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How Accountabilibuddies and Body-Doubles Can Boost Motivation in ADHD




Whenever possible, I write about the aspects of ADHD I'm grappling with at the moment. Lately, I've been wrestling with the all-too-common lack of motivation that plagues many of us with ADHD. Whether it's the chaos of spring cleaning, managing an energetic toddler, or the endless allure of TikTok, YouTube, or questing for a special sword that requires jumping on the head of a giant light dragon as it flies through the skies in Tears of the Kingdom, our drive can sometimes vanish completely. It’s precisely in these moments that having someone to help us stay on track can be invaluable. This brings us to the concept of an 'accountabilibuddy'—a trusted friend or partner whose role is to keep us focused and moving forward. They check in, offer words of encouragement, and celebrate our progress, making the daunting tasks more manageable. In this article, I’ll explore how leveraging both accountabilibuddies and body doubles can significantly boost our motivation and productivity, turning intention into action.

 

Why Does ADHD Affect Motivation?


There are a few factors that affect motivation for those of us with ADHD.  The first I will mention is our impaired executive function. Executive function affects our ability to prioritize, plan, and complete tasks. Our impaired ability to do these things can severely affect our ability to start and follow through with tasks. It’s especially difficult if these tasks are long, complex, and offer no immediate reward.


A common misconception about ADHD is that we have no attention to detail, when in reality, the real problem lies in that we have too much attention to detail. We just aren’t able to prioritize which details are relevant to the task at hand. Our brains are like super absorbent sponges that are able to absorb all the details of everything around us. This sounds great on paper, but the reality is that we have no way of filtering out all the noise in all those details, and this leads to massive distractibility and/or overwhelming overstimulation. This makes our ability to maintain motivation on something extremely difficult when we look at a seemingly simple project and start seeing every single step of the project all at once and have no idea where to start because we just see it as a giant undertaking. The flip side of this is that we are constantly being bombarded with interesting and shiny things in the background such as the aforementioned sword acquisition from a video game which I definitely did not put off writing this article to acquire.


Our emotions can also play a huge role in our motivation, which again, is something we ADHDers have trouble controlling. If we have a task that we really don’t “feel” like doing, then chances are it is going to take nothing less than a threat of planetary annihilation to get us to actually do the thing. Usually, our feelings on a task are based on whether or not it falls under the acronym of INCUP “interesting”, “novel”, “challenging”, “urgent”, or if we are “passionate” about it. This acronym was first coined by Dr. William Dodson who suggested that these are the top 5 motivating factors for people with ADHD.

The good news is that having an accountabilibuddy or a body double can help put any task into one of the 5 categories of INCUP.


The Power of Accountability


Most of us already know what accountability is, but in the case of ADHD it’s important to point out that there are two types of accountabilities.


Personal accountability is basically the willingness and responsibility to take responsibility for our own decisions, actions, and the consequences that come with them. It entails taking responsibility to be proactive in taking steps to fulfill commitments, meet obligations, or rectify mistakes.  It also means that we learn from our mistakes and successes and take steps to better ourselves based on what we learn. These are both areas that those of us with ADHD tend to struggle with due to our struggles with working memory which is why it is helpful for us to be able to utilize the second form of accountability which is external accountability. External accountability, which is what we are looking at with an accountabilibuddy or body-double, is any external source of motivation and accountability. It can be another person that we can check in with that can keep us pointed in the right direction such as a therapist, ADHD coach, or a body-double or accountabilibuddy. In some cases, even AI can be used as a source of external motivation as it can be used to check in on us and hold us accountable.


What Is an Accountabilibuddy?


An “accountabilibuddy” is the combination of the words accountability and buddy. As I mentioned in the introduction, this is a person that we trust and who wants to help us be successful that we can rely on to hold us accountable for whatever task we need to complete by checking in on us to see that we are working on the task we said we need to be working on. Usually, it is a person who is also in need of accountability for something they are working on as well and so you can also check in on them to see that they are making progress. In this way we are able to find mutual benefit with someone and not feel like we are a burden or inconvenience by asking for help.


An accountabilibuddy can also help put the task you are struggling to get started on some perspective by helping to brainstorm ways to break it down into smaller tasks. This will help make the task seem less overwhelming and also provides a great way to plan check-in intervals between the two of you. We will delve into this in more detail later.


If they are familiar enough with what you are doing, an accountabilibuddy might even be able to help you if you come across any roadblocks that you get stuck on along the way.


What Is a Body-Double?


Have you ever noticed how it’s so much easier to get a thing done when someone is there with you? Even if they aren’t doing anything. I’ve been known to, on occasion, have a friend come over and just sit on the couch and do nothing while I clean my house. There is something about just having another person present that helps motivate us into action. A body double is similar to an accountabilibuddy in that they provide accountability for you to complete a task and they are often mutually beneficial as both of you are usually working on something and needing accountability. The key difference between them is that a body double is someone who is present with you while you are working on the task either in person such as a coworker in the same workspace, or via phone call or video chat. In this regard body doubles are better utilized when working on a task that you intend on working on right away such as cleaning or working on a task for work that you need to do right away.


The point is that having someone there to witness what you are doing helps to keep you from being distracted. Not only can they hold you accountable if they see that you are starting to get distracted on your phone or watering your plants when you were supposed to be working on that research paper, but we often tend to be more likely to stay on task because our inner people pleaser doesn’t want to disappoint anybody which helps us keep our brains focused on the goal of getting the thing done.There are many great ways to find body-doubles online.  There are websites designed for this such as https://focus101.com/ which is specifically aimed at the ADHD brain and fosters routine and collaboration which are needed to overcome hurdles.It’s also very common in many ADHD online communities such as https://www.mensadhdsupportgroup.org/ and even the ADHD Nerd Dad Discord community to offer ways to find a body-double with other like minded ADHDers.


How Do We Utilize an Accountabilibuddy or Body-Double to Improve Motivation?


Now that we know what they are, how exactly do we go about using either of these techniques to get our motivation into gear? Well, the good news is that it can be as simple or as detailed as you want it to be. 


Dani Donovan has some great advice in her book “The Anti-Planner: How to Get Sh*t Done When You Don’t Feel Like It” (a book I highly recommend as there is a lot more amazing tools and advice for getting things done) about using Verbal Processing to talk through what you plan on doing with either your body-double, or an accountabilibuddy. It helps to talk through your plan as articulating plans actually activates a different part of your brain that can also help us remember and get motivated. She lays it out in steps to help make it easy. 


Step One. Get permission from the person to spend some time listening to you.


Step Two. List all the ideas buzzing through your head about the things that you want to work on.


Step Three. Ask yourself these questions:


  • What all do I need to do?

  • What are my priorities?

  • What is absolutely the most important?

  • What will have negative consequences if it’s not done soon?

  • What tasks should get done first before I can work on other things?

  • What’s making me the most anxious?

  • What are some of the potential obstacles?


Step Four. Talk through a plan of what you are going to do starting with the highest priority task and get feedback from the other person.


Step Five. Start Doing Stuff.


Step Six. Check back in afterward to discuss how things went.


Dani also adds that if you get stuck spinning your wheels while you are working to check in with the other person as well to help you clear any roadblocks you might be having.


Also remember, if you are body-doubling with someone, one of the main points of the exercise is to not get distracted while you are working. This means that you must also avoid chit chat if your flavor of ADHD can’t talk and work at the same time. Be sure to let your body-double partner know that you don’t want to be talking as well, so they know what to expect. Wearing headphones while working is a good way to go about avoiding unwanted noise while body-doubling.


Final Thoughts


For those of us with ADHD, when our motivation is consistently inconsistent, the ideas of accountabilibuddies and body-doubles not only prove useful but can also completely change the way we live our lives. These strategies harness the power of presence—whether physical or virtual— to help us stay focused and move us closer to our goals. By incorporating accountability into our tasks, we not only improve our ability to complete them, but we also intrinsically change the way we work in order to be more productive. And for some of us, just knowing that we are not alone in our struggles, that there is someone there to cheer us on, is all it takes to get us across that glorious finish line. Accountabilibuddies and body-doubles can help us get things done, whether they're daily jobs or long-term goals. They can show us that we’re not the only ones with ADHD who struggle to stay motivated and succeed.


 

If you enjoyed this article, or if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me by commenting below, emailing me at Braden@ADHDNerdDad.com, or come join our Discord server, where you can talk to me directly and see the many other resources we have available. Also, be sure to check out the many other resources on our website, https://ADHDNerdDad.com

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