Body doubling for ADHD: What it is and how it works

Some people with ADHD use the strategy of “body doubling” to stay on track. But what is body doubling? And how does it work? Learn more about body doubling and get tips on how to use it.

By Donna Kim

Expert reviewed by Sarah Greenberg, MA, MEd

Updated August 30, 2023

Two people sit together at a large table and work on their computers.

At a glance

  • People with ADHD may have a hard time starting or completing tasks they’re not very interested in.

  • Body doubling is a strategy many people with ADHD use to improve their focus and motivation.

  • There isn’t a lot of research that proves just how effective body doubling is yet, but many find it helpful in their own experience.

Trouble with focus is a challenge for people with ADHD — especially if they’re not interested in the task. For some people with ADHD, “body doubling” seems to help. It lets them be more productive and complete their tasks.

“Body doubling” is a strategy that keeps people focused on what they’re doing by having someone else there while they’re doing it. What it looks like varies from person to person and task to task. But it always involves another person being nearby while you work on things that require focus.

It’s like having a study buddy or teammate. They don’t do the task for you. Instead, they’re there to give support, work with you, and be a gentle reminder to stay on track just by being present.

Body doubling, or “parallel working,” became popular during the pandemic. There isn’t much research yet to prove whether or not it’s effective. But some people with ADHD find it useful.

Learn more about body doubling and how it can help improve focus. 

How body doubling works

Why does body doubling work? Having someone else there gives people with ADHD a much-needed reminder to stay focused on tough tasks. It also boosts motivation to get things done — whether it’s at home, in the classroom, or even on the job.

How it works for an individual depends on the person and the circumstances. Choosing the right person to be a body double is important. And it may be a matter of trial and error, based on your needs, where you are, and what you’re doing.

There isn’t just one correct way to use this strategy. Body doubles don’t have to be working with you or on the same task as you. They might not even be working at all. They could just be present, sitting across the room reading, while you finish a project.

You might find that talking with your body double helps you get through a tedious task or gives you the stimulation you need to stay focused. But it’s key that they don’t distract you from your work. 

Some examples of effective body doubling include: 

On the job: Asking a team member to sit in a conference room, or on Zoom, while working on a presentation for extra motivation and focus. 

At home: Doing chores while on the phone with a friend. Or even watching a “Clean With Me” video on YouTube while cleaning to stay focused. 

At school: Quietly working on an assignment with a classmate. Or joining a study group in the library to get ready for an upcoming test.

Ways body doubling is helpful 

Body doubling can create a sense of responsibility. It can make it easier to ignore distractions. It can lead to more structure and better time management in everyday life.

But body doubling may not be the answer for every person with ADHD. For some people, having someone else around while they’re working may be distracting. Others may worry about becoming too dependent on the presence of someone else.

Understanding the benefits and challenges of body doubling can help kids and adults with ADHD decide if it’s the right strategy for them. Read about ADHD strategies that help this adult stay focused and work. Learn about the relationship between ADHD and executive function challenges

Key takeaways

  • Having a body double can create a sense of responsibility.

  • Body doubling may not be the answer for every person with ADHD.

  • Some people may worry about becoming dependent on having a body double to get things done.

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