Struggle with procrastination? Body doubling might help.

keyboard, blank sheet of paper and pen on a yellow desk
Photo by Arturo Esparza / Unsplash

Yes, everyone struggles with procrastination from time to time. But for those of us with ADHD, it can be incredibly frustrating. Procrastination can even take a toll on our career, relationships and self-esteem.

ADHD is real, and can make it difficult for us to plan, get started, sustain attention on a task, and complete a task. Especially when it is a task we aren’t particularly interested in doing such as making a doctor’s appointment, filing taxes … or any number of mundane adulting things.

Well-meaning advice such as “just do it,” “it’s not that hard to [insert task here]” or “have you tried a planner?” only makes it worse.

Body doubling can help with procrastination

The good news is there are neuroscience-based strategies that can help ADHDers get shit done.

One of our favorites is body-doubling or coworking: doing a task with another person present. The task doesn’t change, but having another person there can make it feel a whole lot easier! It sounds simple, because it is. And the best part there’s science to explain why it works.

The science behind coworking

Coworking stimulates the release of four “feel good” brain chemicals – dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins:

  • Dopamine is the addicting feeling of reward. When we break something down into small steps, and accomplish a small step we stimulate a dopamine release. That’s why it can feel good to get things done, even if they aren’t the things we should be working on. By picking one piece of a project or task, and getting it down, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • Serotonin makes you feel good about yourself, increasing confidence and self-esteem. Coworking sessions help you notice and celebrate your accomplishments as well as get acknowledgment from a partner for getting it done. All of this releases serotonin.
  • Oxytocin is the feeling of bonding, trust and love. Human connection of simply working with another person, exchanging a greeting and a smile can release oxytocin, which calms the nervous system and regulates stress responses.
  • Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. Although some tasks can feel painful, the act of talking about your work with another person and cheering each other on can help you feel more positive about it.

So grab a friend or colleague and try it out!

Book a 30 min meeting for example to co-work together on a your individual task. Start by taking a couple minutes to say hello and share what each of you are going to accomplish in the time. Ten go on mute and work for 25 minutes on just that one task. Come back together at the end of the session to take a couple minutes to share what you accomplished and celebrate your progress. It sounds simple, and it is!

Focusmate is our favorite tool for virtual coworking

Focusmate is a website where you can schedule a 25 or 50 min virtual coworking session, and they will automatically match you with a partner from anywhere in the world. It’s easy to use and the best part it’s free. With the free account you get 3 coworking sessions every week. If you want unlimited coworking sessions it’s only $5 per month.


Have you tried coworking or focusmate? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!

1 Comment

  • Ann Graf says:

    I began coworking while finishing a PhD in information studies. I was diagnosed with ADHD during this time as well. I didn’t know about coworking or body-doubling, but just knew I needed to not be “suffering” alone! I began to have 2-3 regularly scheduled work times with another friend who was also doing her PhD, so we could commiserate. I carried this into my academic career and have had regular co-working sessions for most semesters since. They really help me set and complete small goals, which add up to big goals.

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