If you’ve taken the time to understand your ADHD triggers, you might already have an idea of why your environment plays such a key role in managing your symptoms, and determining your happiness and productivity.
A poor environment is full of triggers and distractions. You are being constantly forced to make little decisions to not be pulled away from your current task. Even when you are able to stay focused, you end up exhausted from all these little decisions, while feeling like you didn’t actually accomplish much. This is an example of Decision Fatigue.
Conversely, being in a great environment makes it easier to focus and build good habits. When you are not constantly distracted by your environment, there are fewer cues that pull you out of focus, and therefore fewer wasted decisions.
Your personal environment consists of:
- Your physical area (home, work, etc.)
- Your digital life and the media you consume
- The people around you
So, how can we setup our personal environment to be ADHD-friendly?
Minimalists believe in shedding excess material things, and living a life based on experiences rather than possessions. For someone with ADHD, adopting this philosophy can have real benefits; both practical and to their mental health.
Having less things means less clutter. It’s easier to keep your space clean if you have less possessions. This clears up mental space for more important decisions and tasks. It also removes some of those unnecessary choices from your day.
Minimalism is good for your finances. ADHDers are notoriously poor in financial decision-making and impulse spending. Adopting a mindset of minimalism means you don’t want to spend money on the next big thing. In fact, you take pride in learning to fix things, buying used products, and only needing a small amount of material things to be happy. The few products you do spend money on are of high quality, because you want them to last a lifetime.
Here are a few ways that you could apply minimalism to simplifying your life:
- Donate unused clothes and items, purge the stuff you never use
- Choose to live in a smaller home
- Purchase fewer new products
- Don’t overcommit – Take on less new responsibilities, therefore giving more attention to the important ones
It can be difficult to shed all this extra weight from your life, but it’s worth it. Minimalism helps you create an environment that is less distracting, and more conducive to a happy, healthy life.
Optimize Your Home
Your home should be a place of rest, recharging, and productivity. A messy home, or one full of temptations and distractions, will be a huge barrier to beating ADHD symptoms. On the other hand, a clean, organized house will be a place of momentum, and a motivating factor in keeping you on the right track.
Tips for an ADHD-friendly home:
- Have a wastebasket in every room
- Use containers without lids for grouping similar items
- Have a “junk drawer” for when you don’t know where an item should go
- Keep the floor clear
- Spend 15 minutes a day de-cluttering
Ever let the dishes pile up to the point where you couldn’t even face starting to clean them, so you just ordered delivery food instead of trying to cook a healthy meal? Me too, so let’s avoid that from now on. Keeping your kitchen at least fairly clean means that it’s easy to make food when you need food. Doing dishes in small bursts throughout the day means that it’s never TOO big of a chore.
You should also make sure the kitchen is stocked with healthy meal and snack options. The last thing you want is to be distracted and tempted by junk food every time you walk into your kitchen. Make the decision to eat healthy beforehand, while you’re shopping for food, and remove the temptation and distraction altogether.
The place you sleep should be simple and comfortable, so that your brain comes to associate it with rest and rejuvenation.
- Don’t have a tv in your bedroom
- Don’t keep your phone anywhere near your bed if you can help it
- Make sure that minimal light can get in. Dark curtains help remove extra light
- Keep the room at the right temperature, usually colder than the rest of your house
- Tools such as a weighted blanket can create an environment of comfort and rest
Where You Work
Whether you work in an office, from your car, from home, or anywhere else, you can optimize your work environment just like your home. This should be a place of productivity, so the goal is to remove all unnecessary distractions and stimuli.
Tips for your workspace/office:
- Keep your desk clear of clutter
- Have notepads, paper, pens nearby at all times
- Keep your work space very simple
- Limits distractions and temptations in your work area
Tip: Adding houseplants to your office or desk can help create a soothing environment.
Minimalism is not just about possessions, it’s a way of thinking, and you can apply these principles to your digital life too. In his book Digital Minimalism, author Cal Newport outlines a few key ways that you can have a better relationship with technology.
Digital minimalism centers on 3 main principles:
- Clutter is costly
- Optimization is vital
- Intentionality is satisfying
The author goes on to explain that you should be more intentional about the technologies you allow into your life. When a new app or tool grabs your attention, ask yourself:
- Is this technology necessary? Does it bring real value to my life?
- What are the non-monetary costs of using this technology?
- Is time spent with this tool beneficial or wasteful?
If a technology doesn’t pass the test, then simple ban it from your work environment.
Another useful practice is to schedule downtime events away from technology, as a sort of “technology detox”.
- Purge apps you don’t use or need
- Organize your file storage, purge unnecessary files
- Turn off notifications
- Put phone somewhere else during work time
- Don’t leave email open, check it at set times
Don’t Consume “Junk Food” Media
We live in a more distracting world than ever before. Between streaming video services, social media, 24/7 news, and the internet, we have more entertainment and distractions available at our fingertips than ever before. One of the quickest ways to sap your decision-making energy is to spend all your time surfing mindlessly through these distractions. Every little decision you make to scroll to one more story, swipe one more thing, start one more episode, is draining your decision making energy and putting.
This is analogous to junk food because while food is not inherently bad, it can become an addiction or a bad habit when we overdo one aspect of it. The same goes for modern technology. Use these tools for your benefit, not as a crutch or an avoidance technique.
A “Low-Information” Diet
While I’m not suggesting you disconnect from the outside world entirely, I do think it’s crucial to remain protective of your time and energy, and be more mindful of what you are doing, and why you are doing it, when you are using technology. There’s so much information available at our fingertips, that it’s possible to become paralyzed by all the news, media, and things to be outraged about around the world. This is not a healthy way to live.
Instead, consider that you only have so much brain energy, and you should use it for things that you can actually control. By being protective of the information you consume, you can become someone who takes action instead of someone who just consumes information. Focus on what you can actually control, and choose to not put your attention into consuming extraneous and unnecessary media that will only serve to depress you and make you feel powerless.
Toxic Social Media
Social media has been shown to have negative effects on self-esteem and life satisfaction. At it’s core, it serves a noble purpose: connecting people. But the reality of our world is that it has become more of a tool for social comparison, and in general is more harmful than it is helpful. Simply make the decision to be more mindful with your social media consumption.
The people around you…
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” There’s a reason that this Jim Rohn quote is mentioned in countless books and blogs . It very succinctly describes a phenomenon that many of us have felt before but struggled to put into words: The people around you shape your behavior.
Putting yourself in an environment filled with unambitious, unhealthy people, will make it significantly more likely that you fall into similar bad habits, because that’s the norm in that environment. Conversely, if you spent your time around olympic athletes and high-achieving people, then the norm in that environment would be working hard, pushing yourself, and making smart decisions for your health.
With that in mind, you should try to surround yourself with positive relationships, people who support and inspire you, and people that you look up to. Some ways to start building those positive relationships in your life:
- Cut out Toxic relationships from your life
- Cultivate those relationships with people that inspire you, bring you joy, and that you can learn from
- Reach out to old friends and tell them how important they are to you
- Reach out to new people that you admire and tell them you’d love to connect
- Approach every interaction and relationship with love and gratitude
- Be honest and vulnerable with people
The Bottom Line
- Remove unnecessary distractions from your environment.
- Get rid of material things you don’t need
- Spend less time around toxic, unhealthy people. Cultivate your positive relationships instead
- Use technology responsibly