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  • Writer's pictureVi Welch

How to work from home when you almost certainly have undiagnosed ADHD

Hi, my name’s Vi, and I hate my brain.

I struggle with quite a few symptoms of ADHD. If you’ve ever seen me using digital timers for everything from planning my day to brewing my coffee. Or rushing to leave the house - the whirlwind of walking between different rooms, picking things up, putting things down, forgetting them, crying, throwing up, realising at the last second that I’m desperate to pee – you’ll know what I mean. But the main issue that affects my work life is my inability to focus or stick with the often tedious job of putting words in front of each other on a page.

It’s a unique form of frustration, feeling completely impotent and unable to control your own thoughts or actions. On particularly bad days, my struggle with copywriting causes me to spiral quite steeply into poor mental health. But despite this, I have managed to maintain a job as a copywriter for almost one (1) whole entire year. So if you face similar struggles to me, here are the things that I have found so far to keep me un-fired.

Now, before we go any further, I’d better make a few things clear.

Things I am NOT an authority on:

· ADHD, Autism, or the larger neurodivergent community.

· Proven and tested techniques to manage symptoms of ADHD.

· The Great Qing Dynasty.

Things I AM an authority on:

· The Simpsons Seasons 1-10.

· How to solve every puzzle in the video game Full Throttle.

· My own stupid brain.

The only person for whom I can speak is myself. As implied in the title of this blog, I have not received any kind of formal diagnosis for ADHD or Autism. And if you – reading this – are hoping to magically fix your own symptoms with articles written by internet randos, please get assessed! Nothing I say here is a substitute for proper medication or therapy. In solidarity, I will dig my completed assessment forms out of that drawer in my kitchen and send them off to my doctor as soon as I’ve finished writing this. Oh dang, I just glanced into the kitchen and saw that pile of laundry that I forgot to put away. I’d better do that. Then I’m going out to see that new Nicholas Cage film, it looks really weird. I wonder if the cinema will still have that chilli chocolate ice cream that I like. What was I talking about? Anyway.

ADHD is something that we are still trying to understand. Especially for people raised as girls, especially for adults who weren’t diagnosed as children, especially for those who also have autism or other neurodivergent tendencies. The worst thing about my particular form of ADHD is the inconsistency. Just when I think I’ve found a technique that works, a simple trick that allows me to stay focused and productive for longer than five minutes, I come back to my laptop one day and suddenly I’m banging my head against a brick wall again. But still, here is a list of the few methods that I have found helpful – however temporarily – as a work-from-home copywriter with a dodgy brain.

1. Go outside you disgusting hermit.

While the implication when you’re “working from home” is that you’ll be… y’know… working from home - the home is full of distractions. Housework, snacks, TV, video games, housemates, family members, pets, musical instruments, masturbatory aids – and the big one – bed. Setting up my work laptop in a library, café, or my local community bookshop removes some if not all of these pesky temptresses. Some people recommend going for a walk to clear your mind then coming back home to work, but in my experience I’m much more likely to come home to a cosy afternoon nap. Not only does working in a public space reduce my risk of laying my head down and crying myself to sleep, it also makes me think twice before picking at that weird spot near my belly button that’s been annoying me all week.

2. Get some decent noise-cancelling headphones.

Another way to shut out distractions is to retreat into my own little world where nobody can hurt or judge me (I promise I’m seeking therapy). With noise cancelling headphones, the sound of a busy Starbucks or the deafening silence of my own brain can be replaced by soothing whale song. I’ve found the ambient noise app A Soft Murmur to be particularly useful, and to my surprise, lo-fi chillhop beats are pretty good to relax/study to. One of my most effective strategies for focus was to blast the daily Lofi Girl playlist into my ears, although it did permanently screw up my Spotify algorithm.

3. Forget about regular office hours.

My last-but-one blog, Copywriter vs AI - Is ChatGPT Better At My Job Than Me?, was written entirely between the hours of 1am and 4am one single night when I couldn’t sleep. Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend relying on the fact that you MIGHT be super productive during the ungodly hours of the morning, but if you’re feeling the buzz of productivity, it can be worth trying to ride that wave. Some of my most productive spells have been when I’ve deliberately set an alarm to get me up at the crack of dawn, then powered on for several hours before my work day even officially starts. If I’ve been unable to work because I’m stressing about particular errands in the day that need doing, I’ve often found success forgetting about my job for a few hours, then going back to work in the evening with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate.

So there you have it, my three top tips for surviving as a barely-functioning copywriter.

If none of these sound particularly helpful, I hope that it is at least reassuring to know there are other people out there facing similar struggles. I would also encourage you to look at the other (much more professional-sounding) resources online with various ideas for coping strategies. While the Pomodoro Technique did absolutely nothing for me, I’m sure it’s an absolute godsend for people who can hear the word “Pomodoro” without developing an insatiable craving for fresh pasta.

Damn it. Guess I’m taking an early lunch again.

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