Photo of Claire Yager Photo of Claire Yager
24 June 2020

The New Normal: Working From Home with Obligations and ADHD

Written by: Claire Yager

Hello all! What a wonder to, as is so common now, be talking to you through a little screen from inside my house. Even though I would’ve had to write this whether I was in the field or not, it still seems strange that so many aspects of my life are now tied to this computer. One of my biggest struggles with that, as you may have guessed by the title, comes in keeping my attention centered. Many people think of ADHD as causing hyperactivity, but for me and many other adults, the difficulty actually comes from an interest-based attention. Not to play into the stereotype, but there is an actual real life squirrel chirping outside my window right now, and I want very badly to look at it, but I am writing this blog post right now and I need to focus on that, something my brain neither understands nor cares about. While a neurotypical person may just find the squirrel annoying and quickly move on, I constantly have to think and exert mental energy to not look at the squirrel, and after it has left, a situation that unfortunately translates to much of the household distractions that now apply in this teleworking situation.

Teleworking provides us the opportunity to continue our internships in unprecedented times, which I am very grateful for, but it also presents unique challenges for those of us with impulse control or executive disfunction issues. How can we make ourselves consistently reroute from household tasks, like making lunch or taking a gardening break to working at the computer again? For neurotypicals, this seems easy. When you’re done doing the dishes or walking the dog, come back inside and sit down to start working again. For me, unchecked, I do the dishes, realize I haven’t fed my sourdough starter, feed it, then as I’m putting away the flour I realize I’m supposed to have done some basic dinner prep, and then 30 minutes later I’ve baked cookies, cleaned the whole kitchen, groomed the dog and I’ve just now realized I’m supposed to be working again. So, what can one do to avoid this whirlpool of task completion? For me, when someone asks me to redirect my attention I tell them to ask me later. When I have to take a break to grab lunch or coffee I set timers on my phone to give me a physical reminder, and when there’s a squirrel outside my window I finish my blog post and THEN I let myself look at it; conditioning myself to finish tasks to get rewards, even when it takes a lot of energy, because I know down the line It will get easier.

At the end of the day, telework is a challenge for everyone, and ADHD or not, I hope my strategies can help someone! Stay safe and sane in these odd times.

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