ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a mental disorder that affects our ability to focus and pay attention. ADHD can bring a certain level of hyperactivity(it depends on the person) or inattention, or both.
People with ADHD often struggle with focus, organization, and time management. We may also have trouble with sensory processing and emotional regulation. This can lead to challenges in completing tasks, meeting deadlines, and staying on top of responsibilities.
But we can make our lives a little bit easier by creating an ADHD-friendly environment. This could include things like organizing your workspace in a way that makes sense to you, working on a schedule that is more flexible, and making sure to take breaks if you tend to hyper-focus. Creating an environment that works well with our ADHD can help us be more productive and less stressed out.
Let’s make one thing clear: we have ADHD
It may sound silly to put it like that, but many “ADHD-friendly” tips I find in the wild are based on very neurotypical needs, and most of us can’t keep up with that kind of stuff.
Keep a clutter-free space. A tidy environment can help you to focus and feel less overwhelmed. Make sure to put away any items that are not in use.
Use a planner or calendar. Tracking your commitments and appointments can help you to stay on top of responsibilities. Write down deadlines, meetings, and other important information so you don’t forget anything important.
Break down tasks into smaller steps. When a task feels too daunting, break it down into smaller steps that you can complete. This will help you to feel more accomplished and less overwhelmed.
Take breaks often. It’s important to take breaks when your brain feels overloaded. Stand up, stretch, take a walk, or do something else that you enjoy. Taking a break will help you to come back to your task feeling refreshed and ready to focus.
Set a routine. Having a set routine can help you to stay on track and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Wake up at the same time each day, eat regular meals, and plan for downtime each day.
ADHD doesn’t need neurotypical and basic advice.
How many times have we heard all of these “tips”?
While I won’t argue that they are (usually) well-intentioned, they don’t work for everyone with ADHD. We may not be able to keep a perfectly tidy space, we may not be able to use a planner effectively, and we may need way more flexible scheduling than what is typically recommended.
So instead of trying to force ourselves into a neurotypical way of doing things, let’s focus on creating an environment that works well with our ADHD.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Find a workspace that works for you. Some of us need complete silence to focus, while others prefer background noise, brown noise, etc. Try to keep your workspace clean, and every once in a while, see if you can’t move a couple of things elsewhere. It doesn’t need to be magazine-level organized and pretty, it needs to be functional.
My desk has been entirely chaotic for long periods of time, and I would try and keep it so empty, all I had was my mouse and keyboard. There is a middle ground somewhere in there, so find what works best for you and stick with it.
Drawers or baskets. Depending on your setup, one may be easier to implement than the other. I have a little rolling cart with 5 drawers that I can move around as needed. It is now next to my desk, and each drawer is labeled with what kind of stuff is in the drawer so I don’t need to open them all the time.
One of my drawers is a mini-pharmacy! All my meds, band-aids, stuff for allergies, painkillers, vitamins, all in one place, right next to my desk as I’m usually at my desk when my alarm for my meds goes off. Another drawer is not being really useful at the moment, so I’m considering emptying it and putting a lot of pens, pencils, highlighters, and my current notebooks in there.
Try out different ways to work with your brain, and don’t get stuck on one because you’re used to it. I mentioned my notebooks in the previous paragraph, and I found that using two notebooks works well with me. I have the absolutely chaotic notebook for my Thoughts™ that just need to get to paper NOW, and a clearer notebook for lists, small notes and stuff. I keep those notebooks close to me at all times, otherwise I wouldn’t be using them as much. They now reside on my desk, to my right, always ready to be of service.
If you’re working on your computer, I find that using F11 for full screen helps me a lot. Of course, in proper ADHD fashion, it doesn’t entirely stop me from being distracted, since I have a phone nearby, and huh, well, a body that usually hurts, eyes to zone out as necessary, and a fairly constant need to stretch. Still, it blocks off SOME of the distractions.
These are some of my best ADHD-friendly environment tips, but I can certainly give you a few others that work well with me:
Be flexible with your schedule. A rigid 9-5 schedule may not work for everyone with ADHD. I know that I absolutely cannot have a rigid schedule. My ADHD has hyper-focus mode and uninterested BUT trying mode. Sometimes it’s easier to ride the wave of productivity when it comes than forcing yourself. You may also want to consider working on a project-based schedule instead of trying to stick to traditional deadlines.
Take advantage of technology. There are a lot of great tools out there that can help us to better manage our ADHD. I like to use OneNote because it lets me go a little crazy on writing things all over the place, but I understand it better that way. I use my Google calendar only for important things like appointments, so I know that I need to pay attention to whatever is on that calendar.
Make time for self-care. It’s important to make time for activities that help you to relax and de-stress. This could include things like exercise, meditation, or spending time in nature. If those things are too much, try taking 5 minutes on your balcony or just outside your home to soak in some sunlight. Taking care of yourself will help you to be more productive and less stressed out.
And drink more water!
Create a support network. Having a supportive network of family and friends can be helpful in managing your ADHD. These people can offer encouragement, understanding, and assistance when needed… They can even remind you of things you might have forgotten, too!
It’s not something we get to ignore
Creating an ADHD-friendly environment can make a world of difference in our ability to manage our symptoms. By taking the time to find what works best for us, we can set ourselves up for success.
And that’s why we can’t use the traditional(and overused) tips people try to give us. The mold doesn’t fit us, and it never will. What we need is to figure out our own brain, how it works, what works best with it, and how to have ADHD as part of our lives. We can’t just put the ADHD aside and be productive when needed.