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My work is my rock – UX design brings balance to my ADHD

It’s often considered as a negative to spend too much time working or thinking about work. I don’t mean that we should all be slacking off, far from it, but I’m one of those people who often finds that I’ve got work on my mind outside of my normal working hours.

I ponder ways to tackle issues that have cropped up, I let the details from user research sessions simmer away and become the source of some new experiment to try. I can’t constrain this thinking to office hours, it just doesn’t work like that.

Why am I OK with thinking about work so often?

When COVID hit I was put on furlough and found myself ‘stuck’ at home with my wife and our young son. On one hand, this was great – I got to spend so much more of Harry’s early months/year with him rather than being away at the office for more of it.

I did however feel myself struggling to not be working.

Fortunately, my UX tutoring role kept going – this helped to keep me sane by providing a near-constant stream of UX tasks to review. I could keep a foot firmly in the design camp and not feel like I was slipping away from it.

It was comforting.

After ADHD was mentioned as something that I may be dealing with, I started to think a bit differently about this comfort.

For me, the world of UX design gives me (and my brain) the perfect kind of puzzles to solve. It truly serves to distract me from other things, and in doing so the work I do can genuinely keep me focused and, sometimes more importantly, calm.

If work isn’t great, life isn’t either

As I moved through a few different jobs in the years since COVID, it’s clear that the state of my work had a direct impact on my life away from work. When things were going well, I was getting into a nice flow state with my work, life away from my desk also seemed to be good.

I was fulfilled.

On the other hand, if projects started to stagnate, or too focused on the phases/aspects that I enjoyed less, then I wasn’t getting the same fulfilment from it – and that often led to me being grumpy (at best) when I wasn’t at my desk.

I couldn’t ‘escape’ to work to embrace the flow state and lose myself to doing what I do.

My work is my rock

The way I spend my working day shapes how I spend my evenings and weekends and I try to keep this in mind and ensure that I tick some of the fulfilment boxes for myself each day – for the sake of everyone.

When the warning signs start to show in a project, or within my own workflow/schedule, I’m more aware of them and I can try to plan accordingly.

On the days that I have a full calendar of meetings, I tell myself that I won’t be doing any ‘real’ work that day – no one can realistically jump into a task when it’s sandwiched between calls about often disparate topics, it’s a recipe for disaster.

I also make sure I’ve got my notepad and plenty of Post-its to hand so that if any ideas pop in, I can capture them and not lose them. I doodle around my notes to give me something to focus on whilst listening on calls – this kind of activity often leads to me staying more engaged in the call, even if it looks like the opposite is happening.

Still more to learn

I keep managing to find situations that I’ve not prepared for in this way – welcoming another child into the family and remembering the impact this can have on your sleep is perhaps a factor here at the moment.

As I start to explore my ADHD more, I hope to surface more techniques and approaches for working with it a bit more, and to seek new ways to make progress in the areas that I want to do so but have often struggled with in the past.