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How Body Doubling Can Help You Get It Done

Think about the routine tasks that you just absolutely dread doing... and how they're always on your to do list, staring at you, begging to be crossed off. Or, is there a big project you keep putting off because it seems, well... big? I know exactly what you need to get it done.

Mirror neurons.

Yes, mirror neurons. Let me explain.

I came across this amazing study last year and it blew my mind. As the article states, "essentially, mirror neurons respond to actions we observe in others." They are key in developing social behaviors and start as early as 12 months old! An early theorist, Donald Hebb's approach was summarized by the phrase, "neurons that fire together, wire together," meaning, you can change your brain by teaching it to mimic others' behaviors. This has all kinds of applications, from language to empathy to even developing your OWN self-awareness. Fascinating, right?

Ok, Reba, but how does this all apply to getting my tasks done?

Enter: body doubling.

Body doubling is when a friend or partner works simultaneously with you, either in person or virtually, and keep you on track and accountable to your goals. At the beginning of the time, one or both people involved will state their goal for the time, typically a task they'd like to complete. Then you start! Once the time is up, you return and report on what you accomplished.

This is essentially mirror neurons in action: by having another person near you completing a project or task, or sometimes even just sitting near you expecting you to keep going. There are several aspects that make it work in your brain: social pressure, accountability, and task direction, amongst others.

I've participated in several versions of body doubling: one-on-one, in a group, and it all works a bit different! Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your body doubling experience:

  1. Pick your partner(s). Is there anyone who has the same need to get stuff done but lacks the motivation? Or a family member who it'd be fun to connect with weekly and share progress? Ask around; I'm sure they're not far! Just make sure they can commit to a regular time consistently!

  2. Pick a weekly (or bi-weekly) time to work together and keep each other accountable! I suggest starting out with a one-hour session and working up from there. Text each other the night before as a reminder, make it fun with coordinating snacks if you need to! Whatever gets you consistent and excited.

  3. Begin by stating your goal for the session: filing paperwork, sorting in the garage, folding laundry, etc. It could also be a time-limited goal: "I'm going to research XYZ items for 40 minutes."

  4. Use a visual timer or a timer within Zoom if doing virtual. Mute your microphone if on zoom, but keep your camera on! If in person, stay within eyesight of each other as you work.

  5. When the time is up, report back what you accomplished, any hurdles you encountered, and whether you need more time or steps to continue.

Body doubling can be especially helpful for those with ADHD, who need help focusing and staying on task. I've even done this with clients who need me to just "be there" as they work and sort through paperwork, pick up the house, or narrate their process for incoming mail. Whatever your task, if you need help, just ask! Odds are there is someone you know who could use some motivation, too!

Who knew organizing and productivity had so much science behind it?

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