Body Doubling By Accident and On Purpose

Two years ago, when I needed to come up with a video of me doing something purely meditative (off the cushion) for my 200 hour meditation certification, I did the only thing I could think of: I recorded a time-lapse of myself writing in my favorite coffee shop.


For a person who despises everything about cameras (in general) and video (in specific), it was a fascinating experience.

Fascinating in a good way as I realized I actually liked the camera there. It brought a sense of presence to an otherwise lonely experience.

To be fair, writing is a lonely experience. Being a writer is a lonely existence. Not “lonely” as in dejected and friendless. Perhaps solitary is a better word? But then I think about writing in coffee shops and libraries, and it’s not solitary.

You know what I mean. Writing is something that must be done by itself. Even if you’re in collaboration with someone, or have an editorial relationship, the words come to the page in solitude.

But that day in the coffee shop was anything but. It was exciting and freeing and it kept me engaged, even though when I journal, I am laser-focused on my words.

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on

I ended up making an Instagram reel out of that session, because I thought they were cool, and I always have something to say. I got a bit of silly feedback and a few likes, as you can see, but what REALLY mattered was that I had discovered a way of looking at writing that sparked something new inside of me that I’ve played with since then.

I wrote last week about the struggle of not knowing where I’m going and feeling like I’m not making progress in the things in life that I want to (need to) make progress in…and how it’s affected my thinking.

But what I’ve realized since then is that it’s less about not making progress than it is about having accountability. When I work, I like to be seen. I don’t have to be called out, but I do like that there’s another energetic presence nearby. Good thing, or I wouldn’t have been able to teach for 28 years.

Writing alone at home, while peaceful and calm, keeps me small.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

So today I’m starting again, with a new routine for my work flow. Harkening back to that original Instagram video, I decided to start recording my work sessions in time-lapse, just to see if things were the same in terms of energetic flow.

Wow…I was right. I came to the library this afternoon with the intention of finishing another 1,000 word blog post. I popped open my camera in the little plastic tripod I carry in my backpack, and started writing. I started with a pomodoro of 25 minutes (more on that in another post), and made it through to 500 words in two sessions.

I considered fooling around online during my break, then caught my face in my peripheral vision on the phone in the left corner of the library desk and opted to stay true to the work. Not that I would run wild on the web, but I feel that my ability to finish this piece to-day is waning. And since I have about seven other pieces-in-progress (from a book chapter to other blog posts to a humorous piece I want to submit soon), I opted to dive into one of those.

Imagine…it worked. I’m still on task and here to tell you about it.

Photo by Eren Li on

But I got curious about why this is working. I found out accidentally as part of my homework assignment, but wondered if there’s a reason for people to be more productive when they feel or sense the presence of another.

Indeed there is. It’s called body doubling, and it’s a productivity tool for those diagnosed with ADHD.

If you want to read more, here you are:

I had no idea this existed, and TBH, it seems my version of filming myself, is not quite body doubling as discussed. But it still works and I get why, even if I can’t explain it.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on

I’m sure this has existed before now, in some sense. My question is this: have you ever done this with someone? Even in the days back before we had video…did you and a friend call each other on (gasp!) corded landlines and work through your own stuff in the same time frame but different tasks? Nothing is ever new, it just seems that way.

I’m fascinated by the idea (there’s currently no research on it), and especially in tackling tasks that are less than desirable. Makes me think that every time there’s something I don’t want to do (laundry, dishes, taxes, cleaning), I might just be able to do a time-lapse and feel like there’s accountability there. I don’t know, but I’m curious if it will work.

I suppose if it does translate to productivity for me, you’ll see the videos…lol.

My pomodoro just buzzed. Gotta scoot. Five more minutes, and back to and my body double.

Is body doubling (not from action movies!) new to you? What do you think of it? Do you have some version of it that you do with someone else or yourself? I’d love to hear.