Reply To: Performance evaluation time at work: setting constructive goals

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Hi KTdoesit,

I don’t really have any advice for you, but I’m going through the same thing. I haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD, but I struggle with concentration, procrastination, productivity etc. and a lot of the information I’ve been reading about inattentive ADHD seems to describe me exactly. So who knows. Maybe I have it.

I’ve been self-employed and working from home for two years now, and I’m currently in a really bad rut with my concentration and productivity. Like you, the routine of going to the office and having set hours for my working day really helped. But, there were also days (sometimes weeks) when I didn’t get any work done in the office at all. I’d then have a mad scramble to get everything done in whatever time was left. I’ve been taking a long, hard look at my habits and working style, and I’ve realised that these problems have always been there, it’s just that working from home and setting more ambitious goals for myself is really bringing them to the fore.

What you wrote here just resonates so strongly with me: ‘I have really, really struggled with the social isolation and the loss of my routine. Everything is such a chore and requires so much willpower that I don’t have much left for doing actual work, much less slapping my smile on and making some new friends at the end of the day. As a result, I really don’t feel like I’m giving my work the focus and attention it deserves. I could be doing so much more! I’m ashamed to mention how much more time I spend looking at Facebook on my phone. It’s horrible, and so not me.’

I feel exactly the same. I end every day feeling so down on myself. Yesterday I sat at my desk for about seven hours, and I think I got about 1.5 hours of work done. It’s so disheartening! I couldn’t even tell you what I do. It feels like the time just slips through my fingers. Like you, I know that I am capable of so much more.

I’ve been trying to make small changes (with mixed success). I have a dog, and I walk her around the park every morning, which helps wake me up for the day. I really struggle to get up in the mornings, so our walk is usually between 9 and 10 am. I also struggle to concentrate in the morning, so I’ve decided to go easy on myself until 12 pm. I like to be sitting at my desk by then, but I’m allowed to waste time online, read articles etc. I then divide up the afternoon, with the aim of working 12–2 and then 3–6. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have an efficient 8-hour workday, but if I can have five good hours that would be a huge improvement! And if I have a few really focused hours, I know I can get a lot done. I also like working in a nearby cafe. Small noises in the flat tend to really irritate me (when my partner’s working from home, he isn’t allowed to sit in the same room as me because I can’t stand the sound of his breathing and typing!), but the white noise of a cafe is fine for me.

So far, the 12–2 work slot hasn’t been particularly productive, but I’m trying! I’ve also found that setting timers really helps me – so far, ten minutes is as long as I can manage. I tried a 15-min timer and when the alarm went off I was standing at the other side of the room, having been distracted by laundry or something equally dull 🙂 So I can usually manage ten minutes, another ten minutes (for some reason this works better than a 15- or 20-minute timer), then a 5–10 min break. The problem, though, is that I often can’t bring myself to actually start the first timer!

I often find that something clicks into place around 6 or 7pm, and I can get a lot done then. This isn’t great though, as this is when I like to exercise, hang out with my partner, cook, watch Netflix etc. So I’m not sure what to do about that – keep fighting to stick to ‘normal’ hours or embrace my night owl instincts?

I don’t know whether talking to your boss would be helpful or not. It might be better to first of all figure out exactly what works and doesn’t work for you. I also often think that maybe I just need more work. But what I really mean is that I need more deadlines! Because that seems to be the only way I can get things done. However, more work and more deadlines might not be the answer. To me, it feels more like hiding the problem than addressing it, and I find myself sucked into a horrible cycle of procrastination followed by a few exhausting days of intense forced focus to get everything done. Perhaps you need to make small changes (like I’m trying to do) until you feel a bit more confident in identifying your strengths and weaknesses, and in managing those weaknesses?

Anyway, it’s 12 pm now, so I’d better go and try and stick to my 12–2 work slot! 🙂

J xx