For maximum productivity, you need to create a physical environment that promotes your ability to focus and concentrate.
Here are the 6 things that every ADHD adult needs in their workspace in order to work as effectively as possible.
1. A Clear Desk
Clear your desk of everything except the bare essentials. Get rid of the piles of paper, empty coffee mugs, etc. As someone with ADHD, you are a visual person.
That means you will find clutter more distracting than your non-ADHD peers. Are you thinking “but my clutter doesn’t bother me?”
You might not think it distracts you, but on a subconscious level, it does. It’s very hard to focus and work productively when you are surrounded by visual reminders of your other unfinished projects.
2. Are You Sitting Comfortably?
Is your work space physically comfortable? A lot of people will ‘make do’ with an uncomfortable working environment for months; even years.
These ‘little’ niggles can seriously affect how you are able to focus and concentrate, which in turn, affects your productivity. Take stock now of your desk area and decided what your niggles are.
Here are some suggestions:
Turn the heat up or down so you are comfortable.
Is the lighting too dim, or too bright?
Chair and desk
Are they the right height for you?
Are you twisting at a strange angle to reach your computer?
Maybe cigarette smoke or musty garbage need emptying?
ADHDers are much more sensitive to all these things, so don’t feel as if you are making a fuss.
Do you work best in a quiet environment? Or do you do your best work in a busy noise area? There is no right or wrong answer. Different people have different preferences.
We know which we prefer and find it very hard to imagine how other people can concentrate when their preferences are so different to ours.
Now, what can you do to make sure you can do your best work? Get ear phones and listen to music? Go to a conference room to get some quiet time?
Or head to a coffee shop if you work from home and like to be around people?
Distractions are poisonous to your productivity!
- Turn your phone off
- Shut the door
- Turn your email off
- Block all the sites on the web that cause you to get distracted
One client did these things and his productivity went through the roof! He conservatively estimates he is saving 3 hours a day. Now, he has a new problem! He feels guilty for having all this extra time when he feels he should be working. However, it’s a good problem to have!
5. Use a Timer
Now you have created a conductive work environment, use a kitchen timer to keep yourself on task.
Set your timer for 30 minutes and focus on one task.
When the timer goes off, get up; stretch your legs and then work for another 30 minutes.
Breaking your work into 30 minute chunks is helpful because it trains your brain to focus on one thing for enough time, so that progress on your projects can be made.
If you’re wondering what kind of timer might be best, one of my clients raves about this one! No batteries required …
6. Use a Note Book
When you first start using your timer, you will find that thoughts of other tasks pop into your mind.
In the past, you might have taken action on those thoughts straight away, in case you would forget about them.
However, that isn’t productive. When you have those thoughts, write them in your notebook.
Then, you can take action later. The more you use your timer, the less you think of other things while you are working on a task.
Here are a couple of notebooks I personally really love to use (they come in many more colors!)
Moleskine Classic Notebook, Hard Cover, Large (5″ x 8.25″) Ruled/Lined, Hydrangea Blue, 240 Pages
LEUCHTTURM1917 Rising Colors Special Edition – Medium A5 Dotted Hardcover Notebook
What do you have in your work space that helps with productivity?
*There may be affiliate links in this blog post and I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase as a result on clicking one of the links. However I never recommend anything that I haven’t personally used and don’t absolutely love. You won’t be charged any more by using one of these links*
These are definitely great suggestions! Having ADHD, I think these can definitely help me out.
What great ideas here! Here’s some more. I need regular fresh air breaks. And one time in the past I went through a bad procrastinating period and I discovered that I worked better if I forced myself to do something nice (like a little walk) before I allowed myself to start work. Sound crazy? It really worked. Something about getting into the headspace if being nice to myself, then it carried through into the work. Thanks for all the tips. I’m about to move to a new office and am worried about the chair. Your article gives me confidence to address it with the person in charge. 🙂
I write lists but then lose the list and often the notepad I’m working from – I also forget I’ve written a list sometimes. I’m a manager and so put my staffs needs above my own in terms of desk position and it’s having a detrimental effect on me but I don’t want my team to be unsettled or uncomfortable as they are in the office more than me……it’s an on-going challenge
Hi Natalie, thank you for sharing this, I can relate!! No one solution fits all ADD’ers either but I tried using OneNote by Microsoft. With my Office 365 account, I can open, create and search notes on any device. That said, I come from a generation of writing things down on paper and find it theraputic. Sooo, I started flagging stuff in the application and can print a report on paper. Crossing off my items on paper is very rewarding! Checking boxes in the application is also fun. Evernote and Beyond are also popular choices. It’s been 5 years using this and I still gravitate to post-it notes and spiral notebooks, of which I have dozens with potentially sensitive information that require special disposal. Needless to say, my closet is getting full:-)
I have the same problem, i did get a not book which had pockets tgat was handy to add scraps of paper too. Now im using onenote on my phone it syncs to my laptop an dworks pretty well
Any suggestions to improve lighting in a bullpen styled cubicle? I have much more energy when I am out seeing clients and I get sunlight. The problem is when I am in the office I feel drained because of the lighting and can’t get myself to pickup the phone to set meetings with potential new clients, which is a destructive cycle because it results in a greater loss of sun exposure.
Hi Anthony, you could try one of those light bulbs that simulates natural daylight. You can get them from places like HomeDepot.
You have the right idea though…spend as little time as poss in your office and more time out and about!
This post is on point! I agree 100%. Something that helps me focus is having an object to talk to, in my case I have a transformers that my son gave me (I call it “my thinking bot”). This helps me as I like to think out loud when I’m studying and this object listens without complaining about my crazy ideas. So I’m able to “bounce” my ideas on this object. Or even better, it is said that you don’t “truly learn” something until you are able to teach it, so my thinking bot is my student! I try to teach him everything I learn which in turns help me remember more. Lol 🙂
I really like the Thinking Bot and will try it tomorrow. I have a plaster of paris cow I was given as a gift and I suspect that this cow is going to get to know me really, really well!
That is brilliant! I have a small dinosaur my nephew gave me. I’m going to make him my new think-a-saurus..
I use an alarm app called “Step Out of Bed!” that will only turn off after you have taken a designated number of steps. It has changed my life. It has a companion app that’s called “self control” or something like that. It will lock you out of distracting apps (Facebook, etc.) on your phone for a designated period of time.
Hi there, your lock out of apps app sounds fantastic. I can’t concentrate like a “normal” person on important things however I get so caught up in quotes and pictures on pintrest, I spend my break time plus another half hour at least basically just browsing. I then grudgingly put my phone down upside down but the moment I have a second I am onto pintrest like a naughty child
I agree, I find mess makes me uncomfortable and distracts me. I am horrible about making a mess though. My solution is usually to put the stuff behind me out of my sight and deal with it later.
As i read this I realize that my entire work environment is wrong from the messy desk to the uncomfortable chair, I am in the basement and its cold and dark and I really can’t get comfortable – I never realized that all these things impacted me so much and make it so difficult to stay focused and to concentrate
Hi Anne, that is great that your realized this about your work environment. Make one change at a time to give your space a makeover.
Now I just need an accountability partner to make sure I’m doing all of these!
My hardest will be the 30 minute timer, I’m like Jeanne, it takes me a “warm up” period before I get STARTED. Jacqui, you suggested she go to 15 minutes, but did you mean 60 minutes? Not sure what to do when it takes so long to “get into” a project. (I imagine, without distractions, my warm up period will be shorter. I can start there).
The Notebook will be interesting… I have SO MANY IDEAS happening quickly. I am used to jumping around. But I have to get real and realize, even though “I’m really good at multi-tasking,” it’s NOT good for me. The notebook will hold it all.
I’ve heard of these apps that don’t let you open Facebook or email, do you recommend any?
And lastly, the clean office. It’s fairly clean but I’m bothered by the Clutter. I think I will send out an SOS to get help from a friend. I can’t seem to tackle my office space on my own… it’s daunting.
Thank you so much, Jacqui. This article, like so many, is a keeper!!!
“I’m really good at multi-tasking,”
As it turns out, research is showing that this isn’t really true, even though we think it is. As much as a 40% loss in productivity, and IQ diminution to that of an 8 year old are a couple of results. Ouch!
I’d go into more detail but I’m mowing the lawn while I’m typing this – uh, oh, didn’t I used to have ten toes? :O Kidding, but multi-tasking is a terrible strategy.
PS – I need all six tips…
Hi Marcie! super happy it was helpful. There is an app called ‘Self Control’ that helps to block out distracting websites.
Check out point number 9 in this article https://untappedbrilliance.com/adhd_and_transitions
for tips on how to get into work mode.
When you are using your timer, its best to start small and build up. So 15minutes that 20, then 30. Then once you have hit your groove, work in 30 minute chucks with mini breaks!
Years ago, a co-worker taught me the value of using sticky notes to organize projects and keeping your desk clutter-free. Those really helped me become more productive. However, since I am sensitive to auditory distractions, having an office with a door made me even more productive. Now that I work from home, I need to implement the timer trick. I often lose track of time when I get immersed in research for articles I need to write!
The timer is a great tool either to keep you on task, or as you mention to stop you from getting too immersed in a task. Write down on a large piece of paper what you main task is and stick to to the wall where you will see it. Then as when the timer goes off, the paper note will help to refocus you.
I’ve found that an ongoing to-do list has been a huge help for me. Depending on how many projects I have going on, I usually update it weekly. It’s just a simple Word document organized in such a way that instead of removing a completed task, I gray it out and strike through it…
Throughout the week, as I complete a task, I mark up a printed copy that I keep it in front of me as a reminder of what I’ve accomplished. New tasks get handwritten on the list, and on Fridays (usually) I open up the file and update all the things I’ve done and added throughout the week.
Tasks that got completed that week get grayed out (not removed), tasks that had already been completed and grayed out get removed at this point – so each week I can look at my list and see what I accomplished the week before as well as current week. It’s kind of a weird system, but it has really helped.
That is a really system you have created Steph! I like that you don’t delete a completed task, because then you have a nice reminder of all the things you have completed.
I love this task list system and I love that you shared the details of how you do it. I Gray out appointments that postpone/cancel on my google calendar, but I never thought of applying it to an ongoing to do list.
I keep a running task list in Google Sheets that I can access from my phone or my desktop to trap stray thoughts and track what I’ve done/need to do. I write a description of the task, in one column, and a target due date in another column if applicable. It’s like the notebook, but I am less likely to lose it. When I complete a task, I put that date in a “TaDa” column, then hide the row. This way, I can look back and see what I accomplished if I like.
These are all incredibly effective suggestions, Jacqui. Since you taught them to me – and I actually use them! – I’m blown way by how my productivity has soared. I used to think I worked 7 hours a day, but when I started tracking, most of that time was unproductive. Using your suggestions, I’m sometimes able to have up to 6 hours of really focussed and productive time, and also contain my distractions (e-mail, online meandering, etc.) to limited time. For example, when I really do have to search for something online, if I set the timer, I don’t meander off into other worlds for hours at a time because I see something interesting and forget what I was searching for!
Bonnie!! I am so happy to hear about your soaring productivity!!!! AWESOME!!!
I am replacing my straight uncomfortable chair with a real office chair. It is arriving next week. This will allow me to swivel and file papers without having to get up and move the chair back. I will also try implementing the 30 min timer–a big challenge as I’m usually just getting into the task in 30 min!!!!!
Think I will post these 6 ideas on post it notes on my wall until they are achieved!
Swivel chairs are so fun Jeanne! Enjoy yours! If 30 minutes seems too long, try 15 minutes first then work up to 30.