In the era of remote work, maintaining boundaries between work and personal life has become increasingly challenging. When you’re working from a small apartment or constantly switching between tasks, separating different aspects of life can seem almost impossible. But can TV shows actually enhance your work motivation? We decided to find out.
One unique aspect of remote work is the sense of isolation it brings. Spending the entire day on your laptop without leaving your apartment can leave you craving human interaction and the background noise typically found in a traditional workspace. That’s where the productivity hack of body doubling comes in, which has gained popularity for its ability to tap into the motivation derived from working alongside others, even if you’re not working on the same task. But what if you don’t have access to coffee shops or shared workspaces? This is where watching TV can potentially help.
If TV shows provide comfort and you struggle to stay focused when you’re alone, a new form of body doubling may be the solution to staying productive. We spoke with licensed psychologist Dr. Carolyn Rubenstein to explore whether watching TV can replicate the effects of working in a coffee shop and benefit other areas of your life.
What is Body Doubling?
Body doubling refers to the act of working alongside others. “Working in the presence of others tends to enhance task performance,” explains Dr. Rubenstein. “This phenomenon is known as social facilitation. Body doubling, where tasks are performed with someone else present, shares the same goal of improving motivation and focus.”
Working alongside others fosters a group mentality that helps you stay on track with your own work. “Knowing that someone else is also completing tasks encourages you to remain focused, just like the person across from or next to you,” Dr. Rubenstein adds. “Working alone makes it easier to take unnecessary breaks and get distracted.”
If you struggle with working alone, body doubling can also provide accountability. Establish an agreement with your body double to support each other in staying focused throughout the workday. You can limit side conversations or keep an eye on each other’s screens.
Watching TV as Body Doubling
If you don’t have access to a workspace or coffee shop, watching TV can provide a similar experience for your brain. A study by Fast Company revealed that 57% of participants have watched TV shows during work hours. Having the right level of background noise can actually enhance performance, as long as it doesn’t overwhelm you.
But can having the TV on while you work stimulate your mind and boost productivity like working in a coffee shop? Dr. Rubenstein states that it depends on your brain’s response. “While some may find it helpful to have the TV on as background noise, others may find it distracting,” she explains. “In coffee shops, people engage in various activities, such as checking emails, watching TikTok, or catching up with friends. TV shows, on the other hand, have plots that can be more distracting.”
It’s important to understand what works best for your own brain, as everyone is different. If you can effectively tune out a TV series while working, it can add a fun element to your workday. However, if you find it challenging to focus when a show is on, such as during a Friends rerun, it’s not recommended to try watching while working. “TV shows have captivating plots that can easily divert your attention, regardless of the show’s setting,” warns Dr. Rubenstein.
Body Doubling in Other Areas
Body doubling doesn’t just apply to work tasks; it can also be useful for chores and other activities. Whether you’re folding laundry or cooking dinner, having someone else present or watching your favorite feel-good shows can occupy your mind while your hands handle the task. Additionally, it can boost your serotonin levels.
“Body doubling can be helpful in almost any activity, as the other person doesn’t need to be doing the same task,” says Dr. Rubenstein. “The underlying psychology of body doubling is to increase focus and motivation when completing a task. It can be effective for various activities such as fitness, personal organization, or administrative tasks, as long as participants stay focused on what they need to accomplish.”
So, go ahead and enjoy binge-watching Emily in Paris guilt-free, knowing that it can also contribute to increased productivity in different aspects of your life.
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