Body Doubles for Activation & Accountability

Body Double-101
– an experiment –

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

click image for source

click image for source

What’s a Body Double?

The term originally came from Hollywood, a step away from the concept of a stunt double – where producers hire trained and experienced stuntmen and women for certain things that might pose a danger to the star.

Most people already know about stunt doubles, but did you realize that the main character in some mundane movie scenes is not actually the star?

In scenes where there is no dialogue, sometimes it’s another actor who looks similar enough to pass.  Make up, hair and wardrobe work the rest of the sleight of hand.

The use of a body double makes it possible for stars who need time off for another project to work on several things at once — while it helps the producer stay on budget!

The term Body Double also refers to a ADD Coaching concept — a technique that comprehensively trained, brain-based ADD Coaches suggest often.

But the ADD Coaching world is talking about something completely different when we use the term.

Don’t forget that you can always check out the sidebar for a reminder
of how links work on this site, they’re subtle (scroll UP for it) ==>

Crazy – but it works

The follow-through benefit of somebody watching

source: click image

Have you ever noticed that you have a better shot at staying on task when someone is watching?

I don’t mean the tut-tut-tut kind of watching — simply someone else there while you are handing a task that others find relatively easy — a task that you tend to put off or avoid because, for you, it is decidedly NOT.

One of my grads, Linda Anderson, came up with the moniker way back in the day, during a class for ACT-2 (the second group of the coaches to go through my Optimal Functioning Institute’s™ ADD Coach training) – back when it was the only ADD-specific coach training around.

I was calling it by another name and liked her term A LOT better, so “Body Double” it has been ever since.

Regardless of what you call it, I have long observed that having another person in the room actually helps those of us with activation and follow-through struggles focus on the task at hand and stay on-task to completion — as long as the person in our space doesn’t feel the need to comment on what we are doing,

click image for source

click image for source

For example, a highly functional executive I worked with was sent all over the country to update the organizational systems of the branch offices.

Packing and unpacking, however,
seemed to be beyond him!

Alone, he agonized for hours. Yet he noticed that he had no trouble packing quickly when his wife was in the bedroom while he packed.

It worked just as well when he returned from his trip.

Things got back into the closet or into the laundry in what seemed like minutes – as long as she was around to keep him company while he did it.

Once I pointed out his inadvertent discovery of the body double concept, he began to request her services every single time he had to pack or unpack a suitcase.  All she had to do was sit on the bed for twenty to thirty minutes, and leave him to his packing.

That’s the body double concept in action.

  • It’s important to note that the body double does not help, advise, disrupt concentration or comment outside of a structured, agreed upon set of circumstances.
  • The body double’s only task is to sit quietly out of the way, reading or writing while the ADD/EFDer attends to work (unless it has been agreed that s/he will interrupt a hyperfocused worker-bee occasionally to ensure that s/he stops for periodic breaks or for meals).
  • Frequently, the body double brings along a compatible task of his or her own – like journaling, knitting or catching up with email on a laptop or tablet.  They’re only there to externalize the observing ego (the witness self) of the person they’re doubling.

Clients who make frequent use of body doubles often trade services. Often they trade body doubling, but sometimes the person who needs the double trades something else.

One of my clients needed help because she had a tendency to get stuck in hyperfocus when she attempted tasks alone.  She agreed to fix dinner for a friend in exchange for her friend’s services as a body double for a predetermined time – perfect for both of them!

Another client had the mind of a gnat (his term).  His double garage was overgrown with incomplete projects.  It got to the point where he was actively avoiding the space entirely, both cars parked on the street, until he finally started picking off those projects with the body-doubling help of his youngest son.

The father hated to be a bad role model for his children, so he stayed in action as the two chatted about anything that was on the young boy’s mind.  His son was thrilled to have special time with his Dad, and it became a weekend ritual.

NO, this didn’t turn this client into somebody he wasn’t.  His garage will never be an candidate for “after” on the Oprah Show — but at least one of the cars can make it inside most of the time (and sometimes both).  Progress not perfection!

A Different Sort of Body Double

click image for source

click image for source

Since a Body Double is simply one of many accountability structures – and since “externalizing one’s prefrontal cortex is the reason it seems to work – I am wondering if the other person needs to be present in real time – or at all!

Regular readers know that I’ve had horrendous “luck” this year that has left me waaaaaay off my game-plan.

In addition, I’ve recently been forced to move both home and office, so there are a ton of otherwise unnecessary organizing and decorating to-dos on my gargantuan list.

AND Christmas will be here before anybody knows it.  Sheesh!

I think I may need a Body Double (or ten)

Since I’m a stranger in my new ‘nabe and I live alone (and the SimsWiki ghost hasn’t been a lot of help so far), I want to to initiate an experiment in VIRTUAL body doubling.

I am asking ALL of you if you will serve as my virtual body doubles.

Following the lead of the lifestyle bloggers, I find myself wondering if a Body Double Series might help or hinder my efforts — articles focused on what I am attempting to get done in my own life

Since I already have Monday Grumpy Monday, and my larger topic Series articles post on Wednesdays, I’m thinking that publishing the article over the weekend sounds like a good plan.

I invite you to play too, in whatever virtual fashion it makes sense to you to ask for help staying on track to completion (down there in the comments section).

JUST an Experiment

  1. I’m not going to lock myself in a box by committing to one (or only one) Body Double post every weekend, although that may turn out to be the case.  I may well post #1 before this particular weekend is over.
  2. I intend to monitor the effect of my virtual experiment on activation and follow-through in my own life, and will adjust as a result of what I observe.
  3. If it begins to feel like too much “performance pressure” or simply another to-do on a list that is already too long – or begins to generate additional Task Anxiety, I’ll drop it like a hot potato.  (I’ll continue to monitor the comments for those of you who are still playing, however)

Who Knows? If it works for me – and enough of you play along and find it useful – the whole thing could morph into a TeleClass support group.  If it does (no promises), anyone who has been participating on the blog will be invited as my guests.

So what do you think about this idea?

Likely to work?
An experiment destined to take more time than it will be worth?

Have YOU done anything like this?

How did you do it and how did it go?

Can you envision a way to go about this?

I don’t want to simply post a to-do list and report a “done” score, but I’m not sure yet how to approach this type of article.  I’m not used to asking for help for MY life!

© 2014, all rights reserved
Check bottom of Home/New to find out the “sharing rules”

As always, if you want notification of new articles in this Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, do stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series (one-on-one couples or group), click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end (or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page). Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

You might also be interested in some of the following articles
available right now – on this site and elsewhere.

For links in context: run your cursor over the article above and the dark grey links will turn dark red;
(subtle, so they don’t pull focus while you read, but you can find them to click when you’re ready for them)
— and check out the links to other Related Content in each of the articles themselves —

Related articles right here on
(in case you missed them above or below)

Other supports for this article – on

A Few LinkLists by Category (to articles here on

Related Articles ’round the net

BY THE WAY: Since is an Evergreen site, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you linkback, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

12 Responses to Body Doubles for Activation & Accountability

  1. Pingback: Productivity: Paying Attention on Purpose | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: Why Accountability Leads to Follow-through | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. Pingback: Getting along when only ONE of you has ADD/EFD | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  4. Pingback: Peer Coaching: What kind do YOU want? | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  5. Pingback: From Impulsivity to Self-Control | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  6. Pingback: Productivity, Focus & Follow-through | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  7. Pingback: The Backwards To-Do List | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  8. Pingback: Brain Injured from Birth? | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  9. janetkwest says:

    I started doing this with my running. People may think I’m bragging but that’s laughable since I’m not that athletic. I post on Facebook my distance ran. Then I got the clever idea to do this with my fiction writing since I’ve had a lot of difficulty motivating myself. So I post the # of words I wrote in an hour. My goal is an hour a day but it’s usually 5 days out of the week. So, I think the strategy works. It has for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Feel free to ring in here. I’m still not sure how I’m going to move forward with this experiment, but I’m hoping that simply setting the intention might light a fire under my butt in any case.

      Maybe when I’m very old (and either very rich or a ward of the state) I’ll try my hand at fiction. I WILL read a great deal more fiction once I “retire” (hah!) – that much I do know.

      When I write I tend to hyperfocus – so an hour a day would never be the way I would go about it in any case. It would be a set up for failure. My problem is a struggle to make myself start – yet once I start I don’t want to stop — same with reading (and there goes the rest of my schedule.)

      When you say “writing” – do you include editing time? How DO fiction writers go about the process? I’m sure it is specific to the writer, but it has never occurred to me that the process itself might be different between fiction & non.

      I know that science & historical writers do a lot of background research – ditto Sci-fy & biographical pieces – but I’ve never though to ask about the process for novelists, etc. THAT would be a fun blog post to read!

      Thanks for reading & commenting – as always.


      • janetkwest says:

        I tend to be compartmentalized in my life and work. I write the first draft of anything I write without editing. Any research I do I do it either before or after the writing. Editing comes after everything, kind of like tidying up after baking a meal. I can’t do them all at the same time. I get distracted by research so when I research I ONLY research. Focusing is a problem for me. My son is the one who tells me I have ADHD attentiveness issues. It has taught me methods for scheduling and staying on task. It’s just taken a lot of years. I do keep searching for ideas to help focus, whether they are vitamins, nootropics, or methods. All help is welcomed, which is how I came to your site.

        Liked by 1 person

And what do YOU think? I'm interested.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: