Between Working Hard and Hardly Working

Do you work long hours and feel like you are working harder than others? Is it because you love your work, because you have trouble saying no, because you work inefficiently…or all of the above?

Writing a book was easier for me than writing progress notes after a day of psychotherapy sessions, but both created problems. Writing a book involved long stretches of laser-focused attention on a project of my choosing, which was stimulating at the time. But the intense focus on one task contributed to losing awareness of time, other priorities, and other people. I would practically forget that I had a spouse and a cat until I encountered one of them on the way to the bathroom. Writing progress notes, on the other hand, involves multiple breaks in the action, allowing time for my awareness to shift to “I’m hungry!” or “I’m about to miss the news!” or “I forgot to return a call to the client I was just writing about!” There seems to be no in-between for us…nothing between excessive focus and excessive distraction. 

Working in large offices in my early years, I was most productive when working late. When co-workers and clerical staff were gone, and there were no distractions or interruptions, I worked more efficiently and got more done. But getting home late every night created other problems. Are you finding ways to decrease or eliminate interruptions and distractions while others are still around?

I recall once asking an engineer who had too many bosses how he could stop them from interrupting his workflow, and he solved the problem like an engineer. He asked that everyone with an urgent request (and they were all urgent) write the request on an index card and pen it to his bulletin board beneath the most recent request. His colleagues, previously unaware of how many urgent requests he was getting daily, could see them all at once, and they became more respectful of his priorities.

Managing tasks and priorities requires spending some time in an open state of awareness before jumping into a focused state. Adults with ADHD often don’t think of prioritizing and planning as working. We tend instead to jump right into tasks willy nilly without a plan. You may have an aversion to it, but the most basic plan before starting a project can contribute to seamlessly staying on task.

In their Book, The Couple’s Guide to Thriving with ADHD, Melissa Orlov and Nancie Kohlenberger offer some tips for “balancing work and life.” They suggest that if we don’t achieve that balance, we are likely to have problems in our relationships. And God knows we don’t need to create more problems!

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