Working From Home With ADHD
I was first diagnosed with ADHD when I was six years old. For a long time, I considered my ADHD to be a large part of my identity and at first, that association was negative. Like many with a brain that functions differently than the “norm,” I had low self-esteem and considered my “condition” a curse for many years. Over the decades, I have not only learned to adapt, but I have also learned how to use the way my mind works to my advantage. ADHD can be a strength if you are willing to get to know how your mind works, try new things, and develop good habits to turn your mind into a tool for crushing your goals.
Now that much of the world is switching to working remotely, developing the skills to work efficiently and avoid distractions are more important than ever. Throughout this article, I will share helpful tips, tools, and mindsets for getting your mind into the right place to work from home.
While I will be framing this information while peering through the lens of the ADHD brain, much of the information is absolutely universal.
Every mind is different
The first thing to consider when diving into your own brain is that every single mind is different, ADHD or not. While much of this information is going to be helpful, try not to take it as pure gospel. In the process of making yourself proficient at working from home, you are going to have to experiment with different tools, schedules, and mindsets. If something mentioned in this article does not help you, take what you learned and try a different method that works better for you; just don’t give up on it. The key to finding systems that work is to, when something does not work, ask yourself “What exactly about that did not work for me?” and “How can I make it better?”
Step One: Set up your workspace
The Right Mind-Set
When you have a workspace that is also used for many other things, the chances of getting distracted increases. If you are surrounded by your other hobbies, you may get sidetracked quickly. If at all possible, try to create a designated workspace. When you have created a space for one single purpose in mind, you may find it easier to shut other things out and focus.
Imagine a large canvas with a little black dot in the middle. With a single dot in the frame, it is easy to see what you need to focus on. The ADHD brain tends to lean toward hyperfocus when there is only one thing in view. Use this to your advantage by organizing your area and decluttering so that there are fewer “dots” on the canvas.
While remaining organized is simple, it is not always easy. Along with creating a space for work, keeping it clean, simple, and tidy is absolutely necessary. Here are some tips for organizing:
Add cleaning or tidying your workspace to your to-do list every day before you even start work. Clear space, clear mind!
Take a look at your workspace and ask yourself how you can simplify. If it is easy to grab a pen you will be more likely to write something down in the moment. If you have a designated water glass, you will be more likely to keep up with hydration through the day etc...
In order to remain productive and hit your goals with regards to work, structure is wildly important. If you are new to working from home, you suddenly lack the usual checks and balances that are associated with being in an office surrounded by your bosses and coworkers. You now have to hold yourself accountable whereas social expectation may have helped before.
When you work in an office, you may have an expectation of when you need to be there. Since you need to be in the office at a certain time, or at meetings throughout the day, there is some semblance of a schedule and limited windows where you can get your work done. When you work from home, however, you must create those windows in which you get the bulk of your work done. Creating a schedule can help you to hold yourself accountable while still incorporating necessary break periods and self-care.
Find a method that works best for you. Personally, I have my schedule in Google Calendar and it syncs automatically to my phone and computer. It will even send me notifications so I don’t miss a meeting due to distractions or hyperfocus. If a paper schedule works best for you, grab yourself a journal and get started. If journaling resonates with you, check out the method called “Bullet Journaling” in this YouTube tutorial here.
Time blocking is a method of sectioning out your days. You will inevitably have different tasks you need to get done through the day, and with this method, you can keep a schedule and never have to think about what you need to focus on. Think back to the analogy of a black dot in the middle of a canvas. In the same way, if you have time blocked a certain task during a specific time of day, you know precisely which task to focus on. This picture shows a good example of time blocking. Don’t forget to throw in self-care in this as well!
Click here for a deeper dive into time blocking with an article from ProjectManager.com
Keep in mind that certain tasks are sometimes best done at particular times of day. Some will stack their most difficult or unpleasant tasks at the beginning of the day while their mind is fresh but it depends on how you function best. Play around with it. If you have set up your schedule and something isn’t working, shift it around. It may take a couple of weeks to get in the groove of using the system you have created.
Use a Timer
Using a timer is another good way to hold yourself accountable. You can set a timer on your phone or computer for how long you want to focus on specific tasks. With this hack, make it as easy as possible to physically set the timer, and the display should be readily available. Here are a couple of options that you can use:
Time Blocking Google Plugin - A timer that shows you the time remaining in the top right of your web browser.
Time Block - Timer - If having a physical object to remind you is best, I use one similar to this timer on Amazon. The best part is that it is easy to use. Flip it to the time you want, and it starts automatically. This is the timer that I use at home.
Browse the app store on your phone for an “App Blocker.” If you get distracted by certain apps or social media, you can set the app to block other apps or websites during certain hours of the day so you can zone in on what you need to get done.
Learning to work from home doesn’t have to be frustrating, but there is certainly an adjustment period. Especially if this is the first time you are working from home for an extended period, be patient with yourself. The best thing you can possibly do in this process is to have some fun with it. If you want to be more productive at home, take the time to develop your own system and find what works best for you. With these tips and tricks, you can limit distractions and optimize your workspace to get more done. Use your ADHD as a strength by working with it, instead of against it.
I hope you are well out there and as always, Carpe Freaking Diem!
I am a life coach in the Boulder/Denver area and offer phone/zoom coaching sessions. I also offer free consultations, so if you want to learn more, click HERE to get in touch or reach me at:
Cell: (609) 731-8684
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