How I survived Working From Home With My ADHD
During the start of the pandemic a few years ago, I found it challenging to stay productive once I transitioned to working from home. Aside from ADHD symptoms, I struggled with the worry and anxiety of teaching and caring for my son with autism, as well as the stress of a Covid virus quarantine. And while I know there were a lot of us who struggled, I wanted to share my own story because maybe, just maybe there’s someone out there who can benefit from something I’ve learned along the way.
Working From Home has always given me the freedom to do my work wherever I wanted. And while I do have a designated office space, I honestly love just being able to work from my couch in the living room, outside on my front porch when it’s a beautiful day, or anywhere I want!
I know some will disagree, but when I’m able to freely choose where I want to work, I feel energized and productive. I feel like I’m in charge of my destiny and powerful! Plus, being flexible with my workspace allows me to escape from others in my home when I can’t be disturbed.
I found myself working as much as possible during the pandemic because I needed to build up my savings and because there was always something I could do. This also meant I was spending less time with my family.
I thought it was harmless at first, but all those hours I worked caused a great deal of heated debate because I was always on the job rather than spending time with the family. There was also that familiar feeling of burnout, which I definitely didn't need to add to my already severe ADHD symptoms. I knew I had to set a time to end my workday and at the designated time, I had to stop working and shut down my laptop for the rest of the day. There are some days when I still want to fight the urge not to respond to a client or work on a job-related task but taking a mental break from my work no matter how much I love what I do is an absolute must.
I also realized that having my son at home with me would mean I would have to work while he was asleep if I was going to get any work done. By changing my work hours, I not only had more time for myself to focus on my job, but my productivity also increased. 5 AM may be early for most of the world, but it makes perfect sense for me.
Others follow a schedule, but I throw even the thought of following one out the window. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Get a schedule." But for people with mental illnesses like ADHD, schedules may not always be helpful. Having a schedule isn’t for everyone, but for me, it’s bad. I get stuck in a rut when I do the same thing every day. Variety my friend is the spice of life, or at least that’s what I believe!
I Need Flexibility Instead of Strict Routines in my life because I am a caregiver to my autistic adult son and I’m always on the go. I like being able to do my workout in the mornings, but sometimes I need that extra oomph that I get from my workout in the afternoons when fatigue has reared its ugly head. And sometimes, I use that flexibility to work on projects that require my immediate attention. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have specific hours that I designate as my workday, but what happens in that designated time is all up to me!
I do, however, have a list of daily tasks that I include in my workday. There is no order in the way my tasks need to be completed just as long as I have done them within my work hours. I also make sure that I know what my tasks are for the next work day within those hours. That way I have a good idea of what I need to focus on ahead of time.
One of the most important rules I think we sometimes forget when working from home is taking a break! Even as much as I love my work, I also know that if I don’t Take Regular Breaks, I’m setting myself up for burnout! It also means taking a lunch break, which I sometimes have been known to work through. Missing lunch also means my energy levels plummet and my productivity drops, which is something I don’t need! One of the benefits of living in a rural historical town happens to be what locals call, the noon whistle. At precisely noon every day, the whistle can be heard through the entire town, which is a reminder of not only the time but also to let many of us know that we need to eat lunch!
Lately, I have started to notice the pile-up that is never-ending in the corner of my living room. Somewhere underneath that pile lies a very gorgeous turquoise leather chair and an elegant black desk that remains hidden from my view and the rest of the world. It’s a real shame because they really are some absolutely beautiful pieces that don’t deserve to be hidden away from the world and that mess of a pile-up is an eyesore that frustrates me more than I care to admit. It’s another overwhelming area in my life that I have slowly started tackling. A paintbrush here, a notebook there, slowly getting put back in their rightful place, organized! And I must admit that an overwhelming mess does distract me when I’m focused on trying to be productive. I felt drained by the sight of my mess, I guess you could say, and once I started cleaning, my productivity improved significantly.
One of the biggest issues of working from home is being isolated from others. Sure, you may be surrounded by family at home, but they aren’t your work tribe. When I first started working from home, I missed the interaction I had with my friends from my old job and began to experience depression. But then I found myself surrounded by online friends and mentors whom I had connected with during the Covid, and that depression disappeared! There’s never a reason to feel alone during your workday. Set aside a few minutes every day to spend chatting with a co-worker or a friend with similar work experiences.
Instead of focusing on the amount of time I spend working, I have made it a habit of staying focused on my productivity. Rather than working on a task for eight hours, or as I like to call it, watching the clock, I set a goal for the day. If my goal gets done, I’ll either focus on the next goal or end my day early.
If I'm not motivated during my workday, I often switch things up. Do you remember when I said variety is the spice of life? This is it! This is where my ADHD tends to take over, but it's okay! When you have ADHD and are easily distracted by everything going on around you, working from home can be challenging. To keep myself focused, I usually change my environment by finding a different place to work, whether it's outside on my porch or in a different room. Occasionally, I will even visit the library when I need to focus!
Even one strategy to help you be more productive and get through your workday is enough to keep you going when you have ADHD. Not to mention the freedom to work wherever and whenever you want! Moreover, being Self-Employed Means New Opportunities pop up online all the time.