In my years of chasing greater productivity while working with an ADHD brain, I’ve faced some significant challenges.
Distractions are everywhere. I often struggle to switch my focus lens from one type of task to another. If I don’t start the day with deep work, it’s hard to get focused.
What I’ve Learned About How I Work
Over the years, I’ve learned that my way of working doesn’t always look like the vision typically associated with the cultural norm — i.e., neurortypical — for productivity.
I don’t like to work at a confined desk; I need a big table, with space to spread out.
I also need to move around. Sometimes I’ll pace around a space, pausing to do air squats while speaking on the phone.
Sometimes I don’t want a chair at all. A few years ago I noticed that I did some of my best work while sitting on the stretch mat at the gym. That’s when the ideas came and the words flowed.
One luxury of my home yoga practice is that I don’t have to clear out of a studio for the next incoming class. I can stay on my mat and capture my ideas in the moment, in the physical space where I am.
That is, if I give myself the mental and emotional space to do so.
Trusting that I know what I need and allowing myself to give it to myself has been an evolution through years of practice. And as far as I’ve come in this, I know there is still room for me to grow.
I still struggle at times with giving myself full permission to give myself what I need.
The Challenge of Expectations
Sometimes I bump up against the cultural expectations of what it “looks like” to be “productive,” and the fear that an outside observer might judge me for “lazing around” because I’m not sitting “properly” at a computer.
When I see myself stray from certain expectations of how my working style should look, I sometimes get anxious that “I’m doing it wrong.” I worry that if people observed me they would think I’m not really working. Or not working “hard.”
The more I practice giving myself what I need, the easier it is to catch myself when I fall into these destructive thought patterns.
My higher wisdom can respond more quickly.
Letting Go of the Self-Defeating Thoughts
First, who said it has to be hard? Like many with ADHD, I’ve spent my life feeling like I work much harder than everyone else for the same results or inferior results. I realize that maybe that feeling of working much harder than others comes, at least in part, from forcing myself to approach my work in ways defined by people who are neurotypical.
Part of my objective is to find the process and path that allows me to create and deliver my best work without it feeling so laborious.
Second, it’s important to question: why am I caring so much about what other people think?
Outputs can speak for themselves.
Who Gets to Define “Normal”?
The way I work might not always look like work. It might look like hanging out. It may even feel that way.
All creative work needs some constraints, but
when we get so caught up in the expectation — real or perceived — that we do our work a certain way, we stifle our best work.
One of the bright spots of this year is that we all get a chance to learn how we do our best work. Maybe more people will discover that they, too, prefer to work on the floor or while pacing around the house.
Who gets to define what’s normal, anyway? Human beings weren’t made to sit in chairs behind desks all day. Maybe the typical way is what’s “not normal.”
The Ultimate Productivity Tip
The beautiful thing about work that doesn’t come off an assembly line is that each person is free to find the process that works best for them.
The ultimate productivity tip is to trust the process that works for you, no matter what it looks like.