Hack Your Focus With Body Doubling

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Midjourney prompt: "Two people working together at an office, watercolor style"

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When I first started writing, I used to endlessly procrastinate, taking months to write a single piece. I would put writing sessions in my calendar, and then end up in my inbox, reading the news, or doing menial admin tasks—anything but writing.

In a distracted world, the ability to consistently do deep work is a competitive advantage. 

It's impossible to create meaningful works of tech, writing, or art without the capacity to sit down and focus for extended periods. And yet, many of us struggle to do so. 

This issue often comes up in my work with founders. At the early stage, entrepreneurs are especially susceptible to distraction, as they don’t yet have customers and employees to keep them accountable. As a company grows, focused time often falls by the wayside in the face of emails, Slack messages, and meetings.

When the device we use for deep work is also the place where we access YouTube, Slack, Twitter (now X), email, and Netflix, it's no wonder we end up distracted. How are we to stay on track when our intention is to sit down at a screen and create something new?

Over time, I found a potent strategy for attaining focus amid distractions: body doubling. This productivity technique is highly effective, yet widely underutilized. After 18 months of body doubling, I can now put out a draft in 1-2 weeks—and writing is no longer a struggle.  

Body doubling is both a form of accountability and a tool for increasing grit in the face of challenging tasks we tend to avoid. At its most basic, it means having someone next to you—a “body double”—as you work on difficult tasks.

Productivity is often a game of emotion regulation—we avoid tasks because they bring up  difficult emotions, like fear, shame, or uncertainty. Body doubling is a simple and powerful way to stay on track when challenges arise and our emotional response is to seek distraction.

We all have important things that we find it hard to make time for (or outright avoid). If you learn to use it well, body doubling can become your secret weapon—a way to consistently perform in any area that brings up avoidance and procrastination.

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The case for body doubling

In his book The Now Habit, psychologist Neil Fiore writes that a primary reason we procrastinate is because as humans, we are social beings, but focused work requires quiet time alone. If our social and play needs aren’t being met, sitting down to work on a task by oneself can be highly aversive.

Moreover, as mentioned above, we tend to procrastinate on tasks that bring up difficult emotions, like fear, pressure, or self-doubt. When a task is aversive and being alone is also aversive, it’s no wonder we end up seeking relief by switching over to email, Twitter/X, or Slack.

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Casey Rosengren is a founder and executive coach based in New York. If you’d like to learn more about ACT and values-oriented coaching, drop him a note—or follow him on Every to get early access to workshops and retreats:

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@neil_4625 8 months ago

20 paragraphs in and the author still hasn’t clearly explained what “body doubling” is or how you do it.

Casey Rosengren 8 months ago

@neil_4625 - sorry if this wasn't clear! From the intro:

"At its most basic, it means having someone next to you—a “body double”—as you work on difficult tasks."

It means having someone next to you as you work. This could be someone pairing with you on a project, or simply sitting next to someone as you both work independently.

The middle part of the piece describes three ways to do it - working with a friend, hiring someone part-time to do live calls / meetings with you, or hiring someone full-time to work with you in an area you tend to avoid.

If you have specific questions about how to implement it in a given situation, leave a note and I'd be happy to go into further detail.

Kirill So 8 months ago

@caseyrosengren would you say its basically having an accountability buddy and have regular sessions?

Have you tried Caveday? Did it work for you?

@rpatnam 8 months ago

Love and agree with the article. Although with remote work in flux maybe the old office can suffice.

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