One of the biggest challenges that I see in my ADHD clients is that they don’t know how to clearly separate their work time from their personal time. They take their home issues to work, and bring their work issues home. Often times, they don’t see it as a problem. But I’ve been coaching adults with ADHD for quite a while now, and I know better.
When you let your work life and your personal life bleed into one another, you essentially double your stress. Your brain never gets a rest! And the more thoughts and worries that you have swimming around in your head, the less brain power you have to focus on the matter at hand–be it a meeting with a client, managing your email, or even spending quality time with your family.
When I worked in the corporate world, I would find myself zoning out during meetings to worry about about when I could possibly find the time to go grocery shopping. And I bugged my friends during many a happy-hour to vent about all the work I had to do. It only got worse when I started my coaching business. I couldn’t put my work down when I was in the early development stages. I would easily sit at my desk for twelve hours a day, venturing out only to walk my dog. There came a point when my partner told me that I was either going to stop working nights and weekends, or she was going to lock me out of my office.
So I know what it’s like to have no boundaries separating the personal and the professional. But I also know what’s it like to maintain strict boundaries between the two. Believe me, the latter is better. It makes life much easier, and helps keep ADHD challenges from taking over.
If you’re having trouble leaving work at work, and vice versa, then here’s what I suggest:
- Structure your work time. If your working hours are not already highly structured, get them on a schedule. I know this hard for a lot of people, especially those who are self-employed. But your working hours don’t have to be 9 to 5. Just be sure to put strong boundaries around that work time, whenever it is. It’s understandable if you have to work late every now and then but, for the most part, stick to the schedule. Know when your work day starts and stops.
- Next, create transition time routines. It’s much easier to close the door on your work day and open the door to your personal time if you have a set routine that puts an end to your work. The routine becomes a signal to your brain that it’s time to move into the next phase of your day. Specifically, I often suggest that clients take a few minutes before they leave work to review their to-do list and calendar. Acknowledge what you accomplished. Figure out where you want to pick up the next time you’re in the office. This way, your plan is set and there’s no reason to think about it later.
- Make stress management a priority. The best way to make sure that you’re not worrying about home stuff at work and work stuff at home to is manage your stress so that you’re not worrying all the time in the first place! Make sure that there’s room in your life to slow down and relax each and every day. Pick some activities that help you unwind–the gym, a walk, music, meditation, or whatever works–and spend time doing these activities and managing your stress on a daily basis. The less stress you have, the fewer worries you carry around with you.
- Finally, have a system for jotting down thoughts. Use your smart phone or a small notebook to write down the thoughts and worries that come up at inappropriate times. For example, if I’m not working but I remember that I forgot to get back to someone, I email myself. This way, I won’t forget about it the next time I’m in the office, but I don’t have to carry the thought with me in my personal time. I can get it out of my head and move on.
Do YOU have trouble separating your work time from your personal time? What do YOU do to leave work at work? Tell us about it in the comments!