Are there special considerations for ADHD adults working at home?
There’s no dearth of articles about working at home right now, for sure. And you can find some really good suggestions. At the same time, it’s helpful to recognize how your ADHD may impact your ability to work at home, especially under the current conditions.
Because the suggestions you find may not entirely meet your needs, as they likely don’t consider your ADHD. An example of this can be seen in a quote by David Allen of Getting Things Done. When talking about GTD he claimed:
“…everything I propose is easy to do. It involves no new skills at all. You already know how to focus, how to write things down, how to decide on outcomes and actions, and how to review options and make choices.”
Of course, you know this is not easy for ADHD adults. That doesn’t mean you can’t use GTD or any other system that claims you have skills you may be lacking. It does mean, though, you may need support in learning and practicing those skills needed to effectively implement the strategy. So, it works best for you.
This is also true about working at home right now. That is, you’ll need to consider your ADHD challenges and strengths to develop a plan that works for you. In addition, as you’re obviously more than just your ADHD, you’ll want to consider your other needs and preferences, as well.
So, experiment with the suggestions below. I’ll be curious to hear about what you come up with.
Do You Need to Get Dressed and Showered in the Morning?
One of the most often asked questions is whether it’s necessary to shower and get dressed in order to be in work mode. To answer this question, think about what a productive environment looks like for you. That is, what needs to be in place for you to do your important work?
If you can get up and get to work while still in your pajamas/sweats, and that’s what you want to do, do it. But, if you need to get dressed as a cue that it’s time to get to work, you have the answer. By the way, if it’s the middle of the workday, you’re in your pajamas, and you’re procrastinating getting started, stop reading this article. Go get dressed. It might help. 😊
There you have it. There is no one right answer. So, do whatever is going to work best for you.
Decide What You’re Going to Do Each Day
Having a schedule for your day is not optional, though. As without a plan, even if you have a lot to do, you may just drift through your day. Until you get to the end of the day, frustrated and maybe even embarrassed. Because now you need to let the people you made commitments to know you didn’t follow through.
Remember, the challenge of having ADHD is paying attention to everything. And it’s an understatement to say there are a lot of distractions at home. Deciding in advance what your schedule is going to be for the day will help you focus your attention. As you’ll have clarity on what you intend to do.
Of course, having this clarity won’t ensure you’ll follow. You know that all too well. But it’s one piece of creating the right environment to help you be proactive in charting your course for the day. Read on to see what else can help you follow through on your intentions.
Make Your Schedule Visible
While you should definitely put your schedule in your calendar, it might also help to make it more visible. Because you know remembering to remember is a challenge for ADHD adults. You might forget to look at your calendar throughout the day. Until you finally look at it and think, “Oh, s*** I forgot to do… Ever happened to you?
Making your schedule more visible might help minimize the chances of this happening. Many people find having a schedule on a whiteboard helpful. For others it’s good enough just to write it on a piece of paper they place next to them on their desk. Maybe you’ll want to tape it to the wall in front of you.
Whatever works for you to remember your intentions, do that. And, as you look at your schedule, remind yourself, “I’m doing this and not that!”
Create Your Own Workspace
As much as you can, create your own workspace. At a minimum, carve out a corner of the dining room table to keep all your stuff. So, you can minimize the chances of misplacing your work materials.
If it’s possible to have a separate workspace, that might be even better for you. You may want to be with the other members of your household right now. Alternatively, if you have small kids, you may have no other choice. I get that. But, if you can have a separate space to go to for at least part of the day, that might help you do some of your deep work.
I know I’ve said this already. But it bears repeating. Think about what kind of environment you need to be productive. And, as best you can, create that for yourself, including your workspace.
Take Breaks During Your Workday
Now more than ever you need to practice good self-care, which includes taking breaks throughout the day. But be mindful of what kind of breaks you take. It’s definitely hard for many of us to resist surfing the internet, looking for more information. But, if you really need a break, doing this will not make you feel any more energized, right?
So, when you do take a break, go for a walk or do some exercises. Even a short 15-minute break is better than none. Want something fun? Try P.E. with Joe. Whatever you do you’ll feel better both physically and emotionally after you’ve moved a bit. You might be surprised that you’re pulled to do your work when you return. As you will feel more refreshed.
Need help turning off the computer so you don’t stay glued to your seat? Check out TimeOut for Mac and Smart Break for Windows. You can customize each app to notify you when it’s time to take a break, and even lock you out for a specified amount of time. That might just be the push you need.
Know Where Your Time Is Going
Of course, one of the challenges for ADHD adults is time blindness. And one aspect of this is that time feels endless, like you have all the time in the world. If you are not going out to work right now and staying at home, this can feel especially true.
So, you may think you have plenty of time and tell yourself, “I can do this later.” Right, later. But you don’t really know when later is, right? In addition, as is common for adults with ADHD, you may rely on urgency to motivate yourself. The combination of not having a sense of urgency and feeling like you can do it later is a lethal combo when it comes to productivity, right?
For some, it is helpful to use a time tracking app to get an accurate picture of where you are spending your time. While it has a lot of other features, RescueTime is a popular app you can try to track what you are doing on your computer. For some people, this information provides more motivation to experiment with strategies that will help them be more productive with their time.
Not sure you have a clear enough picture of how you are using your time right now? Try tracking your activities for a few days to get a better sense of where your time is going.
Socialize with Your Work Network
Of course, you want to keep in touch with your family and friends right now. And before it might have been wise to limit this to your “off-work hours.” So you could limit distractions. But now you may feel the need to be more flexible to take care of yourself and your loved ones. You should do that. And I hope you feel ok about being flexible.
It’s also the time to be more flexible in the way you treat your work network. That is, take some time to check in, rather than treating your interactions as “business as usual.” Because it’s just not business as usual. For some of you, this is a given. For others, you may feel the pressure of needing to be productive and so you want to “get down to business.”
It’s OK to slow down and take your foot off the pedal right now. Business will get done, for sure. It just won’t be the same as it was before. And that’s OK. So, the next time you’re on a call or on Zoom take some time to chat a bit and check in to see how everyone is doing. It may help everyone be more present when you do get down to business.
You Might Need To Over-Communicate
If you’re used to going into the office and seeing people face to face, one of the challenges for you right now may be a tendency to operate too much in a silo and not communicate enough with your boss or colleagues. What enough looks like now will, of course, depend on your and others’ needs and preferences.
For example, when some people are stressed, they go into “control mode.” In terms of communication, they may need to know more about what you’re doing. And, so, you might want to “over communicate” with these people. Try not to take their need to know the details of what you’re doing personally.
In addition, many of us are very distracted right now. I know, an understatement, right? This means you may miss parts of conversations, emails or even direct instructions. Slowing down, listening and reading your emails carefully will help, for sure. But also, don’t be afraid to call or email to confirm your understanding, rather than trying to guess.
The bottom line is you may need to communicate more now than before.
Have a Process to End Your Workday
If you like to sprinkle work throughout your day and don’t feel the need for a clear beginning and ending, then you can skip this part.
But if it’s important for you to have a clear demarcation between work and personal life, it would be helpful to have a process to end your workday. Because, without a plan to end your day, your workday may easily bleed into your evening. Especially when there is no clear delineation between your living space and your workspace.
So, you might end up writing an email, reading the news, doing a little more work, going on Facebook, etc. And interspersed among these personal and work activities you might graze, instead of sitting down for a meal. If that sounds familiar and you’d like to change that, try these steps:
- Decide when you want to “leave” the office.
- If you want to leave your office at 5 pm, begin your shutdown routine 1/2 hour before at 4:30 pm.
- Look at your calendar to get a preview of your schedule for tomorrow.
- Create a schedule for the following day, including time blocks in your calendar for projects.
- Scan your email and respond to any email that absolutely can’t wait until tomorrow. This might mean just letting the person know you will get back to them tomorrow.
- Then, as Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, says at the end of his day, tell yourself, “schedule shut down complete.” Of course, you can come up with your own mantra.
Having a process, such as this, can help release you from the need to do more work. As you’re giving yourself permission to shut down for the day.
You’ve Done Enough
And when you’ve come to the end of the your day, remind yourself that a lot of your energy and time is being spent right now trying to make sure you and your loved ones are physically, emotionally and maybe financially safe. It can be really draining, for sure.
So, remind yourself, “I am doing the best I can and am enough, regardless of how much work I’ve done.”