Working from Home with ADHD: Keeping a Schedule

#3: Set timers for breaks.

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Staying on task at work can be difficult if you have ADHD—no matter where you’re working—but it can be even more challenging if you’re working from home (“WFH”). There’s less structure at home, and you don’t have your colleagues around to keep you focused.

“Scheduling is another form of organizing,” says Gail Saltz, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medicine. “It’s organizing your time, and this is an executive function that can be hard for people with ADHD.”

While keeping a productive work schedule can be challenging if you are WFH with ADHD, there are little hacks that can help you stay on track.

1. Establish start + end times

When you don’t have to commute home from work, it can feel like your work day never officially ends. Setting times to begin and end your work day (and sticking to them) can provide a better structure. Make sure others in your home know about these work times, and, if possible, request that they avoid interrupting you during these times.

Before you start your work day, here are 9 tips for a more organized morning for adults with ADHD.

2. Break down your day into intervals

“I have clients use daily time sheets. They can schedule out their day using hourly, half-hourly, [or] quarter-hourly [intervals],” says Krista Kilbane, LCSW, psychotherapist and owner of Suitable Solutions Therapy. Kilbane works exclusively with adults with ADHD—and also lives with it herself.

“I suggest they use good old-fashioned paper and put it next to them on their desk so they can reference it all day. The paper once again ‘cues’ the brain that this is the list of daily tasks,” says Kilbane. Cross off the tasks on the schedule as you go to make the progress of your work day more visual.

Kilbane also suggests using “real time markers,” meaning write out “Monday, June 1, at 2:00,” instead of just writing “Monday afternoon.” This helps ground you in time.

3. Set a timer for a 15-minute break

“Add breaks at regular intervals of—for example—two hours. Then take 15-minute breaks,” says Dr. Saltz. “Attending is difficult, and having a break helps to avoid the general slide into loss of attention.”

Dr. Saltz recommends using a timer to keep yourself on schedule. This can help prevent you from repeatedly checking the time or wondering if it’s time for your next break. “Plan something quick but enjoyable for breaks: a nice snack or cup of tea, some yoga stretches, [or listening] to some good music.”

4. Silence your phone + other notifications

Your phone can be a major distraction during the work day. Not only are you tempted to check social media when your focus drops, but also all the notifications can disrupt you when you’re in the zone.

Establish times in your schedule when you will check notifications, and avoid checking outside that established time.

5. Work with—not against—your energy levels

You probably know that your focus peaks at certain times and plummets at others. “I have [my clients] create a weekly routine based on their level of energy for the week,” says Kilbane. “I help them tap into this natural rhythm to make sure they are going with their natural energy, not against it.”

For example: “Monday might be a challenge, so schedule easier tasks to transition you into the work week. As the week builds, so does the ability to focus perhaps,” says Kilbane.

If you continue to struggle with creating a productive workspace or reducing distractions at home, reach out to your doctor, an occupational therapist, or other expert, who can help you navigate your WFH schedule. They might also be able to help you tweak your treatment regimen to reduce your symptoms in general, which may help you at work. Learn more about treatment for adult ADHD here.