How to stay motivated as a working adult with ADHD


If you live with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), you know it can be hard to push yourself to do the things you need to do. You can focus on something you love for hours on end, but you just can’t find the same energy for the other areas of your life.

As an adult with ADHD, you can find yourself becoming easily distracted, hyperactive, bored, and impulsive, when faced with tasks you don’t want to do. These symptoms crop up most often in the workplace, and they can seriously hamper your professional success – and you may even feel like you’re being held back.

As someone with ADHD, you may find it hard to recognise time constraints, or make decisions when necessary – but your ability to stay motivated and on track in this working situation can be made much more manageable with the following methods.

Start with 10 minutes

Sometimes known as the ‘Pomodoro Technique’, this is a method to stop time from getting the best of you, and to enable you to get on with tasks without having to pull everything together at the last second. You take a task, set a timer for about 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break when the timer goes off. After four blocks, take an even longer break, and repeat.

However, we can make this even simpler. If you’re someone who hates the idea of scheduling your day, and you can’t pull together the energy to do so, just start with 10 minutes. Why does this work? Because you get the gears going. Start with the task you’re dreading the most, and just spend 10 minutes on it. Once the timer goes off, you might actually find it difficult to pull yourself away from the job at hand.

Bulk tasks together

When you’ve got a lot to do, you might as well get it all done at once, right? In a perfect world, you’d be able to take on three or four tasks at once. However, having to make decisions to do this can feel like they’re causing physical pain when you have ADHD. So cut out the steps and ‘bulk up’ instead. While you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, why not put those dishes in the sink? While you’re waiting for your computer to boot up, why not put those clothes in the washing basket?

Create a fun challenge

ADHD brains respond very well to a puzzle or a challenge. Those of us with ADHD love to get stuck into interesting things that require solving – it’s why so many of us can fall down a ‘Wikipedia rabbit hole’ that started with a single, simple search! And it can be a good idea to apply the same principle to your working needs.

So, try to turn the task you can’t face into a challenge. Set a timer, and see if you can ‘beat the clock’ by getting something done in the shortest time possible. You can also come back to this, again and again, to see if you’ve improved your ‘score’. Similarly, if you’re someone who often struggles to pay attention during meetings, challenge yourself to take down three to five notes about what’s been said.

Talk to yourself differently

The way you talk to yourself has a huge impact on the way you adapt to your environment. Maybe your inner voice has been cultivated by negative comments from parents, other relatives, teachers, and your old boss, and now it’s hard to think any other way, even without their influence.

But your ADHD does not make you a lazy or unintelligent, or undeserving person. So try to speak to yourself in a more soothing and productive manner. For example, stop telling yourself you ‘should do’, and instead use the much more gentle and self-motivating ‘want to’. Note down all of your positive traits whenever you feel like an imposter, and remind yourself of the creative, detail-orientated, and innovative person ADHD makes you.

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