Can Watching TV Actually Motivate You To Work?
In the Work From Home age, when the lines between work and life have blurred in an ~unprecedented~ way, it’s harder than we’d like to admit to keep up boundaries that are already difficult to put in place! But if you live in a small apartment and you’re working from your bedroom, or you find yourself hopping back and forth between your laptop and your dinner on the stove, separating these different areas of life can feel nearly impossible.
One detail that separates working from home from every other kind of work is how isolating it can feel. You might spend all day on your laptop without ever leaving your apartment, and suddenly it’s seven o’clock and the only interactions you’ve had have been with your house plants.
If you’re craving human voices, and the other background noise that a workspace offers, body doubling is a productivity hack that is going viral for the way that it harnesses the motivation of working in the presence of another person, even if you’re not working on the same job. But if you don’t have access to endless coffee shop runs or a workspace, there’s another productivity hack that might help you: watching TV.
If TV shows are one of your creature comforts and you have a hard time focusing when you’re alone, then this new kind of body doubling might be exactly what you need to stay on top of your to-do list. We talked to licensed psychologist Carolyn Rubenstein, PhD about whether watching TV can have the same effect as working in a coffee shop, and how it can benefit the other areas of your life.
What Is Body Doubling?
Body doubling is when you spend time working with other people. “Working in the presence of others tends to improve a person's task performance,” Rubenstein says. “This concept is a psychological concept known as social facilitation. Body doubling, the action of performing tasks with another person around, is similar in that its goal is to improve one's motivation and focus.”
Because other people are also making their way through their own checklist, body doubling utilizes a group mentality to keep you focused on your own work.
“Knowing that someone else is completing a task while you complete a task keeps you pushing to continue to stay focused like the person across or next to you,” she says. “Working alone allows for easier access to take unnecessary breaks and lose focus to distractions.”
If you have an especially difficult time working alone, body doubling is also an opportunity for accountability. Strike up an agreement with your body double to help each other stay on track with your work day. You can agree to keep side convos short or keep an eye on each other’s screens.
“Body doubling is a concept that has existed; people have yet to have a name for it before,” Rubenstein says. “Working in a coffee shop, library, or co-working offices are examples of passive body doubling.”
Watching TV As Body Doubling
Image via KoolShooters/Pexels
If a workspace or a coffee shop isn’t in the budget, watching TV is an easy way to provide your brain with a comparable experience. A study from Fast Company found that 57% of participants have binge-watched a show during work hours, and it turns out that having the right level of background noise can increase your performance — as long as it’s not enough noise to overwhelm you.
But can working with the TV on stimulate your mind and spark productivity the way that working in a coffee shop can? Rubenstein says it totally depends on your brain.
“While some may find it helpful to have the TV on in the background as more of a white noise aspect, it can distract others,” she says. “While working in a coffee shop, others perform their tasks, whether checking emails, watching TikTok, or catching up with friends. Watching TV can be more distracting as every show has a plot that can be distracting.”
It’s important to know what is most helpful for your brain, which will look different for everyone. If you can tune out a series while you work, this might be a helpful way to make your workday more fun. But if you can barely get through a spring cleaning sesh if a Friends rerun is on (guilty as charged), we don’t recommend trying to watch while you work.
“While some may find it helpful to have the TV on in the background as more of a white noise aspect, it can distract others,” Rubenstein says. “TV shows have plots and storylines to draw viewers in, making it easy to get pulled out of focus regardless of the show's setting.”
Body Doubling In Other Areas
Image via August de Richelieu/Pexels
Body doubling doesn’t just help during your workday — it can help you with your chores too. Whether you’re folding laundry or cooking dinner, spending time with another person or watching your favorite feel good shows will occupy your mind while your task occupies your hands. Plus, it’ll boost your serotonin.
“[Body doubling] can help with almost any activity, as the other person does not need to be doing the same task,” Rubenstein says. “The idea and psychology behind body doubling is to increase a person's focus and motivation when completing a job.
“As long as the people participating in the body doubling remain on task with what they need to get done, it can work for various activities such as fitness, personal organizing, or administrative tasks.”
We didn’t need more of an excuse to binge all of Emily in Paris (again), but we’ll take it ;).
Check out our latest hot takes on TikTok and let us know on Twitter if body doubling with your favorite TV shows helps you focus!
B+C Editorial Assistant, Swiftie | Chloe is originally from the Outer Banks (yes, like the Netflix show!). When she isn't writing or updating her blog Pastels and Pop Culture, Chloe enjoys watching Marvel movies or texting her sister about the latest celebrity news. Say hi at @thechloewilliams on Insta and @popculturechlo on Twitter!