Working remotely can present unique challenges for individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Don’t I know this! But let’s be honest, working in an office with ADHD also presents unique challenges. However, with some strategies in place, it is possible to be successful and productive while working from home. Here are some quick tips for people with ADHD that have helped me find success working remotely:
Establishing a routine: Establishing is essential for me to stay on track while working remotely. Making a schedule and sticking to it, including scheduling my regular breaks and time for exercise and eating has been life-changing. I read somewhere that overly scheduled people are rarely successful – I don’t know if that is true for neurotypicals, but for me – someone who is neurodivergent, scheduling ensures I stay on track and scheduled so that time blindness does not get the best of me.
Create a dedicated workspace: I’ve struggled the past few years on and off with creating the best version of a dedicated workspace that is free from distractions. I’ve rearranged my space three times in the past 18 months. Each time, I'm trying to ensure it is well-organized, comfortable, and has all the necessary tools and equipment accessible to me. It might take you time to figure it out but take the time to do that. It is work-life changing. Don't be afraid to keep changing it up until you get it right.
Use technology to your advantage: I use technology to help me stay organized and on task. I likely have way more reminders set, digital to-do lists, and use apps more apps than others to stay focused AND that is okay. It works for me. I even have a large wall calendar as well. (I know I know! So 90’s of me!)
Prioritize your tasks: I make lists of my most important tasks and prioritize them. I try my best to break down larger tasks into smaller, manageable ones. For some reason, I find joy in checking things off the list. We often forget to break down our endgame or goals into bite-size tasks. Doing this, helps me celebrate the small steps forward by checking them off my “to-do” list. It also helps keep big-picture anxiety at bay while I am in the weeds working toward it.
Take breaks: I take regular breaks throughout the day. It helps me stay focused and since doing this more actively and often, it has helped me avoid burnout compared to when I did not. Taking a short walk, stretching, or engaging in other activities helps me. For me, taking three mini breaks in the morning rather than a 15-minute break seems to help. I take a few minutes at a time for scrolling social media, interacting with social contacts & community, etc. Yes, it is helping my personal brand, but ultimately – it’s also helping my career and the work I do daily for a living. I am leaning into learning from others in my professional communities, reading articles about industry-related topics, and I am even able to teach others. Sometimes, I am even looking up a recipe for a meal that week. In the end, it is whatever is best for you. You can use these breaks for whatever you like.
Minimize distractions: I want to acknowledge that this is probably one of the hardest things to do for an ADHD'er like me. That said, minimizing distractions is key to staying focused while working remotely and has vastly improved my professional success. I’ve learned to turn off most of my phone notifications, I routinely close unnecessary tabs on my computer, and have found having music on when I am not in a meeting or on the phone helps me concentrate more on focused work and projects. I realize not everyone can work with music. Find your peace and comfort zone that is minimizing distractions for you. Another thing I do is check my email routinely (3-4 times a day) but I do not live in my inbox or let it take the wheel from me.
Communicate with your team: I really try to communicate regularly with my immediate team members. Now we have tools like video conferencing and instant messaging to stay connected. It is super easy to stay connected when you’re intentional. I fully support shutting it all out to finish something and that is why the scheduling I mentioned above is so important to me.
This list of 7 areas of focus has helped me become more successful in navigating remote work. It may seem simplistic to the neurotypical community - it is often not simple for the neurodivergent community. Remember, everyone's journey is unique, and it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you. With patience, perseverance, and a bit of your own personal creativity, it is possible to be successful while working remotely with ADHD. Communication is a topic I did not unpack here. I will share more on that another time. I do hope these seven areas to focus on help you in some way.
I am a neurodivergent recruiter, I am not a medical or mental health professional, and the information or advice or perceived advice provided by me is not intended to substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information or guidance I provide is solely for informational purposes and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical or mental health care. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical or mental health advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read or heard from me or any other source.