You have put aside the time to prepare for your taxes or some other task, but you can’t seem to get started. Or maybe you are knee-deep working on your project, and then, seemingly all of sudden, you get distracted.
Think back to a recent time when you were working with someone side by side at work or home. What did you notice about your capacity to attend?
For many adults with ADHD having someone with you as you work, also known as a Body Double, can be an effective strategy to help you start and stay on task.
Key to employing this strategy effectively is knowing how and when to use a Body Double.
Tax Time Scenario
Taking tax prep as a timely example, consider the scenarios below.
- You don’t have a plan and are unsure how to proceed. So, every time you think of sitting down at your desk to get started, you find something else to do. This leaves you feeling overwhelmed.
- Maybe you are able to get started. But you are unsure how much time each step will take. So, when an email from a friend you haven’t talked to in three months pops up, you decide to reply. You are sure you have enough time. But you didn’t realize that this part of your taxes would take so long. You run out of time…
- You started and maybe you even answered the email quickly. Then your son comes running in, asking you to fix his toy. You get distracted trying to figure how to make the switch work again.
- Email sent. Toy fixed. You worked for a one hour and now you are bored and frustrated! So, you quit, even though you could work another hour.
I’m sure you can think of other scenarios.
ADHD Related Challenges
Variations of the above scenarios may occur when you try to tackle a project on your own, especially if it is not intrinsically interesting to you. Some of the common ADHD challenges noted above are:
- not planning how to approach the project, including estimating the time needed for each step
- failing to get started or initiate
- forgetting your intentions
- getting distracted
- not demonstrating emotional self-control and persisting at the task
Having someone by your side, a Body Double, can help you counter all these tendencies.
Ways To Use A Body Double
To change the above scenario you can use a Body Double in several ways.
- You could ask someone to sit with you and help you plan out the steps and estimate how much time it might take. Once you get started maybe that person could do their own work as you proceed. If you get stuck or start feeling overwhelmed, you could ask them for help, again.
- Rather than working on separate tasks, your body double could help you accomplish some part of the project. For example, as you look for receipts, your body double could scan them and organize them into folders on your computer.
- Before starting you could ask your body double to gently remind to stay on task. So, just as you are starting to open the email from your friend, she could say something like, “didn’t you want to do that later.” To which you might respond, “right, thanks.”
- Maybe you also ask her to help you with your son. When he comes running in with his toy, your body double might help him find his way back to the mother’s helper you hired to play with him while you are doing your taxes.
- Just having someone working by your side may be enough to minimize the boredom you feel when you are working by yourself. Or you may want your body double do tasks that you find particularly challenging or boring.
Can you think of other ways you could use a body double?
Using A Body Double Effectively
Asking yourself the following questions about a particular task can help you decide whether you need a Body Double and who that person might be.
- What are the challenges I am having starting, following through and completing the task?
- Considering these challenges, how would having another person by my side be helpful?
- Would this person be a friend, family member or someone I hire?
- Would I be in charge of the project and delegate tasks to my body double or would my body double be heading up the project? Alternatively, would my body double just be present while I work?
- What specifically would that person be doing to help me?
- What would they say to support me? Just as important, what would I not want them to say?
How could a body double help you with a current project?
Why Does It Work?
For adults with ADHD having a person by your side can help you persist in your work.
Some reasons are that the mere presence of a Body Double can serve as:
- a calming influence – you are only thinking about the project for which you enlisted the help of the body double, not the myriad of other possible tasks
- a reminder of your intentions when you get distracted
- a gatekeeper of sorts – you feel obligated to work while your body double is there
- a model for how you want to work
Can you think of other reasons a body double could helpful?
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
Of course, you should choose someone who you feel good around so you have a positive experience in addition to getting the work done.