ADHD,  Neurodiversity

Adult ADHD Office Organization

Adult ADHD and Work

Have you ever found yourself sitting at your desk at 2 pm, struggling to focus on the task in front of you?  Maybe you’ve realized that the meeting is halfway over and you don’t know what was said, or you’ve felt stressed because you have a list of to-dos a mile long and don’t know where to begin.  Me too.  I recently discovered that I have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and that it impacts my ability to function successfully at work.  

I was shocked when I learned how ADHD impacts adults in the workplace. ADHD is estimated to affect 4%-10% of adults in the US, and is attributed to $165 million in lost productivity annually in the workplace.  While the symptoms vary from person to person, some commonly cause challenges in the workplace:

  • Executive functioning deficiencies can cause difficulty prioritizing tasks and planning, whether it’s how to execute a project or structure your day.  You may forget tasks and projects that were assigned to you, miss deadlines, or turn in assignments that aren’t complete.
  • Challenges processing auditory information can impact the ability to successfully follow and remember verbal information and instructions.
  • You may find it hard to pay attention in a meeting or working on a task that you don’t find interesting for sustained periods of time.  Maybe you get distracted and forget what you’re doing while you’re doing it.
  • Impulsivity can contribute to instances where you react emotionally without pausing before acting or speaking.  You may experience challenges managing conflict, and the perception that you don’t have “soft skills.”

These symptoms take an emotional toll: anxiety, depression, wondering if there’s something wrong with you, and why everything seems so easy for everyone else.  My friend, there is nothing wrong with you!  You’re smart, capable, and an asset to your employer-our brains work a little differently, so we need to do things differently to set ourselves up for success.  Read on to see how I’ve set up my workspace to be productive, confident and most of all, HAPPY during my 9-5 as an ADHDer.

ADHD Friendly Home Office and Desk Organization

This post contains links to third-party sites. This post is not sponsored and is not an ad-these are products that I actually use and love, and think my fellow ADHDers would like, too.

Dedicated workspace-I work from home, and turned an extra bedroom into my office/personal sanctuary space.  While my laptop is portable, I rarely work outside of my office.  It helps my mind stay in “work mode” when I am in my workspace.  I decorated in light blues and whites to create a calm space with no visual distractions.

L-shaped desk-Are you a “sprawler” like me?  I need to have everything I need within reach to be productive, or I’ll waste time hunting through folders (physical and digital) because I can’t remember where I put something.  I didn’t know that sprawling was a common trait of ADHD! The short side of my L holds my laptop, monitor, keyboard and writing utensils.  The long side is my sprawl space-I can spread out my notebooks, decks, and documents and get stuff done!  At the end of the day, it gets stacked in a (neat-ish) pile.

Comfy seat-If I’m uncomfortable, that’s the only thing I can think about.  I’ve tried standing desks and they just didn’t work for me (see: sprawling).  I have a zero gravity “spinny” wheeled chair that I don’t love; this is my dream chair.

All the little stuff-I keep all of my random little things in my desk drawer or on my desk so I don’t have to leave my office every time I need a lens wipe, hair clip or scrunchie, lip balm or hand lotion.  Extra pens, notebooks, and office supplies are all within arm’s reach.

Healthy snacks-in the afternoon, my “people battery” is draining, I’m feeling tired and struggling to stay focused.  I keep healthy, crunchy snacks in my office to keep myself from raiding the snack cupboard downstairs looking for a sugar hit.  Crunchy foods have been shown to stimulate the brain and reawaken the senses.  My favs are coconut chips, roasted chickpeas (protein and fiber!), and roasted almonds.  To satisfy a sweet craving, I keep fruit-flavored gum on my desk; by the time the flavor is gone, the craving has passed.

Water, water, water-ADHDers commonly forget to drink water, and dehydration affects our ability to focus.  I keep a giant tumbler of water on my desk that I start sipping on after I finish my coffee, and I refill when I eat lunch.  I like my water room-temp (sensory preference), but if you prefer cold, an insulated tumbler or a mini-fridge to store bottled water would be great options.

Organization system that works for you-there are so many options for organization: hard and digital calendars, productivity apps, notepads.  In the 20 years that I’ve been in a corporate setting, I’ve finally found a system that works for me:

  • I utilize my Outlook calendar for work stuff, and use the “work week” view to see what’s upcoming so I don’t forget an important deadline.  I add appointments that occur right before, during or after my workday to keep them top of mind.
  • My “family calendar” is in a physical planner.  I’ve tried digital, and it just doesn’t work for me.  I prefer the type that are at least 8 ½” x 11” and have an entire month across two pages. The bird’s eye view works best for me!  I also use a different colored pen for each family member’s appointments-this makes it easier for me to instantly know what’s going on!
  • I use a dry erase board for my to-dos for the week (or two weeks).  I can easily prioritize and re-prioritize tasks, make notes of what’s expected of me (and when) or if the ball is in someone else’s court (and when I passed it).

Office supplies that let your personality shine-Using colorful notebooks, fun notepads and sticky notes, bright retractable pens (clicky pens are so satisfying), metallic accents, letter boards, and decorations make my workspace a fun place to be.  The letterboard sits behind me so that it’s visible on conference calls-it’s a great ice-breaker and makes people smile.

Dopamine hits-these are items that give your brain the sensory input it needs to remain focused.  For me, this includes candles, a couple cat-shaped fidget toys, a footrest that I can rock with my feet, light hand weights or resistance bands (town halls are a GREAT opportunity to get in a movement break), and focus music.  I don’t use music very often during the workday since I have a lot of meetings, but when I do have a stretch of time and I want to maintain concentration I use a deep focus playlist.

Your Turn-Get Yourself Organized!

Working in a dedicated space that is designed for my unique way of thinking and support needs makes me feel confident and allows me to be more productive. Whether you work in a cubicle in an office, a home office, or your kitchen table, you can put a few of these into action for yourself to make your workspace ADHD-friendly. Let me know what you’re going to try and if you have other tips that work for you in the comments!

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