Working from home definitely has its pros and cons, but some of us with ADHD have to work extra hard to thrive in this environment. Don’t get me wrong, I love being home and having the option to work in my home office, sit on the couch, work outside, or hang out with my family during the day. But that’s also what makes my day so much harder.
So, in case you don’t know, what is ADHD? And why does it make remote work a little more challenging? ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurological condition characterized by difficulty maintaining attention, impulsive behavior, and, in some cases, hyperactivity, which can impact daily functioning and relationships. Basically, most of the time, it takes a few extra steps for those of us with ADHD to successfully manage our tasks – especially at home where distractions run rampant.
In this blog, I’ll talk about three areas that I focus on in order to succeed as a developer who works from home and has to juggle constant context switching throughout the day.
First, let’s talk about the most important aspect of success: routine. For me, establishing a routine has been vital to succeeding in everyday life. Every morning, I start by jotting down a to-do list, capturing everything on my mind that needs attention. This list sometimes includes a 'research/if I have time' section for less urgent tasks.
On overwhelming days, my desk transforms into a Kanban board, with tasks moving from 'To Do' on the left, to 'In Progress' in the middle, and 'Done' on the right with post-it notes. This visual progression is particularly helpful for someone with ADHD.
Creating an internal schedule is also crucial. Part of this involves dressing up each morning as if I'm going to an in-person job – that includes putting on my shoes. This simple act significantly boosts my productivity and helps me start my day on a more energetic note.
Taking intentional, timed breaks is another key element of my routine. These breaks might involve eating a snack, playing guitar, stepping outside, playing with my dog, or even just moving around to get my legs moving.
I find that a short 10-minute break between major tasks can really help transition my focus. However, it's important to avoid developing unhealthy habits during these breaks, as they can derail the day and impact mental health. For a quick, engaging diversion, I often turn to small puzzles or fidget toys, which are a better choice than reaching for my phone.
Most people are going to think I am wild for this, but I miss my commute to work. It served as my mental transition into 'work mode.' Now, with remote work, establishing a dedicated workspace is crucial, especially for someone with ADHD who may struggle with maintaining attention. This area helps separate the comfort of home from the focus of the work day.
Currently, with the added challenges of having a newborn and being in the midst of moving into a new house, sticking to my routine and utilizing my designated workspace whenever possible is vital. It helps me avoid distractions, whether it’s the next box to pack or taking time to look at my adorable son.
Additionally, occasionally changing my workspace can provide a refreshing change of scenery and reestablish my focus.
Lastly, your mindset is fundamental. This applies to everyone, not just people with ADHD.
The way you think greatly influences the effectiveness of your coping strategies. I used to burden myself with negative thoughts, wondering, "How the hell am I supposed to do this?" But I shifted this mindset to a more positive one and gave myself some grace, telling myself, "I'm young and still figuring things out." This change is easier said than done, though, and might require time, effort, and examining other aspects of your life.
It's common to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others who may seem more experienced or just a few steps ahead. However, a healthier approach is to focus on personal growth, aiming to be a better version of yourself than you were yesterday.
I hope these tips help other ADHD-ers out there. Let's get our tasks from to-do to done.
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