Office Hours

The return to the office has all of us in a state of flux. These tools can help you adapt to whatever’s next.

It’s been a while! Apologies on the delays lately, life’s been a bit bumpy with starting a new job and getting things situated. I’m going to try to stick to our regular bi-weekly schedule, but please bear with me if there’s a few hiccups along the way. Now, on with the issue!

Despite ADHD’s clear and persistent impact on the lives of those affected, defining your own relationship to it isn’t easy. Once you’ve gotten your diagnosis—which is notably more difficult for women and people of color—you still have to figure out where you lie on the spectrum, assess how it impacts you, and determine the best course of action to manage your symptoms. This can take months or years, and even then, the work is never done.

Much like social relationships, my relationship to my ADHD is constantly morphing in both its effects and demands. At its worst, my particular blend of inattentiveness and hyperactivity can make people think I’m entirely unwilling to do my work or put effort into anything, and it can be gut-wrenching. If I’m feeling particularly foggy, even intense planning with a side of pep talks can’t save me from the thousands of directions my disorder simultaneously pulls my brain in as my tasks fall by the wayside. Once you’ve seen the ways that can let down the people around you, it’s easy to get lost in a perpetual cycle of anxiety and self-doubt that makes accomplishing anything an emotionally draining Sisyphean task.

Crawling out of that pit gets harder the longer you sink in, but it’s not impossible. Talk to anyone with ADHD, and they’ll tell you simple tricks like “just turn your phone off” don’t work because it doesn’t stop your brain from latching onto and obsessing over the nearest thing that’ll pull you away from your obligations—not because you want to, but because your brain can’t stop itself. That’s because living and coping with ADHD means living in a constant state of recalibration, wherein you have to reflect on the ways your life is changing, and how your disorder might throw new obstacles onto your tracks, then devising a game plan to fight back.

It’s easy to feel alone in that battle, but right now we’re all in a state of flux as our employers figure out exactly what the post-pandemic office looks like, and workers start advocating for better conditions that make life —both in and out of work—more manageable. It’s a powerful time to be pushing for improved conditions, but the tumultuous nature of change makes it difficult to know how we’ll manage whatever comes next. Don’t worry, though, your map shouldn’t be set in stone. We’ve got a bumpy road ahead of us as we head back into the office, and a set of adaptable practices can help you make sure you’re ready to take on whatever shape work takes.

Time for a change

I’ve written about it before, but time tracking can be a powerful tool in setting your own boundaries at work. Using a system like Toggl Track (I like the third-party app Timery, which just released a Mac app), you can log each window of time that’s dedicated to a specific task. Over time, this can give you an overview of where your work time is going, and how much time you’re spending at work.

Time tracking isn’t just useful for ensuring you’re not overworked, though. Let’s say your boss asks you to take on a few new responsibilities that are outside of your regular scope. Using Toggl’s projects and tags system, you can create projects for different areas of work, with one like “Outside Scope” or “Additional Responsibilities” and tag specific tasks. This way, if things start to get out of hand, you have receipts you can show your boss outlining just how much of your time is going into something that shouldn’t be on your plate to begin with.

Name the time and place

Once you’re back in the office, whether it’s a few times a week or as needed, it’s helpful to know what can only be done while you’re there so you’re not left hanging once you’re back home. If you’re into digital to-do lists, using a full-featured one like TickTick (available on most platforms, with a free tier and both monthly and annual subscriptions) can make it easy to plan your time around where you’ll be.

Among TickTick’s many strengths is its ability to plug directly into your calendar, so you can see all your appointments alongside your work tasks, making it easier to direct the traffic of your day and not spread yourself too thin. If you make each office day an all-day event in your calendar—you can even do recurring events if you know what day’s you’ll be in every week—that’ll show up in your tasks list, so you can get ready for your day by figuring out what things you need to get done from the office and what can wait.

You can also organize tasks by projects and tags, which makes planning out your time easier. If you know there are certain things you can only do from the office, tag that task with something like “office,” that way once you’re there you can tap that tag and see all the items you can’t accomplish anywhere else.

Let me pencil you in

If you’ve noticed work has taken up more hours of your day since the start of the pandemic, you’re not alone. Maybe your old commute time has become your email power hour, or you’ve had to log back on after a boss messaged you after hours; in any case, that kind of constant availability isn’t healthy or sustainable, and this transition is a good time to establish some new boundaries in how you communicate at work.

Let’s say you work in a different time zone than a lot of your coworkers, or that you’d just prefer not to get morning Slacks while you’re trying to get the kids ready for school on your WFH day, you can use Google Calendar’s Working Hours (just scroll to “Working Hours” in the settings) to make sure that if someone tries to schedule a meeting with you before you’re out of bed, they’ll at least get a warning first that you typically don’t work at whatever time they’re trying to book.

If your workplace uses Slack, you can also set up a notification schedule to make sure that, if you absolutely must have Slack on your personal phone, you’re only getting pinged while you’re being paid. To do so, just hop into Slack’s preferences, select “Notifications,” and go to “Notification Schedule,” where you can select to only get notifications on weekdays during a given duration, or create a custom schedule if needed. If you’re not working and don’t want to be reached, or if you have a chunk of time each day where you go heads down into your work, a notification schedule can help. You can also set up Slack Statuses to show when you’re not available—say, when you’re in a meeting or working on some important documents.

There’s more you can do to manage your work communications, though. I’ve taken to using a scratchpad on my Mac to write out messages or emails I need to send, so I don’t forget who I need to talk to. I don’t send them until I have the bandwidth, though, so I’m not breaking the focus from my work for too long. On my Mac, I use Tot, a free text editor (it’s pricey on mobile, though) that can live in your Menu Bar and only allows for seven windows of text, so it never gets too cluttered. I use Drafts on my phone, since it’s an all-encompassing text editor that lets me jot down all my thoughts before they leave my head forever.

Take a break

With all the pressure and stress that work can throw our way, it’s important to take breaks. Creating a permission structure can help you acknowledge that you need a break, and that it’s okay to take one when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

To get over my anxiety around breaks, I started using the Pomodoro Method, which breaks your work up into 25 minute chunks, with five minute breaks in-between. It worked for me because, unlike just taking a break when I feel like it, they’re built into the system as a reward for getting through some of your work unfettered. It’s a good first step in getting over the anxiety of allowing yourself to take a breather.

📚 Good Reads:

Screenshots are the gremlins of the internet (The Atlantic): Kaitlyn Tiffany reflects on the history of the screenshot, and how it’s morphed into both a form of entertainment and a weapon. We’ve all collected and shared our fair share of cringeworthy or relatable messages and posts, but logging our interactions has consequences that go further than just a chuckle or wince. That’s not to say we shouldn’t do it, but as the article notes, we never know who’s keeping what.

I treated my unhealthy gaming obsession ... With more games (Wired): At the peak of my depression in 2019, I spent an embarrassing amount of time playing Untitled Goose Game. It’s not exactly a well of content, but I couldn’t stop getting enjoyment out of running around wreaking havoc on the townspeople, free of consequence and of any longlasting harm. Still, nothing is good in excess, and David Jesudason paints a picture of what gaming obsessions can look like, and how we can form a healthier relationship with our games by treating them as a brief retreat from our woes, rather than a way to dodge our feelings. 

When does sharing become oversharing? (The Verge): Nylah Burton writes about how we share our experiences, thoughts, and traumas on the Internet, and the possible ramifications of doing so. It’s not all doom and gloom, though: there’s no blueprint for what is or isn’t oversharing, but you can help mitigate some of the risks by adhering to the boundaries you’ve set for yourself. 

🌐 Just Browsing:

💸 You should lock down your Venmo account. Here’s how. 👻 What do you do when you’re haunted by your past self? 🔒  Here’s the rundown on all of iOS 15’s privacy and security features ✉️  Do Apple Mail’s upcoming changes threaten the newsletter? 📺  What Bo Burham’s Inside says about the online condition. 🏡  Apple’s walled garden may be getting more difficult to escape 😭  FOMO’s back, baby! 🏢  What does a more equitable office look like?

💕 And now, here’s something we hope you’ll really like:

Left to my own devices, I’ll spend hours falling down rabbit holes about mild fandom kerfuffles, or, as of late, all the music videos that embody the weirdness of the ‘80s. Take Billy Idol’s Cradle of Love video, in which he only appears as a stop-motion image. Then there’s Tears for Fears’s Head Over Heels, which finds our protagonist following and singing to a librarian, and also features a chimpanzee wearing a Sox jersey. Like it or not, Peter Gabriel brought dancing stop motion turkey carcasses into this world. There’s no better usage of overlays than in Prince’s video forWhen Doves Cry. Confettis truly brought us the first flash mob. It’s hard to overstate how much the members of Genesis seem to love weird imagery

Please share more down in the comments!

✉️ You’ve got mail:

I want to hear from you! How are you planning your return to the office? Let me know!

My thanks to Medea Giordano for editing this issue.