Working from home can be a tricky task for any remote employee — but when you have attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), being productive in a home office can feel like a monumental undertaking. Don’t be discouraged: there are plenty of great ways to create a home office and a daily structure that will help you find career success and establish a healthy work-life balance.
Pick a Quiet, Low-traffic Area to Use as Your Office — and Only Your Office
In order to limit distractions, it’s important to set up a designated home office space in an area that’s as far removed from your other family members and the daily goings-on of your house as possible. This will help reduce attention-diverting noise and make it less likely that your kids, spouse, or roommate will interrupt your daily workflow.
Whether you work in a spare bedroom, an empty walk-in closet, or the corner of a room you partition out of sight, make this area a work-only zone. No matter its form, having a space dedicated solely to work will help you get mentally prepared to put your nose to the grindstone as soon as you enter it. Plus, keeping it separate from the other parts of your home helps improve your work-life balance. To increase its distraction-free power, paint it in a calming color, like beige, pale blue, or light green, which can help improve focus. Keep decor minimal, but consider adding a live plant, which can also boost your mood and productivity.
If you do need to use your computer outside of work, move it to a space outside of your office. If you currently use a desktop that you can’t transport from room to room, a laptop computer or even a tablet you can connect to a keyboard is a worthwhile investment.
Eliminate Obvious Distractions
Anything that uses your focus in your free time will rob you of productivity when you’re on the clock. Distractions are unique to each person, but some of the most common offenders that should be kept out of the office for people with (and even without!) ADHD include:
- TVs: Rather than a television, listen to the radio or a favorite online playlist when you’re at work.
- Tablets: Because they can be used for non-work-related activities, it’s better to keep them out of your home office.
- Gaming consoles: Move these devices to the family room.
- Personal cell phone: If you don’t use your phone for work, keep it in another room during office hours. Even if you can restrain yourself from using it to kill time, receiving a phone call or text is a quick way to take your mind away from your job.
- Clutter: Whether it takes up a section or the entirety of your office, a messy area pulls your focus from the task at hand.
Remove Sneaky Distractions
Some things may not seem like distractions, but could end up being huge interruptions to your day. Try to make note of anything that doesn’t automatically present itself as a distraction but ends up detracting your focus so you can address it accordingly. Keep in mind that elements you can’t permanently remove can still be adjusted to make them less of a nuisance. A few common covert distractions include:
- Social media: You don’t have to deactivate your social media accounts, but it’s helpful to block access to them while you’re working and uninstall their apps on your phone so you won’t be tempted to check your feed every 15 minutes.
- Pets: Close your office door to keep beloved but bothersome critters out.
- Large windows: Install blinds or shades so you don’t get distracted by passersby.
- Artwork and decor: Any pieces that don’t promote a sense of calm should be moved to another part of the house.
- Board games, books, and other activities: Anything that catches your eye and has you counting down the minutes to the end of the day should get the boot.
Keep Everything You Need in Your Office
Leaving your distraction-free office and entering a chaotic home environment can break your concentration. Even if you only plan on leaving for a minute, having your focus pulled can result in a longer outing (read: more time away from work) than you intended. Be sure your office is well-stocked with everything you need. In addition to office supplies like your computer, printer, and scanner, be sure you’ve got a supply of items like:
- Extra lighting, like a desk lamp
- Cables, cords, and surge protectors
- Hand sanitizer
- Wall calendar
You may even want to think about adding a water dispenser, coffee maker, and mini fridge to truly minimize the number of times you’ll need to leave your office. Cutting the frequency of trips to the kitchen for a refill on your coffee or to grab your lunch can be a huge help in keeping you from finding ways to go off task.
Make a Schedule, and Stick to It
It’s easy to stray if you’re trying to figure out what your next task should be. To prevent this, make a schedule ahead of time, and commit to sticking to it. How far ahead you make plans for your day will be based on your job and what works best for you in general. The bottom line is you need to go into your workday knowing what your timeline will look like so you have a plan of action.
In addition to work-related items, also be sure to schedule daily must-dos so you are able to more easily maintain a normal routine. This will help prevent you from realizing you didn’t take a shower, and then taking an hour out of your day to bathe — and fixate on a bathroom project you haven’t gotten to yet.
Keep in mind that if you tend to get hyper-focused on the task at hand and lose track of time, it can be hard to stick to a schedule — which, unfortunately, can kill your motivation during the workday. If this sounds familiar, try setting an alarm to alert you when it’s time to move from one item on your agenda to the next.
Designate Office Hours
It’s important to let your friends and family members — whether they live with you or not — know when you’re on the clock and not to be disturbed. These office hours are times when your partner, kids, and other roommates should avoid coming into your designated workspace and contacting you by phone or email (at the very least, they shouldn’t expect you to respond until you’re off the clock). This will help you not only maintain your focus on your job, but also help you establish a work-life balance: once you’re on the clock, you’re at work, and once you leave work, you can truly leave it behind you, even though you’re still at home.
When you’re feeling burnt out after working for a long stretch, it’s easy to look for distractions. Taking breaks helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed, and hitting the “pause” button periodically throughout the day will give you a mental break that will ultimately boost your productivity. Make breaks a scheduled part of your day like you would any other task or appointment.
Find a Work Buddy
Thanks to technology, working remotely doesn’t mean you have to work alone. If it helps your efficiency to work alongside someone who will help keep you on track, reach out to a co-worker about scheduling a block of time when you can chat and collaborate on a project together. As a bonus, it will help break up your day, and the time — although productive — will fly by.
Keep Up with Your Medication
Whether you take a stimulant (an amphetamine or methylphenidate, like Adderall or Ritalin) or a non-stimulant (such as Strattera or Kapvay), don’t change the dosage or frequency of your medication without your doctor’s consent. Not working in a formal office setting — and therefore, not being exposed to the same ADHD triggers you were before — doesn’t mean your prescription won’t help ease your most discouraging symptoms. As always, be sure to check with your doc if you think you need a medication adjustment, but until then, take your prescribed dosage at the same time each day.
Perhaps most importantly of all, have patience. It takes time and practice for anyone — with or without ADHD — to work from home efficiently. Give yourself some time to settle in, make adjustments as necessary, and before long, you’ll feel right at not-home in your home office.