Even a Personal Finance Writer Could Use a ‘Body Double’

Profile photo of Kimberly Palmer
Written by Kimberly Palmer
Senior Writer/Spokesperson
Profile photo of Sheri Gordon
Edited by Sheri Gordon
Assigning Editor
Fact Checked

Many, or all, of the products featured on this page are from our advertising partners who compensate us when you take certain actions on our website or click to take an action on their website. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

After interviewing financial experts on how body doubling can help people complete financial tasks, I was excited to try the technique. While the concept grew out of the ADHD community as an effective way to help people focus, it’s increasing in popularity and, according to the experts I interviewed, can help almost anyone accomplish more.

The term can evoke aliens or Hollywood stunt performers, but body doubling simply means that you work on a task in the presence of someone else, whether it’s a group of strangers on a video call or a friend.

Christine Hargrove, a researcher and clinician who specializes in financial therapy and treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in Athens, Georgia, shared that she used body doubling herself to finally upload a stack of health care receipts so she could get reimbursed from her health savings account. “It’s such a cumbersome process; I had let it go for over a year,” she says.

She realized she could do it with a body double, so she enlisted her husband. “I said, ‘Can you just stay here with me and keep me company?’” He did just that, sitting nearby while she uploaded almost $5,000 worth of receipts. “It was so helpful, and he was happy with the results,” she says.

Trying the technique at home

As she told me this story, a pile of dental reimbursement checks from my own health insurance company sat nearby. I hadn’t gotten to the tedious task of scanning and depositing them yet. It involves signatures, logins and paperwork, so I had put it off.

With Hargrove’s experience in mind, I called my husband, who was at work about 5 miles away, and asked him if he would serve as my body double for this task.

His first reaction was one of confusion. “You want me to do what?” he asked, since he’d never heard of the term before.

I quickly explained and he agreed to jump on a video call with me. While I worked on processing the checks, he started swiveling on his chair, which was distracting. But after I explained that he could use the time to continue his work as well, he delved into some reading and we both focused. Our cameras remained on, but we weren’t looking at the screens.

We both completed our tasks and even squeezed in an extra planning conversation about the groceries we needed. After sitting on my desk for a week, the dental checks were finally deposited. We both agreed we would body double again in the future, especially when it comes to financial tasks we keep putting off.

Earn up to $350 in rewards each year
Take the next step with a NerdWallet+ membership. It's easy to rack up rewards for the smart financial decisions you're already making.

Applications beyond finances

It turns out I’ve been using body doubling as a technique for years without even realizing it. Writers’ groups, coworking spaces and group exercise classes can all be considered a form of body doubling.

Ellyce Fulmore, a financial educator and author of “Keeping Finance Personal,” says she loves using a body double to complete tasks like decluttering her closet or running errands. “Even going to the gym at the same time as a friend is a form of body doubling,” she explains. “You might find yourself working harder because someone else is there.”

In my own experience, that was certainly the case. If I hadn’t tried body doubling, those dental reimbursement checks wouldn’t be in my bank account finally earning interest.