4 strategies I use to manage my ADHD at work, from 'monotasking' to creating rituals

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4 strategies I use to manage my ADHD at work, from 'monotasking' to creating rituals
Anna Seirian tried out different productivity hacks to help her focus on her business.Anna Seirian
  • Anna Seirian tried to start her own business but felt distracted and struggled to get work done.
  • After she was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020, she implemented new ways of working to stay focused.
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This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Anna Seirian, a 35-year-old startup founder and TikTok influencer. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I felt chaotic and scattered my whole life. I struggled to follow through with work and big projects. I saw it as a failure, and I was exhausted from feeling like I was in a frenzy all the time.

I'd had a string of jobs in corporate settings over 10 years but decided to quit my job at a startup to launch my own business in March 2020 — I wanted to do something more creative.

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For a few months, I freelanced. It was hard to force myself to sit down and work. I didn't want to let my work struggles get in the way of what I wanted in life.

When I was diagnosed with ADHD three years ago, I realized it wasn't my fault. I understood that my brain worked better when I had accountability and clarity. I needed to rethink how I worked.

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On TikTok, I discovered new ways of working

I started posting about my struggles on TikTok. In February 2021, I discovered the practice of "body doubling," the idea that you're more likely to stay on track with whatever you're doing if there's another person with you.

In the office, I had a lot of people around me — though that was distracting in other ways. But working from home, I didn't have that accountability.

There's a happy medium. I like to have a quiet, focused space while having others around me.

When I had 5,000 followers on TikTok, I decided to put what I learned into practice. I had the idea of creating a video session where a few of us could work together. I asked my followers and got quite a few positive responses.

I set up a Patreon account where followers could sign up for $5 a month in March 2021. I set up three one-hour sessions a week as a side hustle, alongside freelance and part-time jobs, and anybody who was in my Patreon community could join.

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Within a month, I had about 50 people in my Patreon group. People were hungry and curious for solutions to distraction. I realized it could be a business and started working on it full time in November 2021.

Throughout that year, I worked on a business plan. I met Marisa Jo Mayes on TikTok, and she joined me in January 2022 as a cofounder of our business, Spacetime Monotasking.

Together, we design digital-productivity tools. We hold live deep-work sessions and provide body doubling on demand. Now subscribers pay $85 a month for access to all sessions.

Joining a video call while I'm working helps me stay on track

During body-doubling sessions, keeping my camera turned on means someone might see me — that adds a little more pressure to stay on track.

I usually have my Zoom screen open behind the other windows on my computer and go about my day. I recently used the session to get through my inbox. Someone else in the session was recording a workout video, and someone else was waking up and getting ready.

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Working on one task at a time improves my focus

I often overestimate how much I can achieve in one day. I learned about "time blindness" after my diagnosis when I realized others experienced it, too. It was incredibly liberating to realize.

"Monotasking" — working on a single project task or idea for a clearly defined amount of time — has been a game changer.

It helps me to be clear on how much time I want to be working on a task. I use my timer and define the task.

I use Sunsama, a planning website, to help me time-block my day. I write all my thoughts and tasks on there. Then I go through my calendar and block out time for each one — whether it's 15 minutes or five. I have a widget on my phone that automatically queues up the next task in my Sunsama list.

If I try to distract myself on my phone, I see on my screen all the tasks I still have to do.

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I create a ritual to make daunting tasks more engaging

I struggle to get started and then stay engaged with tasks.

Once I define the time a task takes using time blocking, I create a nice environment for that task to make it as fun as possible. I get myself a fizzy drink, light a candle, and play a podcast. I put my phone on "do not disturb." Then, I'm in my "flow state."

Creating a ritual with these steps creates a structure. It helps my brain and body to get on the same page. I use it every day.

I don't plan for the week ahead

I take things one day at a time. I don't know what my energy level for the day will be. Learning about how to manage being overstimulated has been important. Some days, I need more quiet and calm.

I keep lists to capture ideas that I know I can come back to. I used to write on tiny sticky notes. That was extremely chaotic because they're so small.

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I have a piece of paper where I write down extra tasks and ideas that I think about throughout the day.

The tasks I don't do stay there. I go through them once a week and do them or reassign them. Longer projects are still a work in progress for me.

My work patterns aren't perfect — but they're working for me

It's a constant work in progress. I'll never be perfect at any of this.

But using tools, as well as the accountability sessions, has really helped me. It's the best I've ever worked in my life. I'm going to keep trying to improve them.

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