Could "Body Doubling" Benefit Your Comms Team?

The strategy helping remote workers improve focus and get things done

When I first came across the term "body doubling" in the context of productivity, I'd hoped to read news of a true scientific breakthrough. One that would allow me to unleash an exact replica of my body to make meals, fold laundry, and weed my garden while I binge-watch Gilmore Girls.

That day, unfortunately, has not yet come.

Beyonce Mirror GIF

Body doubling actually works like this: Remote workers log into an open-ended video chat and simply perform their work with others present in the background, and this holds everyone accountable for not goofing off, surfing the web, or getting up for yet another snack. The strategy was originally coined and adopted by ADHD therapists, according to the Wall Street Journal, and grew in popularity during COVID lockdowns.

There are digital platforms where this can be done with complete strangers—including some who are trained to lead and motivate the group. That environment would feel pretty foreign to me, and maybe not all that conducive to producing solid, focused work. But I could see the benefit of recreating a similar space for parallel work within my own small crew of coworkers.

Here are two options for using the body doubling concept on your comms team.

🚫 The Anti-Procrastination Zone 🚫

This could be as simple as a recurring, non-mandatory Teams or Zoom call where anyone on the team can log in to do their most dreaded task(s) among silent, or at least quiet, company. Research shows that the stress of putting off a difficult task actually affects your productivity on all the other tasks you perform in the meantime, so I'd make this a block of time early on in most of the team's workday. I think it would be difficult for me to write a blog post in this environment, but I could certainly use some accountability partners and companionship when I'm coding a long list of expenses or pulling endless grant metrics.

⚡ The Virtual Bullpen ⚡

You could also host an on-screen gathering for everyone assigned to a large project in the final days before launch, when there are many tasks to accomplish and perhaps more rapid-fire feedback needed. Working in parallel for a chunk of time would provide accountability AND a space for immediate discussion of topics that would otherwise require a separate call or email thread, ensuring that work isn't held up in the meantime. Just like in an open-plan office or bullpen of cubicles, there's upsides and downsides to virtual closeness: You get your questions answered quickly, but ongoing conversations can also break your focus. Whoever sets up the body doubling session should lay out ground rules about what goes in the chat, what is worth an interruption, and what should be taken offline.

Could you see body doubling working for your team?

Until next time,

P.S. Guru Conference, a free virtual series of workshops on email marketing is happening this week. There is no on-demand video of the presentations after the event this year, so you need to log on in real time to hear from my girl Martha Stewart (ask me about the time I was tasked with dropping off a gift for Martha in her hotel room in Stockholm, Sweden) and a slew of peppy experts. The vibe set by Guru founder Jay Schwedelson is FRENETIC, so it's usually entertaining. Right now, 17K people are registered—you can still RSVP here.

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