Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Breezing into Summer, Part One: Easing the Transition at Work

guest blog by Terry Matlen, MSW, ACSW


 Summertime, and the livin' is easy... or is it? One would think that a slower pace at work, while bosses and coworkers are taking their vacations or enjoying long weekends at the beach, would be just what the doctor ordered for the stressed-out adult with ADHD. Less chaos and office politics to deal with, a quieter environment, a slower pace, right? But for many, transitioning into the slow, quiet summer days at work or taking off on family vacations doesn’t always equate with “easy” and often causes more anxiety, not less. How can that be? There are a number of reasons for this.

As an adult with ADHD, you may need the energy from those around you to help you stay charged, attentive and on track. It can be extremely difficult to stay focused on work-related projects and meet important deadlines without the routine and stimulus of having colleagues around you. Knowing your boss or supervisor is in close proximity and/or checking on your progress can help provide the accountability you need to keep plugging away until the job is done. But when the boss is away, the mice will play. Your ADHD brain needs structure and external expectations to hold you steady.

No two people with ADHD look the same or have the exact same symptoms. The person with the hyperactivity component might struggle more when things are too quiet and calm, whereas the person with the inattentive type of ADHD might find the calmness around her helpful in getting more work done, but there’s still that need for accountability. Not having that stabilizing force around can leave you feeling lost at sea.

Though most people without ADHD jump at the chance to slow down during the summer, either at work or by going on vacation, it’s not always easy for the adult with ADHD. Changing routines is often difficult, in general, and summertime is no different. Recognize that you will need to prepare ahead of time for these transitions so that you can maintain your productivity at work or enjoy a happy, carefree vacation.

Tips for transitioning into summer at work

Here are some suggestions to help you ease into your summer routine at work.

•    If your boss or supervisor is ready to head out on vacation, clarify with him/her what is expected of you while s/he’s gone. If there are upcoming projects with deadlines, mark them in your planner.
•    Make a visual schedule to give you additional structure. Post it where you can see it throughout the day.
•    Use a checklist system to give yourself immediate positive reinforcement for tasks completed.
•    Utilize electronic reminders to help you stay on track. Smartphones have beepers and messages you can program. Computers have software programs to help you stay on task.
•    If you’re comfortable, buddy up with a coworker who can help you stay accountable.
•    Schedule in physical activity such as taking a brisk walk three times a day.
•    Use this time to get out and make new contacts or sales. Plan ahead to attend conferences, do on-site visits, networking events, and/or other activities that are structured and will enable you to interact with other people.
•    Turn off the sound indicator ("ping") on your email and the ringer on your phone to cut back on distractions.
•    Set specific times of the day to read email, such as morning, just after lunch, and at the end of the day so you don’t get lost in the email/Internet abyss.
•    Use a timer for tasks and give yourself a reward when you finish a task, such as taking a walk to the water cooler or having a short chat with a coworker. Just be sure that you don’t become a source of distraction for others in your efforts to keep yourself stimulated!

A sudden change in the surrounding workflow can be unsettling to say the least, but planning ahead and feeling prepared can make all the difference.

NEXT WEEK: Tips for Transitioning into Your Summer Vacation

A longer version of this post appeared in the June 2014 issue of Attention magazine. Join CHADD and receive every issue!
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Terry Matlen, MSW, ACSW, is a psychotherapist, consultant, and writer, specializing in ADHD. She is the author of Survival Tips for Women with ADHD: Beyond Piles, Palms and Post-Its and The Queen of Distraction: How Women with ADHD Can Conquer Chaos, Find Focus, and Get More Done and the founder and president of the popular website, ADDconsults.com. A nationally recognized speaker on ADHD, she is immediate past coordinator of the Eastern Oakland County CHADD chapter in Michigan.

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