Working from home has become necessary for many professionals, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Though it may have started with social distancing measures, numerous companies have opted to maintain work-from-home policies for an indefinite amount of time. We are experiencing an enormous cultural shift in how we work.
Working from home brings new challenges for workers when ADHD is part of the equation. As an ADHD coach, I want to ensure that I’m doing what I can to support not just my clients, but the broader ADHD community, to be as productive and healthy as possible in this new work-from-home world.
I have already written extensively about the topic of working from home in my eBook, How to ADHD & WFH, but I wanted to give more than just expert advice. That’s why I asked my ADHD community to share some helpful tips of their own by answering this question:
What is the best habit, strategy, tip, or tool you have used to
help you work from home effectively?
As they always do, my network came back with some great feedback. When I looked through the survey responses, there were three specific ADHD-friendly tips that they rely on to work from home effectively.
SCHEDULE/PLAN YOUR TIME
When you have ADHD, it is challenging to pay attention to and manage your time. Some activities seem to take forever (folding laundry, replying to emails), while other tasks make the time fly by (working with clients or students, researching new interests). Where the heck did the time go? Time management has become especially problematic while working at home, where many of the external markers of time passing have been left at the office. People are not arriving or leaving work together. It’s just you. Your morning routine, which got your day off to a structured start, is different. Did you shower today? My clients are feeling the absence of previously-relied-upon time structures!
Following a schedule or a routine was the most popular piece of advice given by respondents to my survey. This tip is helpful because a schedule provides consistency and structure for your work, and gives you a plan to follow to complete tasks for the day. Some people recommended creating a schedule each morning (or even the night before) for how you’re going to spend the day. Other respondents wrote that they have a set 24-hour routine that they follow regularly. Both approaches can work, depending on your workload and what you need to get done. I recommend trying out both techniques to see what works best for you.
Here are a few tips to help you create a schedule or a routine:
Use your calendar. Create appointments in your calendar for everything you want to get done (meetings and tasks), then follow the schedule in your calendar.
Set deadlines for yourself and schedule your tasks based on when they need to be completed.
Chunk out your time. If you have specific tedious tasks that are repetitive, then set aside time every day to do them all at once. Chunking can be useful for tasks like responding to emails, returning phone calls, logging hours, or grading papers.
In addition to the tips mentioned above, I also recommend these strategies to help you maintain some separation between work and personal life when you’re working from home:
Take time to transition in the morning. Don’t check your emails right after you wake up. Set a specific start time to begin work each morning. Click here to read more tips on how to find calm in the morning when you have ADHD.
Schedule a lunch break for yourself and leave your computer while you eat. Sit outside or in a different room to physically distance yourself from work if you need to.
Decide in the morning what time you’ll wrap up work for the day, and do your best to stick to it. Once you’ve shut your computer down for the day, put it away, and stop checking emails on your phone.
TRACK YOUR TO-DO’S
People also noted that keeping a to-do list can be a constructive way to stay on top of your tasks and keep your productivity up when you’re working from home. As one person said, “When I have a to-do list, I don’t wake up in a panic about what I need to get done that day.”
By keeping track of your tasks in a to-do list, you’re creating a visual reminder of what you have to get done. Making lists is much more effective than trying to keep track of tasks in your head (which folks with ADHD often do) and can help you to keep your time organized as the day goes on. It can also give you a strong sense of satisfaction when you can cross off tasks that you’ve completed!
Here are a few tips to help you track your to-do’s:
Make a master list of to-do’s and review it at least weekly. Externalizing your list will help you to stop relying on carrying everything around in your head.
Keep a notepad right next to your computer, and every time a task comes up, add it to your running list. Be sure to include the deadline if you set one.
Use sticky notes, an entirely hand-written list, or a reminder app on your computer to track the tasks you have to get done every day.
KEEP UP WITH SELF-CARE
Believe it or not, non-work activities will impact your productivity (especially when you’re working from home). Getting enough sleep, regularly eating, taking care of basic hygiene (like showers), and partaking in regular exercise are all necessary self-care activities that will do wonders to help you stay focused and productive. These self-care activities often fall by the wayside when someone works from home, especially if they have ADHD. Though they might not seem important at the moment, these things can help with necessary cognitive refueling by giving your brain and your body a chance to rest, replenish and rejuvenate (click here to learn more about cognitive refueling and how it helps people with ADHD be productive).
Here are a few tips to help you keep up with self-care:
Start your day by being active. Work out, go for a walk, or stretch to get the blood flowing before you start working.
Decide what you’re going to have for breakfast or lunch the night before, and set up whatever you can before you go to bed. That way, it’s ready for you in the morning.
Wake up at the same time each morning to make sure that you keep a sleep schedule.
Select one facet of self-care (eating, meditating, exercising, sleeping) to focus on until you have made some improvements, then focus on another area.
Working from home removes some of the organic systems that help people with ADHD to be their most productive at work, like daily routines, moving from space to space, and natural barriers between work and personal life. These tips shared by my ADHD community can help to re-establish some of those systems to create the necessary structures within the home to increase functioning and productivity. If you’re struggling to stay productive while you work from home right now, you can read more about ways of working from home that work for professionals with ADHD in my little eBook, How to ADHD & WFH.