Body Doubling With ADHD

Jillian Enright

A productivity strategy described by many as helpful was actually…helpful!

I’ve frequently seen videos and posts about body doubling but hadn’t thought much of it. As an autistic introvert who prefers a quiet, solitary working environment, I figured it was something that might work for some but not for me.

Apparently, I was wrong.

If the term is new to you, body doubling is essentially having another person present when you’re getting work done — almost as a form of accountability, but they aren’t meant to add any pressure on you, just be present.

Some people find this strategy so helpful, they seek out like-minded ADHDers to connect with and will body double virtually.

I remember when I was in college and not yet diagnosed with ADHD, I had a harder time studying in my apartment. I assumed it was because there were so many distractions — my roommate, my computer with Internet, and a myriad of more interesting things to do.

I completed my first degree in Toronto and took the subway to and from classes every day. I quickly discovered that reading on the subway with headphones on provided the ideal environment in which to study. I had no cell service because we were underground, no internet, and no roommate to chat with.

I chalked it up to fewer distractions and didn’t put much more thought into it.

In retrospect

But wait — are there actually fewer distractions in a Toronto subway car than in an apartment shared with one or two roommates? Not likely. Even during the quieter hours, there’s almost always something going on.

I was able to tune everything out by blasting music in my ears, but I am a highly observant person and tend to notice everything happening around me. Yet when I donned my headphones and put my nose in a textbook the world seemed to fall away.

Huh.

I also work better in coffee shops, libraries, and other similar environments, provided they aren’t too loud or crowded.

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Bill Watterson

Fast forward to this week's experience

My husband’s job is very hands-on and he is considered an essential worker. Despite multiple Covid shut-downs, he has very rarely worked from home over the past two years.

Until today.

My husband and I are both working from home and I’ve never been so productive. He’s working in the kitchen while I shift back and forth between my home office and my favourite reading spot on our living room couch.

We’ve hardly interacted as we’ve both been busy working away, but for some reason just having him home motivates me to stay focused and get things done. Part of it is probably due to me feeling self-conscious: I don’t want my husband to get the impression I sit around doing nothing all day!

Part of it is likely due to the novelty. This is a new (and temporary) arrangement, and the benefits of body doubling would likely decrease over time if I were to habituate to his presence.

Regardless, I am pleasantly surprised and happy to admit I was wrong.

There is a caveat

I do know this is much less effective on weekends when I am trying to work. When our son is home from school and my husband is doing projects around the house there are constant interruptions (from both of them!).

Body doubling even works for introverts like me, provided the companion is also quiet and productive — clearly, they won’t be much help if they’re frequently interrupting you, or if the environment is too busy or noisy.

Like most things I guess, don’t knock it ’til you try it… or are essentially forced to try it due to extenuating circumstances.

Close enough.

© Jillian Enright, Neurodiversity MB

References

Martinez, L. (2017). Body Doubling by Skype. Attention Magazine, CHADD.org. [Online]. https://chadd.org/attention-magazine/attention-magazine-summer-2017

Thomas, B. (November 2012). What’s So Special about Mirror Neurons? Scientific American. [Online]. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/whats-so-special-about-mirror-neurons

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Neurodivergent. 20+ years social work and psychology experience. I write about mental health, neurodiversity, advocacy, education, and parenting. Founder of Neurodiversity MB. CYW, BA Psychology.

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