Body Doubling: An Important Tool for Getting Stuff Done

I’ve shared with you before that the area where I struggle most with organization is my desk.  In particular, I’ve talked about  using desk dumps to bring my desk back to ready.  I had most of last Friday off and my plan was to spend at least part of the morning clearing my desk and preparing for next week, before heading off to get my hair colored.  Unfortunately I found myself motivated to do just about anything other than dealing with the papers on my desk.

When I work with clients on organizing their paper clutter, I often find myself acting as a Body Double for at least part of a session.   Linda Anderson, the individual credited with coining the term Body Double, states a “body double serves as a physical and emotional anchor for the distracted individual who feels more centered by the presence of another person in their space.”  I like to tell my clients I am body doubling for that I am helping them hold the space for their organizing to occur.  In the past, I have personally used my mom, my husband or my sister to body double for me.  They didn’t need to help me with my task at all, they just needed to stay close and make sure that I stayed on task, just as I do for my clients.

On Friday, because I was home alone with just the dog,  there was no one available to body double for me.  I have learned over time that my dog doesn’t serve as a very good body double because 1) she could care less whether I am doing what I am supposed to be doing or not, and 2) she often spends quite a bit of time when I am in my office distracting me from my work by dropping a ball at my feet, barking or whining to go out.

As my morning slipped away, I knew I would have to find another kind of anchor if I was going to get anything done, so a few minutes before I had to leave for my hair appointment, I swept all of the papers off of my desk into a tote bag and grabbed  my iPad, where I maintain my to do list in Toodledo.

At the salon, papers that had sat on my desk for the past week or more were miraculously processed in less than 60 minutes.  While sitting in the chair waiting for my hair to process,  I made two phone calls, made decisions as to next steps on any number of papers and scheduled those next steps in Toodledo.   The beauty of the chair was that I couldn’t be distracted by other things present in my home and office that might drag me away, such as the dog wanting to play, the excitement of laundry, or the lure of dirty dishes in the sink.  Being confined to the chair anchored me in the same way that a body double would.  The chair created the time and space for me to get my organizing done.

Thanks to this experience, when I got home a few hours later, I was able to remove the papers from the tote one by one and know exactly what to do with each of them.  Within 30 minutes of crossing the threshold of my office all of the papers, representing so many miscellaneous “to dos” were addressed.

How might you use body doubling or another method of anchoring yourself to a task to help you get stuff done?




2 Responses to “Body Doubling: An Important Tool for Getting Stuff Done”

  1. Linda Samuels November 7, 2012 12:41 pm #

    What a great post, Andrea! Not only do you beautify describe the experience so many people encounter, but you’ve discovered another twist on body doubling. In essence the change in environment allowed you to focus and minimize your “regular” distractions. I have used that same technique for writing. Sometimes I need to change my physical location to get the thoughts flowing.

    • admin November 7, 2012 2:21 pm #

      Thanks Linda, the change in environment coupled with “being anchored” to the chair can make all the difference in the world. I guess a benefit of getting older and coloring my hair more and more often, will be increased productivity!

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