In Part I of Creating A Work Environment That Works With Your ADHD I suggested that the first step in strategically working with your ADHD was to identify your strengths and the tasks which, out of necessity or desire, fall on your plate.
As you know all too well, whether a task is something you enjoy or not, your ADHD may get in the way of being able to work effectively.
So, knowing the ways your ADHD can hinder you, as well as the workarounds, is the next step in addressing your workplace challenges.
And, as my yoga teacher said recently, “Accept where you are…”
I would add, “Then you can choose to grow from there…”
Distracted By Internal Noise
It is a common challenge for adults with ADHD to get off track because of their own thoughts. You might be working on something when all of a sudden you
- think you really “should” be doing something else.
- remember something you forgot to do.
- start worrying about an issue unrelated to what you are doing.
And the thought grabs hold of your brain, and won’t let go. A tug of war ensues, as you ask yourself, “Should or shouldn’t I…?”
And then all of sudden you are tackling whatever just came to mind. Only to bemoan later that you did not follow through on your original task.
Instead, as soon as the thought comes to mind, write it down on a piece of paper next to you or in an appropriate container (calendar, task manager, Evernote, etc.).
Then you can be confident you will remember it later and can move on with your original task.
Distracted by External Factors
Other than your own thoughts, things in your environment may also throw you off.
The key is to be aware of how you need your environment set up to be able to work at your best. To manage external distractions you may need to
- turn off the pop-up notices for your email while working on your computer.
- make sure you are physically comfortable – not too warm or cold.
- let others know you are working on a project and close your door or find a private room to work.
- work on tasks that need your complete focus at times when there are likely to be fewer distractions.
- put the clock that goes “tick, tock, tick, tock” in another room.
What other distracting factors specific to your environment do you need to take care of to be able to work better?
Another reason your actions may not match your intentions is that you simply forget in the moment what you intended to do.
Two reasons for this related to your ADHD are:
- Working memory, the system that allows us to temporarily hold and manage information in order to carry out more complex cognitive task, is often weak in adults with ADHD.
- Recall or the ability to access information stored in your long term memory is also weak.
As a result you may find yourself in scenarios similiar to one of these.
- You think about the points you want to make at a meeting, but don’t write them down beforehand. So, only after leaving the meeting do you remember two of the points.
- As you are walking past your colleague’s office, thinking about the meeting, she ask you to email her the spreadsheet. You say, “sure!” But you forget.
- You look at your calendar to see you have another meeting in 30 minutes. Forty-five minutes later you are still at your desk, working on your expense report.
While your memory may be “more like swiss cheese than a trap door,” I hope you know it has no relationship to your intelligence, really.
The key is not to rely on your memory.
Instead use these workarounds:
- Write down your ideas in an electronic or physical notebook as soon as they pop into your head.
- Record your ideas on your phone, if you cannot write.
- When you think of a new task put it in your paper or electronic task manager immediately.
- Take notes when in meetings or in informal discussions, and review the notes soon after the meeting.
- Set an alarm to remind yourself when you need to transition to a new task.
- When somebody makes a request of you in passing ask them to email you if you cannot write it down right away.
- Refer back to your written plans frequently during the day.
Just don’t try to keep your intentions in your head.
But what do you do when you “just don’t wanna” do something because you are bored?
You remember what you need to do, and there are no particular distractions getting in your way. The task may even be important to you…
But you just don’t have the energy. Check out Dealing With Boredom for some of the possible reasons and current strategies you may be using to deal with your boredom.
Then take the first step in managing your boredom, which is to accept that, as you already know, inevitably there will be times you will feel bored and still need to tackle a task.
The next step is to increase your awareness of when and how boredom arises for you.
Then you can employ strategies to manage your boredom and help ensure better follow through, like
- making a game out of a task, such as “beat the clock.”
- setting a timer for the amount of time you think you can tolerate working on a particular task.
- timing when you do a boring task to when you take your stimulant medication.
- taking notes during meetings so you have something to do.
- other strategies.
Because sometimes you just can’t say, “I don’t wanna.”
More Workarounds To Come
Stay tuned for more workarounds for common challenges for adults with ADHD in the upcoming post.