Written by: Kristina E. Proctor, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
ADHD impacts all areas of our lives–so it stands to reason that it's essential to consider our needs when setting up our workspace. It's a space you are in most of your day, and setting yourself up for success by being focused and engaged in your work can be a game changer!
Why do I need an ADHD-oriented workspace? If you want to keep hitting the same goals and white-knuckling it through your workdays, you don't. But if you are ready to level up and give yourself the support to thrive, setting yourself up for success is a massive step in the right direction. Instead, if you're ready to achieve your big, audacious goals, you will want to give yourself a space that honors your ADHD needs, which include sensory needs, gives quiet options when you need to focus, and provides dopamine in various ways.
So, how do you make your workspace optimized for ADHD?
1. Let's talk about furniture and ergonomics
No matter the flavor of ADHD (hyperactivity, inattentive, or combined type), you need your body to move and be comfortable. You have days when you are high or low energy, and your space should still be able to accommodate you. What does that look like? Think about how you work. Do you like standing, sitting, and crossing your legs sometimes? List all the ways you want to work on a piece of paper. Then, ask yourself how you could achieve all or some of those ways in your workspace.
What to try for furniture
Think about what furniture you could use to support your movement and comfortable positions throughout the day, regardless of energy level. That could mean a standing desk with a standing mat or board and a chair that allows you to sit in different positions. When you have furniture that doesn't fit your needs, you end up hunched over or sitting in a way that can hurt your back, legs, and body overall, which can cause long-term damage!
2. ADHD and lighting
Lighting is something we don't always think about. We use whatever is available and don't think twice. Instead, think about the lighting that works best for you that isn't overwhelming. Overhead lighting can be loud to us and harsh to most people (regardless of neurotype), and–to a professional with ADHD–lighting can mean the difference between complete hyperfocus and wanting to run out of the room from our eyes hurting and having a headache from hearing the lights buzzing. What to try for lighting:
Bring in a small lamp and try different wattage bulbs until one works for you, and be in a space where natural light is available. ADHDer's time blindness can be difficult, and not being able to have natural daylight coming through can make that even more difficult.
3. ADHD at work with sounds and noises
Did you know that ADHD impacts your nervous system, causing you to be dysregulated? Dysregulation can cause us to over-respond to people, sounds, or situations around us and prevent us from working–even on projects or tasks that excite us! This can make us have negative connections to jobs or tasks we enjoy, and then the ADHD spiral keeps going.
So, how do you avoid or lessen this?
Knowing what triggers is vital. Sounds can be a trigger and can help us regulate.
What to try for sounds
The first step is trying out tools that help you with sounds and noises.
Test out noise-reducing headphones to see if they work for you. Ask yourself how you feel when wearing them, and check in with your body. Do they feel like they are pushing too much on your head? Are they making things too quiet? Does it give you the quiet you need to work?
Getting familiar with what sounds positively and negatively impact you helps, too! When you are in a situation where you need some dopamine, you can try working somewhere with background noise. Having background noise helps us focus sometimes, and having other people around us keeps us on track.
Fun take: Once we find headphones that work for us, we don't always have to have anything playing. Sometimes, putting on headphones gets us moving in our work because it triggers that we are in 'work mode,' much like putting on shoes can tell us that it's time to work or move our bodies.
4. Organization for an ADHDer
Organization and ADHD can feel like antonyms when we implement organizational strategies based on how the rest of the world tells us how to organize! However, those options only sometimes work for us.
What to try for organization in your workspace
Designated Zones: Give yourself space around your office or your desk!--where you do different tasks. You have one part of your desk for computer work, another for writing, and perhaps a chair away from your desk for reading and learning. This helps with task-switching and permits you to do one task at a time.
Visible Reminders: Having space for a whiteboard, sticky notes, or a physical planner in your workspace to make notes of things as they come up and keep task stop-of-mind.
Declutter Desk: As you collect post-its and notes on your whiteboard, give yourself time to declutter daily to file and address the thoughts captured as you have gone about your day.
This might seem odd, but scents are closely tied to memory! Scent can support us when we struggle to start working.
Stephanie Scheller, who designs and produces educational events for ADHD entrepreneurs, has studied the neuroscience behind scent and its impact on ADHD. "Scent is very closely tied to memory," says Scheller. "... so if you have a scent, whether that is a candle or a spray, or a diffuser, that you only have when you are going to work, you literally train your brain to go into work mode."
While sensory challenges–including smell–can impact an ADHDer, give yourself time to find one that works for you in your workspace and gives you brain training to go to work mode without the smell overwhelming you.
What to try for scent
Decide what delivery mode works best: Are candles allowed in your space? Are you in a workspace where a spray would be better? Figure out what method of scent delivery is best for your work needs.
Research: Learn what scents are known to help with focus or calm. Lavender is known for calm; that might put you to sleep instead of writing your following report. Consider looking into scents that calm and help focus, like sandalwood. Come up with a list to move on to step 3.
Try out scents: Once you know what system to deliver, go to a store with candles or oils for a spray and smell different variations.
Test it: Try the scents out at home before moving them into the workspace, and pick one you could use regularly.
Implement: When you want to trigger your brain to work, activate the scent, light the candle, or fill the diffuser! Give yourself time to adjust to the scent trigger and see how it positively impacts your work.
When we take ownership of supporting our ADHD in our workspace, we can move from surviving to thriving. By giving yourself support by starting with furniture, lighting, sounds, organization, and scent, you will see how easier it can be to succeed.
Kristina E. Proctor, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Kristina Proctor is a force to be reckoned with, an ADHD Coach and Marketing & Communications expert who has dominated almost 15 years in corporate America with a passion for helping adults with ADHD work with, not against, their unique brain chemistry.
Kristina's lived experience of working through ADHD as an adult in a corporate-an environment not designed for brains like hers–sets her apart, giving her unparalleled expertise and insight to create powerful tools and coping strategies for ADHDers to thrive.
When Kristina isn't changing lives and crushing it in her own business as a marketing and communication strategist, you can find her volunteering, serving on community boards, spending time with her son, or tackling DIY house projects. Her ADHD brain makes her believe that anything is possible with enough information and training. She brings that same bold approach to helping her clients achieve their personal, professional, or organizational goals.
Ready to take your life to the next level? Connect with Kristina on TikTok, LinkedIn, or book a 1:1 session with her today at https://calendly.com/kristinaeproctor/45min. With Kristina by your side, you'll be unstoppable.