Staying focused and directed at work or college with ADHD can be difficult in the best of times, but the challenges multiply when our workdays are completely at home. Being productive can feel like running through an obstacle course of distractions, let alone having to communicate only through phone, video, and conference calls.
One of my clients said she feels like her co-workers are an illusion, just an image on a screen. A large percentage of people with ADHD thrive on human contact and working or studying with others has always helped them stay focused, motivated, and on track.
Without the physical presence of others, they may find their minds wondering, the draw of social media or the news irresistible, and distressing thoughts left to run wild and cause worry or anxiety.
If you are working from home and struggling a bit, here are a few ideas that may help.
Plan Your Work Space
- If you live in a studio apartment, a small space, or rent a room in a house, you may find yourself living and working in a stressful and cluttered environment. Some people with ADHD are not bothered by clutter, but others find it overwhelming and more difficult to focus when their external space is out of control.
If you are someone who needs a little order around you, it can be helpful to find a way to separate out your working space from your living space. One of my clients who sleeps and works in her bedroom, bought a Shoji Screen for that purpose. She hides her desk, computer, and bookshelves behind the screen so when she is finished for the day, work is out of sight and out of mind.
Another, in a studio apartment, decided to only use her kitchen table for work. She equates eating with relaxation so, after preparing her meals, she eats on her couch with her back to her kitchen table/office. These are all exercises in creativity to allow a less stressful environment. There are no right or wrong answers here – just whatever allows you the most peace of mind.
- Planning is crucial during this time of enforced self-regulation. It can be a habit to just jump into working without taking the time to figure out what really matters and what should be addressed first. Planning can actually be your friend and help you feel more in control of your life when so many things have changed.
One idea is to take 10 minutes at the end of the day, before you step away from your workspace, to plan out your priorities for the next day. You can also do this first thing in the morning before you dive into your first task. If your list is overwhelming, less is best and you can pick out a few things as a bottom line. Once they are completed, congrats! Then you can add something else to get done for the day.
If you have a hard time prioritizing, here are three things to consider when deciding what to work on:
- Does it have a time limit?
- If it does not get done, will you disappoint or upset someone else?
- Are there consequences to not completing the task?
- It may be easier to hyper-focus when you are on your own and before you know it, the day is gone. Maybe you haven’t had anything to eat or drink for hours, if at all. Try setting a timer a few times a day for breaks. If you are in the middle of something when your timer goes off, re-set it for ten minutes later. And don’t forget to set the timer for the end of your break – 25 minutes or so. Here are some ideas for recharging during your break:
- Do something physical -a short walk, yoga, Tai Chi or running in place
- Listen to a meditation on a mindfulness app
- Eat and/or drink something
- Call a friend or family member
- Reduce some of the clutter in your workspace
- Try not to get down on yourself if some days are less productive, or your brain is just not working to its full capacity. These are stressful times for everyone, ADHD or not. Take care of yourself in whatever ways feel good to you.
If you would like support and coaching to help you maintain your well-being and get things done during this unprecedented time, please contact me. I specialize in coaching women with ADD/ADHD