Productivity at Work

Working from Home? Telecommuting Strategies from Adults with ADHD

In the midst of this pandemic, many adults now find themselves working from home. Telecommuting poses unique challenges to adults with ADHD, who may struggle to focus and remain productive while in isolation or with family members nearby. Here to help is advice from remote workers with ADHD who, in a recent ADDitude survey, shared their biggest challenges and solutions for working from home.

Working at home, coworking space, concept illustration. Young people, man and woman freelancers working on laptops and computers at home. Vector flat style illustration
Working at home, coworking space, concept illustration. Young people, man and woman freelancers working on laptops and computers at home. Vector flat style illustration

As the pandemic that has consumed and changed our lives continues to spread at alarming rates, closing schools, offices, and restaurants across the nation, roughly 90% of ADDitude readers are now working from home — 22% of them for the first time, according to a survey fielded on March 13.

What they are quickly learning is that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) complicates and undermines several work-from-home prerequisites: focus, time management, and prioritization skills, to name a few.

Here, our readers share the five biggest challenges they face working from home, and their practical advice for overcoming each.

Working From Home Challenge #1: Maintaining Focus When the News Is So Consuming

“As an extroverted adult with ADHD and anxiety, I do not like being alone all day. When I’m with other people and doing work in an office, my mind focuses on healthy productive thoughts. Alone, my mind drifts more and it’s easier to get caught up in the thoughts in my own head.”

ADDitude Readers Offer Solutions

Buddy up. Find someone to check in with quickly each morning. Review top priorities for the day and check status on the ones from the previous day.”

[How Seriously Do You Procrastinate? Take This Test To Find Out]

“I started using a timer and would work for two hours and then take a break that was timed so I knew when to get back to work. Using a timer made it easier to stay on task and to know how much longer I had until a break or how much time I had on the break before I had to get back to work.”

Working From Home Challenge #2: Avoiding Distractions with Family Around, and No Firewalls

“As a graduate student who still lives with his parents and sibling, there is not a single space in the home that remains quiet for long. There is a TV on in every room and it is distracting, yet if you turn them off, then you hear everyone going about their business in the house.”

“Distraction on the Internet is a problem. I’m pretty good about staying off social media most days, purely because I’m very introverted, but it’s really easy for me to get caught by an interesting news story or science article and lose several hours following a trail of links.”

ADDitude Readers Offer Solutions

“Try to sit at a table or desk in an area with as few visual distractions as possible, not the couch or among your hobby supplies (pack them up if that’s the only table). If you’ve got the option, bring home a monitor and chair. Use a fan, sound machine, or headphones to block out neighborhood and house noise distractions.”

“For distractions, I use a browser extension called OneTab. It lets you collapse all of the tabs you might have open into a plain page with a list of links. This may not sound inspiring, but I find it helps with ADHD in two ways: If I find myself distracted, it’s easier to disentangle myself if I know that whatever shiny thing I’m reading will still be easy to find when I finish whatever it is I’m really supposed to be doing. Also, OneTab helps with my work (research) because I can group together a bunch of links related to a project and save them for later reference.”

“Be able to isolate yourself and make sure that your boundaries are respected by family members. Make sure that your family and friends know you work from home and take that seriously. This means: be able to say no to driving kids to activities just because you work from home and therefore are available. Because you work from home it doesn’t mean that your spouse can expect that dinner is ready, housekeeping is done, and errands have been run. You still need to share that equally.”

[Use This: 19 Ways to Meet Deadlines and Get Things Done]

Working From Home Challenge #3: Maintaining Productivity When No One Is Watching

“I struggle to put the same number of hours in as I would a regular work day (in the office, I work about six hours, but from home I might put in three to four hours). I usually end up doing household tasks that seem important and are much easier to accomplish because I’m moving around instead of trying to sit at my computer and read or write.”

ADDitude Readers Offer Solutions

“You have to isolate yourself the best you can during the time of day you feel you are most productive. If that is early in the morning, wake up and get in those hours. If it doesn’t occur until 1 in the afternoon, fine. Employers ought to expect productivity to decline as we all transition into social distancing, so don’t beat yourself up if it happens. Just do the best you can.”

“Instead of trying to concentrate on just one task, I have a selection of roughly four tasks available to me that need to be done. I know that I may have (for example) three days for these tasks to be finished. When I get bored with one, I transfer to another task that is also important. Then, when I am bored with that one, I either transfer back to the original task or go for something else on my list. I have no more than four things on my list with a close deadline, but if I have a longer deadline I might have six. I write each one on a flashcard that I keep on a pinboard next to my desk. When I do a task, I take the card and put it on my desk. When I change, I replace the card on the pinboard with a check mark on it and then I choose a different card. At the end of the deadline, I should have four cards all with check marks on them.”

Working From Home Challenge #4: Prioritizing and Scheduling When Tasks Arrive from Every Direction

“When I’m tired and there are deadlines to be met, it’s very difficult to focus. If I have conflicting deadlines, I feel like everything is falling away from me and I take a nap to calm down.”

ADDitude Readers Offer Solutions

“It has helped me to start my day asking myself, ‘What is my intention today?’ It can help me prioritize. I also really like bullet journaling as a way to keep all my lists about everything in one place”

“First thing every morning, do a brain dump of the things that are on your mind that are stressing you out. Keep a master list of all the things you need to do, and every morning add or prioritize items from your brain dump. Then go through and add new things and take off old things. Finally, make a separate list of just three to five things to do today — culled from the items that are urgent, brief, or were stressing you out when you woke up.”

Working From Home Challenge #5: Avoiding Unhealthy Hyperfocus

“I need help remembering to eat, drink water, and go to the bathroom. It’s easier to hyperfocus and overwork.”

ADDitude Readers Offer Solutions

Set a schedule and keep it. Get dressed in the morning — even putting on shoes can help your brain shift into work mode. Take breaks and make sure to eat lunch. Remote work can make it easy to hyperfocus and spend time tunneling in. That can be an advantage, but not eating or drinking enough water will leave you exhausted and on edge as the day wraps up.”

Working From Home Challenge #6: Floundering with a Lack of Structure and Colleagues

“Being physically disconnected from people I work with makes it harder to remember to include them in collaboration, update them on my progress, or ask for help if I get stuck. I love working with people, I get energy from being with people, and I even get motivated from seeing other people work. Being by myself can be boring, lonely, and demotivating at times.”

ADDitude Readers Offer Solutions

“Rise at the same time each day and stick to the same ordered routine that includes exercise, meditation, eating, showering, dressing, and doing dishes. Don’t look at email before this.”

Schedule regular contact with your supervisor and anyone who is collaborating with you on a project. Arrange a call or IM chat at a set, repeating time.”“Have a separate work space and keep regular office hours. Don’t set the expectation at work or at home that you’re available at all hours of the day or night.”

[Read This Next: ADHD Brains Working At Home: A Beginner’s Guide To Telecommuting]

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