super helpful for people with ADHD, anyone can use the body doubling trick. It’ll come in handy if your eyes glaze over when working from home or if you tend to procrastinate with chores or admin, like cleaning up after dinner or scheduling a dentist appointment, says life coach Ashlynn Whalley.
“Everyone knows how it feels to put off a task for hours — or days — only to finally start it and be finished in no time,” Whalley tells Bustle. “By body doubling with someone, you're being held accountable in a no-judgment, supportive way. This gentle form of motivation can have a huge impact on performance and focus.” Ahead, everything to know about the productivity hack.
What To Know About Body Doubling
When there’s another person nearby to hold you accountable, it’s like your brain suddenly clicks into gear — and impossible tasks feel possible. “It’s why many people have a favorite coffee shop where they always seem to get so much work done,” Whalley explains. “It's because other people are working there, too.” It’s also why it feels so nice to FaceTime a friend while you WFH, or even why “study with me” YouTube videos, where someone livestreams their study session, can be such a big help.
While you might see creators on TikTok body doubling with a friend or coworker who’s also trying to work, your body double doesn’t have to do the same thing you’re doing, Whalley says. You can check your emails next to a partner who’s watching TV, or put the dishes away when a roommate chats with you in the kitchen. With them nearby, it might even feel like you want to get stuff done.
Body Doubling Tips
To give body doubling a try, start by finding an accountability partner. “This can be a friend, family member, coworker, or anyone who’s willing to support you in your task,” Van Ness says. Ask if they’d be willing to sit nearby, hop on a video call, or check in with you while you work on a project. They don’t have to help you complete the task, Van Ness notes, but they can ask how it’s going. If no one’s available, a YouTube video will do the trick.
To really get into a body doubling session, Van Ness suggests setting up a workspace that’s conducive to productivity. Gather all the things you need — like your laptop, a drink, paperwork — then set a working time frame. “This can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as a few hours, depending on your needs and preferences,” she says. With the timer set, you can get to work, fold the laundry, make the call, etc. As Van Ness says, “It's a simple yet effective way to increase productivity and stay on track, whether you have ADHD or not.” Sold.
Salmi, J. (2018). Out of focus - Brain attention control deficits in adult ADHD. Brain Res. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2018.04.019.
Meredith Van Ness, LCSW, therapist, founder of Balanced+Well
Ashlynn Whalley, life coach