This week’s blog post comes from Luke Smith. You can find out more about Luke by visiting him here.
If you are neuro-divergent or live with a learning disability (LD), achieving optimal productivity can often be difficult. Though many individuals with LDs are at or above average intelligence, having such conditions can interfere with higher cognitive processes, the ability to reason, and generally make it more difficult to accomplish tasks at work.
These obstacles may be frustrating, but they are also surmountable. By communicating your needs to management and making use of techniques to manage the effects of your condition, you can thrive on the job. The following productivity tips should help you reclaim some focus, and aid you in your quest to become a more efficient worker.
Communicating Your Needs on the Job
Fulfilling your responsibilities on the job will be a more attainable goal if your workplace has a culture that is accommodating of persons with disabilities. When it comes to learning disabilities and neuro-divergence, this starts with communicating how they affect your capacity to work:
- Prone to distractions: LDs and neuro-divergence can make concentration difficult, and this may be exacerbated by the fact that certain sights and sounds can cause a significant distraction. Office conversation, for instance, may prove particularly bothersome, as can the constant string of notifications from computers and other office gadgetry. This connects to another unfortunate downside of learning disabilities
- Can be overwhelmed by sensory stimuli: More formally known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), this can manifest as a constant overload from the sensory information around you. As one might imagine, this makes an office setting a near-constant source of potential annoyances.
- May have difficulties communicating: Neuro-divergent individuals may not communicate in the same way that others do, which can lead to strained interactions on the job. When others at your workplace are aware of this, however, they can take proactive steps to make conversations with you more productive.
- Navigating spaces can be challenging: For a range of neuro-divergent conditions, individuals may even have a hard time simply moving around an interior space.
These are just a few examples, of course, and the specific challenges you face may vary. The broader point, however, is that in clearly relaying how your LD or neuro-divergence impacts your productivity, your managers can take the appropriate actions to be more inclusive.
For instance, they may be able to designate parts of the office as low-noise zones to mitigate distractions or rearrange things in the workplace to make it easier for you to get around and focus on your core job responsibilities. The exact remedies may vary, but in collaborating with your managers and co-workers, you’ll be able to implement successful solutions.
Try These Productivity Enhancing Techniques
In addition to gaining accommodations at work that may improve your ability to focus, the following productivity tricks should give you an edge when it comes to doing your job:
- Tailor your workspace: The look and feel of your workstation can have serious impacts on your productivity. Ideally, you’ll be able to fine-tune the setup of your workspace — including the placement of equipment and decorations — to best suit your personal tastes and allow you to concentrate as much as possible.
- Try mind mapping: There’s evidence that mind mapping tools can help individuals who have difficulty focusing (due to ADD, ADHD, and others) better organise their thoughts. This is because the process helps connect a string of thoughts to one central idea, which allows you to get a handle on things when your mind is jumping from place to place.
- Use productivity apps: In addition to mind maps, you might try sorting your tasks into lists and using schedules to plan when you’re going to accomplish certain things. A wide range of digital productivity tools exists for you to choose from; just find which is easiest for you to navigate then use it to organise your workload.
- Limit your notifications: Technology is a double-edged sword, insofar as those constant notifications can distract you just as much as they keep you informed. If notifications are overwhelming you, turn off all but the most important so that you can perform your duties without needless annoyance.
- Learn to prioritise your tasks: If you’re having difficulty getting through your workload, it could be the case that you aren’t tackling them in the right order. If you have the flexibility to choose how you approach your responsibilities, try to clear the largest and most complicated ones first, then tackle your smaller ones later.
- Stop multitasking: If you concentrate on smaller tasks first, you’re also more likely to try to multitask. This is almost always a net drain on your productivity, so avoid it in favour of concentrating on one task at a time. This also keeps you from committing “constructive procrastination” and makes you more likely to get something substantial completed.
- Take a break: When you’re getting overwhelmed, a quick reset can help you fight off flagging performance. Take a walk, stretch your legs, grab a glass of water — whatever you can do to take your mind off of work for 10 or 15 minutes. Once you’re done, you should be able to return to your work refreshed and ready to focus.
Incorporate these techniques into your work routine, and you’ll likely see some big improvements. Couple them with some simple on-the-job accommodations, and your workplace productivity has the potential to reach heights you never thought possible.
While it may be more difficult to work when you’re neuro-divergent or have a learning disability, that doesn’t mean you can’t rise to the challenge. With some help from your managers and colleagues, along with some small changes to how you approach the job, you should be able to find your groove and stay productive notwithstanding the hurdles you face.
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but leadership and digital marketing topics are his favourite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.
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