I came across this article describing the use of body doubles. No, a body double isn’t someone to stand in for you when you have your picture taken, at least not in this context. A body double is a person who stays present with you while you do tasks that you know how to do, but can’t manage to do on your own.
Some people are embarrassed about needing a body double, because often it’s the most “simple” of tasks that they just can’t do without another person present. In my experience, mundane, tedious tasks can be some of the most challenging. Rest assured that you are not alone if you need extra support to do boring things like paperwork, filing, and sorting.
Body doubling seems like such a simple thing, but it can have a hugely powerful effect. I’ve worked with clients who were astounded at the amount of work they got done because I was merely present with them.
It also seems like it would be easy to be a body double, but it’s not a skill that everyone does well. The body double has to be in sync with the person working, often without speaking. It’s about tuning in and matching rhythms, sometimes setting a pace and modeling an effective work posture; at other times, just following along and exuding quiet support. Some people have a natural ability to do this, while others find it very difficult to hold back their own impulses to take charge of the work session.
Who can you recruit to act as a body double? Friends and family are often great choices, because they may already be in tune with you. A friendly acquaintance, such as a neighborhood teen or retired senior can also be surprisingly effective. If you suspect you might need some additional organizing expertise or guidance, then a professional organizer who enjoys doing body double work can be a good option.
Here are some tips for preparing someone to be your body double:
- explain that the idea is just to have a supportive presence in the room, not necessarily to lighten your work load
- ask your body double to agree not to initiate conversation while you are working, unless you specifically request it
- if you find that chatting helps keep you focused, ask your body double to keep the conversation light
- give your body double a notepad in case he or she wants to jot down an idea without interrupting your work flow
- experiment with different activities for your body double — some may prefer the body double just sit quietly, while others prefer the body double do an activity that matches their own level of physical exertion
- don’t have your body double do an activity that you feel compelled to supervise
One step removed from body doubling is what I call a Virtual Support Person (VSP). The VSP doesn’t have to be physically present with you. It can be anybody that you can check in with before, during and after your work session, who will be supportive of your efforts. Some people call this having an accountability partner.
I’d love to hear your experiences using a body double.