10 ADHD Work-Life Strategies for Successful Home-Based Work
With attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, (ADHD) work-life balance can be really difficult when you work from home. Whether you run a home-based business or enjoy the flexibility allowed by your employer, the perks of this work arrangement are significant.
However, it’s essential to acknowledge the challenges that come with it. With thoughtful planning and a set of guidelines to manage your time effectively, achieving a balanced lifestyle and boosting productivity in both work and household responsibilities is entirely possible.
1. Start Your Days with Small Wins
To achieve a work-life balance with ADHD, it’s important to kickstart your day with a sense of accomplishment. Starting on a positive note will set your ‘state’ and help you create a win first thing. Since an ADHD brain is pre-disposed to negative bias, you need to work to over-ride that program and it begins with easy daily tasks. Be it a work-related task or a household responsibility, start with something easy. Tackling a lingering item from yesterday’s to-do list or handling routine chores early on helps you set a positive tone for the day. Positivity motivates you to keep going to achieve even more.
2. Embrace Flexibility
Although some structure is super helpful when seeking work-life balance with ADHD, it’s important to acknowledge that working from home comes with unpredictable interruptions. Instead of sticking to rigid schedules, adopt a more flexible approach. Allocate a range of time for tasks, allowing room for unexpected detours without feeling like a failure.
3. Combat Procrastination By Choosing an Outcome and First Step
Address chronic procrastination by choosing a very simple and easy outcome. If you’re facing a big project, instead of focusing on the big picture, instead choose one small outcome toward the big goal. This means you need to endeavor to break down projects into small steps first to start. Then, define your first action and any support you may need to do that. This will ensure you have the necessary resources, and avoid aiming for something that requires too many steps before you even begin. Recognize that the big hurdle with ADHD is often just taking the first step. Work-life balance with ADHD can be achieved by implementing a structured approach to identifying small outcomes and defining the first simple action step.
4. Separate Work and Home
Boundaries are essential to work-life balance with ADHD. So it’s essential to establish a clear boundary between your professional and personal life when you’re working from home. These are often called zones. Without zones in your home and work environments, it becomes too easy to just keep working, or never stop playing! While some overlap is inevitable, establish separation everywhere. You can achieve this through distinct filing systems, home/work to-do lists, or project management systems that will help you set your priorities.
Additionally, there’s a new rage called ‘walking to work’ even for those who work remotely. Put on your coat and shoes as if you’re heading into the off-site office, but instead, walk around the block for 5-15 minutes and return to your home. This activity resets your hormones and helps dump cortisol – setting you up for a successful work bout. Separating work from home, even when working from home with ADHD will avoid blurred lines and prevent potential problems.
5. Batch Tasks
You’ll work more efficiently from home when you’re able to switch tasks less often. So, you may want to invest in tools like caller ID to distinguish between business and personal calls. Prioritize calls based on urgency, allowing you to focus on high-priority tasks while managing less critical matters during designated times.
6. Use Blockers
If I had a nickel for every adult with ADHD who’s asked for support overcoming their distractibility, I’d change my last name to Rockefeller! How can I make this simple and easy… When you’re working from home, block your social profiles and other known distractors. The fact is, social is too easy to slide into. If you can’t override the urge to grab your phone in between tasks, shut it down, put it away, and turn off notifications. There’s enough research out to show that distractibility is an issue for adults with ADHD, so giving someone a phone that dings and bings every second with some juicy new ideas, news or posts is somewhat akin to giving beer to an alcoholic who’s trying to stay on the wagon. When you’re working from home, the best work-life balance strategy with ADHD is to make use of blockers during the time you’re supposed to be working on other things.
7. Externalize Time
Another work-from-home strategy with ADHD is to make time external. Do everything you can to help you ‘notice’ time passing. If you need to set time limits use digital or physical timers. And use them often. You can even engage the smart speaker to keep you on track. Setting timers and using ‘external cues’ to manage your time, helps prevent derailment. With the constant physical reminder that time is ticking away, a timer helps you contain your tasks and pay attention to how long certain tasks may take you to complete.
Additionally, timers help you pace your work and stay on track. You can save yourself from consuming excessive time, with a hard-to-ignore time that stares you in the face. Using timers ensures you stay on track and avoid distractions. Apply this technique to both tasks you tend to procrastinate on and those you enjoy.
8. Take Real Breaks
One of the most effective work-life balance strategies for ADHD adults who work from home is to reward yourself with actual downtime in between work bouts. To balance my energy, I started taking an actual lunch break during the day to be sure I left my desk. Eating in a different place (my kitchen) helps me stop and ensures I incorporate breaks to rest my mind and recharge. And, to ensure I don’t waste too much time, I typically tell my smart speaker to set a timer to ensure my breaks don’t go too long. This way I’m able to hit my daily goals and strike that work-life balance with my time.
9. Health First!
Sitting is one of the worst things we can do for our bodies. That’s why it’s important to establish routines, meal and movement strategies to make your health a priority
10. Build and Maintain Your Planning System
Do you realize that an effective time management system is dependent upon nine different systems working together? (Read about how to build your time management system for ADHD here.) Most adults with ADHD are completely under-supported by the tools that help them plan, prioritize, stay organized, and manage their time. They may have one or two cornerstones in place but fall apart on the others. For you to truly feel in control and on time, you need to be sure your system is comprehensive and easy to maintain so you use it daily!
By implementing the nine strategies above, work-life balance with ADHD is possible. Work on each suggestion so you can focus your time and attention effectively, and achieve a harmonious balance between work and personal life. Working from home is a wonderful benefit for most of us. And most adults with ADHD who have the flexibility to work from home, want it to work and to be successful. It’s important to maintain and maximize productivity in your home-based work setup.