The Tug of War with Work, Life and ADHD

The tug on us is very real.

In many ways, the two can’t exist without the other. A perspective once shared with me is “We work to live, we don’t live to work.” One disclaimer — I work in a business centered around my passion of ADHD Coaching, so there are times when I might argue with that motto. Yet, recently a blinding flash of the obvious struck me front and center.  My husband calls it a BFO. I had worked into the evening for the last three days. And, then I realized this week was just like the week before … and likely the one before that. Yikes! I wasn’t too happy with the lack of balance and not being present with other aspects of life, which also included self-care. Something had to change.

If this story resonates, you might find one of my approaches helpful.

1. Be aware.

Making positive changes for ourselves begins with clarity. It was time for a reality check, “Am I one of those people addicted to my work?” Truth be told, it happens more than we think, especially when you are an entrepreneur and your business counts on you. Or, when the pressure is on from an employer. Or with the executive function skill challenges brought on by ADHD and our attention.

2. Draw a new line.  

I reflected back on the number of hours I was putting in for the past month. I am embarrassed to admit, It was easily 60 hours or more a week. Rarely less. It didn’t take much for me to shake my head in disappointment and vow for a change more aligned with my values: more time for fun, adventure, self-care, and meaningful time with family and friends. I decided to set and enforce a new limit of 50 hours a week or less. It took some work, but tracking that number for the next four weeks and not crossing the line really helped me avoid overcommitting, without doing less.

3. Plan your day before your day plans you.

This is a tried-and-true mantra of mine that has served me well. I have ADHD. I loved to wing it.  But winging it means compromise when you realize you forgot about something more important because something else caught your attention. And then I don’t love winging it so much. Once I figured this out, there was no looking back. Learning how to plan my day and prioritize what tasks to work on and when was a game-changer. At a minimum, don’t start your day without knowing your top 3. Note your open time at work and schedule your priorities accordingly. But be sure to leave enough time to deal with urgent and important pop-ups, where you truly need to wing it.

4. Compartmentalize your responsibilities. 

We all wear many hats, meaning roles and the areas of life where we take the lead. Integrating personal tasks during work time, and work tasks during personal time might be contributing to the problem. In essence, it is multi-tasking. Multitasking may lead to loss of productivity and taking longer than needed to get things done. The back and forth gets harder to manage. The encroaching on our personal time grows. You will always need to be a little flexible during a traditional workday, but keeping this to a minimum is actually in your best interest.

5. Resist the desire to be all caught up.

It might help to pause and ask yourself, does this really need to infringe on my own time? With ADHD, we might suffer a bit with one-more-thing-itis. We think of something we didn’t get done, or quickly talk ourselves into believing that we can get that one more thing quickly off the list. The truth is that the list will never end and experiencing balance relies more on priority. We may underestimate how long that one thing will really take and it can quickly add minutes and even hours of work onto an already full day. Another challenge is the ease to do these “quick tasks” while working from home. If this is a habit of yours, try setting up a visual cue that stops you in your tracks. Mine was “Oh, Heck No!” written in big red print on a blank sheet of paper to cover my laptop. Or put extra steps in the way of accessing the laptop.

6. Take a vacay from people pleasing. 

People pleasing helps us feel good about what we can contribute. With ADHD, we tend to seek out those vibes. Nothing wrong with this if we remember to address our own responsibilities first. Otherwise, it can interfere with our productivity during the day which leads to longer hours and less of our own stuff done. A quick question that can help keep this at bay…”If I say yes to this, what am I willing to say no to?” Being prepared with a caring and graceful out helped a lot.

7. Learn strategies and hacks to help with procrastination behaviors.

Granted there are always tasks and responsibilities in our job description we don’t like to do. And, when the time to do them comes, we may push them off to ‘later’, especially when it is so nice outside. We might say, I will do this after the kids go to bed. The challenge is that ‘later is a lie’. The challenge is that later comes and you are actually tired from a full day, or you have something else just as important to do.

Bottom line … Life is about enjoying the journey. If you always have your head down working, you may be missing out on some amazing aspects of living your life and being with others you can’t get back.

Robin Nordmeyer, PCAC CLC

Robin Nordmeyer, PCAC, CLC

ADHD Coach and Life Coach, Executive Skills Coach, Owner/Founder

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