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Ask HN: How to deal with constant interruptions at work (with ADHD)
68 points by coginthemachine 29 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 96 comments
What are some strategies that have worked for you?

I find new input in slack more stimulating than my difficult tasks at hand. Going offline on slack is probably not an option.




I'm autistic, and quickly become very frustrated by distracting sounds and unexpected or unproductive interruptions. Unfortunately, this is a "me" problem, and I've found that I'm the only one interested in solving it.

After years of carefully managing/challenging expectations of me, here's what my work situation looks like today.

- I work 100% remotely. If I go into the office, I will only be interrupted constantly, dragged into meetings, etc.

- My Teams status is set to "offline" at all times, with notifications disabled. No exceptions. I check Teams messages between tasks, before/after lunch, and at the end of the work day.

- Unproductive Teams messages, like impromptu requests for status updates, questions which have well-documented answers, or that I've answered directly on multiple recent occasions, are completely ignored.

- All work requests which are not submitted via official channels are ignored. The remainder are addressed only if they are submitted, or assigned, directly by my manager. I completely ignore all other work requests.

- I've created dozens of mail rules to filter out almost all of the noise in my inbox, including the company newsletter, timesheet reminders, office-specific messages (bagels in the lunch room!?!), etc.

I know I'm a pain in the ass, but at least my sanity is stable after years of overwhelming frustration while trying to effect even the slightest change in others.


This is fascinating, thanks for sharing! Do you find that you and your coworkers typically agree on the definition of an unproductive Teams message?


Not originally, no.

I've tried to explain, but despite being met with agreement regarding my perspective, the behavior would continue time and time again.

I find that simply not responding in such cases is the most effective action. Anything else feels like rewarding the behavior.

Note, however, that I do try and give them the benefit of the doubt. If it seems at all like they've tried to find answers or solve the issue themselves, have searched for and read related documentation, etc., and subsequently decided that my assistance is required, I am beyond happy to help. I really, truly, enjoy being helpful, but sometimes it feels like I'm being taken advantage of.

Most of the questions I get these days include a brief explanation of the effort made before contacting me, which I really appreciate. Needless to say, I absolutely do the same for others, even if they don't have the same expectation of me.


The explanation of effort made bit is something we could all benefit from - I'm glad to hear that your coworkers are writing that down!


If they're sending it, obviously not.


Working with these criteria sounds a bit like the experience of working with some outsourcing firms. This can work, but there’s a big upfront burden on whatever PM interfaces with the person/people who work this way.

I’m curious if you have seen how the companies you work for handle any of the following problems I’ve seen come with this working style:

- PM breaks down tasks with such granularity that it’s like they’re programming the people doing the work. They learn a programming language through a bootcamp and start doing some tickets themselves, and now you have a key product person who is likely to leave for a developer job.

- PM gets burnt out from dealing with behavior that would be considered extremely impolite on a regular basis.

- No PM you have or could hire is capable of breaking down tasks in a way they will get worked on or responded to, at which point you have to find another dev/firm.


> PM breaks down tasks with such granularity that it’s like they’re programming the people doing the work. They learn a programming language through a bootcamp and start doing some tickets themselves, and now you have a key product person who is likely to leave for a developer job.

I haven't run into this scenario, but I have encountered project managers who want to read the code and advise on that level, which I don't think is very productive at all.

Unfortunately, in my experience, managers like this need to see for themselves how much time and energy is wasted trying to be this hands-on, as opposed to deferring to the developers.

> PM gets burnt out from dealing with behavior that would be considered extremely impolite on a regular basis.

I've had this happen with multiple project managers. My understanding is that working with people, including dealing with seemingly impolite behavior, is a part of any management role. This is precisely why I'm not interested in management — I'd be terrible at it.

It should also be noted that I've experienced my own feelings of burnout as a result of dealing with the behavior of managers as well, and whether I find such behaviors to be impolite or not, the only control I have is with how I respond to them. I choose to do so in ways that allow me to avoid stress and frustration, and I'd do the same in their position.

As for the company's response to manager burnout in this situation, it's difficult to say because it mostly seems to happen behind closed doors. I've had managers quit projects, and I've been reassigned to other projects which were under different management. I'm fine with either case, as long as we're all able to work reasonably comfortably and have our individuality respected.

> No PM you have or could hire is capable of breaking down tasks in a way they will get worked on or responded to, at which point you have to find another dev/firm.

This has been a concern of mine in the past, and so I always try to provide examples of what I think are reasonable methods of communicating within the group. I design processes, describe roles and responsibilities, and set expectations as best I can, all while taking the preferences and individuality of others into account. I would never require my specific suggestions to be implemented as-described before participating, but I feel that the principles behind them should be understood and that reasonable efforts should be made to accommodate them. And I think all members of the team deserve the same considerations.


Thanks for the response! One thing that may help - dealing with impoliteness is an expectation of a __people__ management role, but not an expectation I would have of project or product managers. If you’re consistently seeing PM burnout, it will only hurt your position to defend it by appealing to the manager name in their job title.


Excellent point, and I agree entirely.

My experience is generally in environments where project managers are expected to also manage the people working on the project, at least to some extent, and so I didn't think to make this important distinction.


You will only be effective in a high performant environment. The way you conduct yourself is considered toxic by most people.

I would press you to either make some consolations on your lack of response and ignoring of messages.

Unless you’re in HFT or an environment that is not dependent on relationships but systems, like government.


To be quite honest, demanding an ADHD individual deal with focus-thieves on their own and claiming that it is "toxic" to set boundaries that enable them to do their best work is kinda like expecting a recovering alcoholic to work at a liquor store and saying that it's "toxic" for them to refuse to do so.


Except it is toxic; you can't redefine the behavior because of someone's affliction no matter how unfortunate that may be. If you have Tourette's with coprolalia, you can't go around the office yelling "cunt" at the top of your lungs and expect everyone is okay with it, or that you deserve an accommodation.


Except it’s absolutely not if managed appropriately.

If they’re behaving that way unannounced then yeah, it’s not good but if the manager is aware then all that’s needed is “hey team, Andy is on the spectrum and prefers to work this way. Please try to accommodate, any issues let me know”

Those requirements aren’t challenging to meet for a coworker.


It's not toxic to say "all these distractions and interruptions stop me from doing what you pay me to do, here is what I need to do in order to perform my best work". It's toxic to tell that person that they're being toxic, which ADHD people tend to heavily internalize.


It's toxic to say your coworker asking for help is a distraction when all people are supposed to be there to collaborate and get things done together.

Imagine someone comes to your desk and says they need help with something and you say "Please go away, you're distracting me" or you simply ignore their presence. How would they feel?

I'm not saying OP is doing it at that level but I think you can see my point.


Follow the rules and chain of priority. Your manager knows what is important to them let them decide. Other pms need to go through proper channels.


Incorrect. Demanding that autistic people change their entire personality to match your expected social norms is toxic and abusive behavior.

I would press you to reflect on why you think you have the right to tell a stranger how to behave. Why your opinion of "correct" behavior is the only possible valid option.

People like you have this assumption that autistic people somehow owe you. That you expect them to go through a great deal of stress and effort to act they way you want. If they do, you give them nothing in return. If they instead prioritize their own comfort and wellbeing, you give them abuse and call them toxic.

Edit: for perspective, telling an autistic person they're toxic for doing what they need to cope is the same as calling a person in a wheelchair toxic because everyone else has to walk slower to keep up. This is abuse and does real harm to people.


> I would press you to reflect on why you think you have the right to tell a stranger how to behave

Isn't that what OP is doing to coworkers?


Nope. I only expect that my coworkers and I come to agreements on how we will function as a team (read: establish roles and processes) and then make a reasonable effort to stick to what is agreed upon, while discussing any emerging need for changes along the way.

These agreements should take everyone's individuality into account to find a balance or compromise in terms of personal preference and overall comfort (not to mention meeting the goals of the team from technical and business perspectives) which everyone involved finds acceptable.

My comfort is no more or less important than that of others.


I'm not saying that what you're doing is right or wrong. Apart from minor details, I think you are right.

I'm just pointing out the obvious: we are all telling others how to behave to a certain extent.


There's a subtle difference. OP is saying "I'm disabled and I can't/need help to do X"

The response is "disabled people don't need accommodation, you should just act like you're not disabled no matter the personal cost"

The difference is between asking for help and setting boundaries for what you can tolerate, and telling someone else they're a bad person for being disabled.

One is reasonable, if annoying. The other is a direct attack on an individual.


Are you sure you want to use terms like disabled and attack to have a productive discussion about this?


In all countries of the EU, if you are diagnosed as autistic, you get a disabled passport just as any other disability.

40% disability is very common for diagnosed autistic people, meaning they are categorized with the same amount of impact on their wellbeing as crippled, wheelchaired, or mentally impacted people.

So I think the discussion and comparison that calamari4056 started is very well reasoned and makes sense in the context of "what society expects of you" vs "what you can expect of society".


Yes.

I'm not sure why you're implying that disabled is a dirty word. That's the word that pretty much every disabled person uses to describe a disability. It's the official legal term for the same.

And yeah, it's a personal attack when you tell someone they're a bad person for having a disability that inconveniences you.


I am delighted to work with people who set clear boundaries. I do think remote teams need to prioritize human connection, but part of that is respecting attention. If there were a problem, I'm sure after years GP would have heard about it.


It is very hard to ignore the instinct of replying to the toxic statement with a sarcastic "no u".

Nevertheless I'll try to put this in neutral terms. Hopefully I get my point across without sounding too punchy.

I'm at work to work. It sometimes feels like managers and companies put you in a double-bind. On one hand I am supposed to be a factory-line worker, solving ticket after ticket. Make whatever metric go up so to speak. On the other I'm supposed to be part of a "community", get involved, be proactive, show my brilliance and creativity..

I've found that I have to place heavy emphasis on the code-monkey side of things. Even if the internal communication is the other way around (e.g. by the usage of the word toxic). Because creativity happens for its own sake, shipping product is a second thought at best. We framed the market in rigid and mechanical terms. And Ii the end we have to abide to that sterility in order to succeed.


Both agree and disagree here. Agree because you have outlined a reality here. Disagree because, on aggregate, the expectation of making neurodiversity confirm is toxic and is a major barrier to productivity and workplace cohesion.

Basically;

lazy / inflexible management = productivity losses flexible & inclusive management = empowered people + awesome results


IMHO, this seems very reasonable.


Only if his expertise is highly relevant and beneficial to the company


It’s weird that an employee who opts out of noise specifically for productive work gets this treatment.

Some of the most incredible programmers I’ve had the pleasure of working with were just like this, and I felt like it was my job as their boss to help them keep it that way.

There’s a bias for visibility and not actual work that I think makes it really difficult for those on the spectrum or who have adhd or just difficulty refocusing after getting interrupted have to deal with that doesn’t get a lot of support in the modern workplace. To boot, this culture drives type-a, need to talk face-to-face, achievement focused personalities absolutely crazy.

I can’t tell you have many times I’ve had to say no to some over controlling stakeholder who “needs in person morning status updates” every day. It absolutely killed our code velocity when we tried it and the late night crew thought they were hitler.


> There’s a bias for visibility and not actual work

that's not bias, someone that behaves like OP without proven record is just eccentric.


Do you hold daily standup or scrum?


I’m almost afraid to answer this because it’s pretty controversial.

Ime. Depends. If it’s in service to the work, and the developers find it useful, then sure. But I’ve seen teams work a whole lot of different ways and be successful.

But the important thing is that the team finds it useful.

There are plenty of ways to build a product or a company that doesn’t rely on a daily meeting.

Remember that Scrum doesn't care about the format: that's up to the developers to decide. Scrum only cares that people stay on the same page and most importantly are productive in helping move forward with open communication and collaboration to hit the sprint goals.

I’ve seen this meeting used by clients and executives to micromanage everything, and sometimes telling the “business owner” they aren’t invited to the meetings isn’t possible. For example, telling a non-technical, micromanaging startup CEO who’s just discovered the power of SCRUM while under pressure for a raise and feeling behind on their product delivery to sit down and just listen very easily. Or in some teams doing a daily meeting works only around releases and they don’t feel like it’s useful all the time. There are a lot of forms that works successfully, but everyone has strong opinions on what does and does not work.

You don’t want to be too prescriptive. What my experience has taught me is to have someone in charge of the product delivery — and then allow them to run the show with whatever support they need. That allows for a lot of flexibility while keeping accountability.


That makes sense. Definitely agree that these meetings really are for the team, and if they don't find it useful then it's good to try another ways.


Definition of noise is relative.


But does you ignoring messages for misc. work requests get escalated to your manager?


Yes, often this is the case.

Fortunately, my manager agrees that work requests should be submitted via official channels (i.e. the appropriate project management / issue tracking system).

I have good communication with my manager. I regularly ask for their feedback about my behavior, and if they think I should be handling situations differently. I always take any suggestions very seriously and either do my best to accommodate them or discuss my concerns openly so that I'm not putting myself in a difficult situation.


In my younger, crazier days when I was OK with giving up work/life balance, I dealt with this by not really trying to get things done in the office (by which I mean not bothering trying to reach or maintain flow state). Instead, I'd mostly warm my office chair and do my real work after hours at home.

Now, though, I think "screw that". I want a life. So I just found a way to accept that working in an office environment means that I won't be able to do my best or most efficient work and don't worry about making up for it on my off time.


Sounds like me exactly.

On days I go to office I focus on being present physically so my attendance is noted.

The commute (1 hour each way through dust and traffic) tires me out and I don't get much done that day either work wise or on personal front and go to sleep tired and early.

For remote work days I am able to take breaks in between and come back to desk when feeling productive and energetic. And I mix in some personal work during the day or office work till 8 or 9 PM as I feel like that day.


- Ignore your inbox: Unless you're in a support role, most company emails are not as critical as you might think. All of that noise between blathering newsletters, GitHub notifications, calendar events, various service updates, and alerts from failed CI jobs are mere distractions. You can configure your mail to filter these out or, like I do, not bother checking them for days. If something's actually important, you'll probably find out on Slack.

- Unless someone is coming to you with an urgent ask, either delay getting back to them or just tell them that you need heads-down time right now.

- Pause notifications in Slack. On top of this, add your phone number to your Slack profile and make it clear to everyone that they can still reach you if everything's on fire.

- Mute most of the Slack channels you feel obligated to join. Why companies and even individual employees believe that more channels is better, I have no clue. Complete waste of time.

- Invent reasons to skip your daily standup. Even a 15 minute interruption can disrupt you from being in your zone. Screw these lame ass status update meetings in disguise.

- Just say no to pair programming if you're in a flow, unless the other person needs urgent help.

- If you work in an office, find a hallway or room deep in the bowels of the office building where no one seems to go and do your work there. There was an office I worked at once where there was a concrete hallway way in the bottom corner of the building where almost nobody went but it had a treadmill desk, so I worked down there a lot in peace. Some lady eventually figured out I was doing this and started spreading rumors that I was creepy or that I had quit. Just ignore idiots like this if that happens. That office environment was loud.

- Observe what area of the office floor is the least noisy (and possibly furthest away from your interrupt-happy team members) and ask management if you can switch to a desk over there.

- Recognize when being distracted isn't a bad thing. Everyone's mileage may vary, but personally, being ultra-focused all the time made no impact on my career versus working diligently but not punishing myself if I felt like stepping away from work for a while. Time spent at the keyboard doesn't have a one-to-one relationship with productivity in tech. Above all, you're not a cog.


As tech lead on my team, I ask them to make it to standup and I'll forgive any other absence. It's 15 minutes, we time box it so we just hang up on second 900 if we even make it that long.

My team won't update ticket comments, they wont read emails, they won't read Teams channel questions directed at them. I try to keep these things at a minimum so that I can't be accused of making a point about over-stimulation - I get it.

But if they start to skip standup, the one time each day I can ask them where the hell one of my things I need is, then I have no reliable connection to them at all. And I'm not a boss so all I can do is beg.


> And I'm not a boss so all I can do is beg.

There must be an interesting story that explains why companies everywhere created the powerless tech lead position separate from manager. The tech lead is stuck in an impossible situation, apparently.


Having previously been in a project lead position, I've wondered about this myself. It's downright impossible to get a team to follow a project plan when you have no management authority over them. You can report the facts to their managers, but sometimes the managers don't care and there is no recourse.


I concede that an individual's response should also be within some amount of reason in a given context. If your team isn't responding to anything in a reasonable amount of time, that's a serious problem. To me, ticket status and Teams channel questions are way more important than the vast majority of emails or standups. However, in your situation, there's some benefit (mainly to you) to standups.

You're in a tough position, it sounds. You're a lead, yet likely restricted to leading technology and not so much people. I don't know what your leadership style is, but I've noticed some people are treated like bosses for merely acting the part, so that's something to consider.

Also, what I meant to say was that a person should skip standup if it actually benefits their productivity. They should show up to some standups, perhaps most. Hypothetically, standups could be done well, but I don't usually experience this. I don't think people should never show up to team rituals.


I worked at a place where story comments were answered by the next day, slack messages were answered pretty quickly too. It sucks that standup was the only place you could get anything from anyone. I think it's basic communication skills


Adding my voice, if your stand up sucks, I'm sorry, but you will still need to provide some kind of input to those you work with on what you're doing and what you need. Otherwise, don't be surprised at performance reviews.


In which case, I would extend what I wrote to say that providing a written version of your standup in Slack (or whatever) can be a reasonable alternative, as long as actual standup isn't skipped too frequently.


> Mute most of the Slack channels you feel obligated to join. Why companies and even individual employees believe that more channels is better, I have no clue. Complete waste of time.

I hate being in hundreds of channels but it's the way people found to segment long discussions or projects. I've heard tools like Zulip have better ways to organize this but I haven't tried them extensively (and I doubt I could convince the whole company to switch).

I think this is on Slack, tbh.


Mute non-priority channels. If it isn't a Prod alert, my team's private channel, or a customer-facing channel where they have been directed to in order to request help (Cloud DevOps team that does all the things, people constantly ask us for help with their work), it's muted.

I've been using the "Hummus" notification for some years because the dings are triggering and hummus is yummy. But in the past couple of months, I leave my audio muted.

"Lofi beats to study to" is actually a really great genre of music to put on in the background as it gives my brain stimulation but is not detracting. It can help me start getting focused on my task rather than looking for something interested in the muted channels.

I don't look at email but a few times a day to hit the "delete" button and ponder how to make a rule to filter out the email I delete on a daily/weekly basis.

Direct people who want your help to your team's public Slack channel. Do not help people in your DMs. This gives the whole team a chance to help and not put it all on you. We went further and the primary on-call person is responsible for being the first contact to our customers in our public channel. The idea is to make it so people not on-call don't get distracted. It's worked.

Now, if you can get your customers to stop asking for help (For my team, this has come down to training them on the things we get repeat questions about, and directing them back to their own team to ask for help before coming to us), and get your team to quit asking for help, you'll be golden.

Edit: Tell people to use threads. It helps reduce pings.

Also tell people not to use @here. Send them an article about why not to use it. Also use passive-aggressive emojis like :pingsock: when they continue to do it in channels with 900 people in them.


> Also use passive-aggressive emojis like :pingsock: when they continue to do it in channels with 900 people in them.

Your comment contains good advice but not this. If you want to say something to the person, say it. Being passive-aggressive will make people ignore you, not stop the behavior you want to change. It's not productive.


Of course. I thought people would pick up on the humor about exactly what not to do.


To go offline in slack should be an option. Talk to your manager or someone at the company. You have a disability, there must be accommodations.

What I do is keep any chat and such closed and only accept e-mail. I then have two set times a day where I check it by going through the mailbox. There should be no argument that you can't do this unless you're employed to be always on-call and need to be responsive in 5 minutes.

Make sure to generate a paper trail when asking.


Depends on the role and company. A big company can probably tolerate a couple non-team-player developers who just execute on tasks they're given in isolation, but most of the time software engineering is a team activity and being unresponsive to teammates is going to block them from getting their work done.

I'd rather have one developer take a hit to their productivity to answer a coworkers questions and keep the whole team moving forward than have the team blocked so that one employee can complete their ticket in a single uninterrupted block.


IMO being offline from Slack from time to time should be an option for all employees.


Being offline doesn't help with distractions. People will send messages anyway and that red dot will be there. This is a long standing issue with Slack, you can't silence it completely. Even muting channels doesn't help, you will get a notification or the red dot anyway.

The only way is to go nuclear: uninstall it from your phone and close the desktop app. But that isn't doable in most companies.


Leave channels that you’re not required to be in. For some channels it can be enough to disable notifications. (They will still be bold in the channel list when there are new messages.)

Going offline from Slack for 1-2 hours a day might not be impossible? That’s a start. Try it and then evaluate after a week or two.


Talk to your manager: "find me a way not to be interrupted all the time, or multiply my delivery time by 2, as you wish".

Turning slack off is totally an option.


Maybe phrase it more like you’re actively discussing a problem with them instead of making it sound like an ultimatum, but I agree that talking to your manager about this is a good idea. The managers I’ve had have always been fine human beings that cared about my well being as much as my productivity, and OP’s problems include both of these aspects.


Remove stimuli. If it's noise, use headphones and earplugs. If it's people, face your computer away from them. If it's inbox, increase update or retrieval time. You have the solutions.


> Remove stimuli. If it's noise, use headphones and earplugs. If it's people, face your computer away from them

Excellent advice for many, but those don't work for everybody. Doing those things increases my anxiety quite a lot and reduces my ability to work even more.


Mark on your calendar "heads down" time for 2-hours sprints. People might respect it but you may also have to disconnect.


Quick heads up, I'm assuming you're not taking any meds—no judgment. On a personal note, I'm pretty sure I've got ADHD (still waiting on that official diagnosis). Sitting in front of a computer is a struggle for me, so I've switched things up by working standing upfront. Bonus: I bounce (back and forth) with the music, and it surprisingly does the trick! About five years ago, I penned a book about this quirky workstyle. If you're into music, maybe give it a shot: https://www.amazon.com/Limitless-Work-Dance-EDM-Music/dp/179...


I write my to-do list for the day on the previous day just before I go home.

Then, as soon as I come in, I have an unambiguous list of things to do, one by one, and I commit to not deviating from the list, unless the world is on fire.

That makes it easier for me to ignore Slack, but even if not, I'll see messages come in, and unless they sound like fire, I go back to my list.

Not sure if helps, but I found it quite helpful.


Headphones blasting no music, with earplugs in.

I tried (and was successful) for years with gun mufflers with earplugs, but I got into a company where some salespeople couldn't get the message, so the switch to headphones over earplugs.

It's the next best thing to a strong ADD med :)

Also, considering your seemingly constant barrage, the pomodoro method (easily googled)


You can set DND for a limited time, check the slash commands in this article. https://slack.com/help/articles/214908388-Pause-notification...


> DND for a limited time,

Limited time? Who thought that was a good idea?


You can put yourself on DND for up to a year. At the risk of "640K ought to be enough for everybody", I'd say that's probably long enough.


It is actually super awesome. Makes Slack notifications optional for that period of time.


Audio therapy is very helpful -- quiet brown noise in the background can be very helpful for assisting focus.

This is one of my favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqzGzwTY-6w


I work in an open floor plan with music on in the background. I find it immensely distracting but 80% of my office are basically hourly phone support staff. I'd find that job so monotonous that I empathize with them wanting music.

My solution was a pair of noise cancelling headphones and either really ambient music or brown noise like you mentioned. I've found it to be very effective with helping maintaining deep focus.


As I approach 40 the tinitus is starting; not to bad though, knock on wood.

I fear that the solution to a noisy office being "add more noise" will cause hearing damage.


The proper approach IMHO is to reduce incoming noise then add some of your own to mask it. I'm not a big fan of audio canceling headphones (I'm one of those that finds the perceived 'pressure' distracting and disconcerting), but in-ear buds or headphones already block a lot. Foam tip earbuds are even mor effective. Add some quiet brown noise to mask what's left, and you should be good.


I replaced the Slack client with wee-slack [https://github.com/wee-slack/wee-slack]. It brings a much more "zen" experience to using Slack and better compliments my keyboard-centric desktop/workflow (e.g. clear all unread channel notifications? keybind! Jump between all the high priority/@mentioned notifications? keybind!) It also helps if you're expected to be available via Slack, since it can keep you showing "green" while you've actually been ignoring it.


This is amazing, thanks for sharing. Does it show up as an integration in Slack or is it mostly transparent? Some companies don't allow a bunch of apps in Slack.


I think there isn’t a miracle solution for increasing the focus. Is like a muscle you want to make it stronger. It needs lots of discipline and practice.

This is a list of things I’ve done on and off for the last 2 years and feel like it improved my focus.

- get rid of possible distractions (phone-turned off all the notifications) - read books constantly (I made a rule to read at least 1 page a day) - meditation - morning pages (is more like a journaling, but continuous flux of thoughts written on 3 letter pages every morning)

The morning pages I think helped me the most not only for my focus, but also for my mental wellbeing.


Are you in the US? I recommend this article: https://www.additudemag.com/workplace-legal-protection/

If your ADHD is preventing you from working effectively, you have the legal right to reasonable accommodations (going offline on Slack may be one).

Any decent engineering manager would be happy to work with you to find a way for you to work effectively, and the ADA gives them cover to make exceptions to company policy.


> Going offline on slack is probably not an option.

Unless you're in a support role and actively on-call for coverage for a period of time, I think I would revisit this assumption and be sure you collapse the "probably" to something more definitive.

If you're in a more typical development role, turning off Slack for periods of time is probably an option. Talk to your manager, describe the problem you're facing, your proposal to trial going off Slack for 2 hours (or whatever) at a time, and see what they think.


“Talk to your manager, describe the problem you're facing, your proposal to trial going off Slack for 2 hours (or whatever) at a time, and see what they think.”

Depends on the role and the org I guess, but for me I just mute notifications and then close the Slack app whenever I need to focus. (Mute so that the phone app won’t start spamming me after I’ve closed the Desktop app.)


Totally agreed on "just do it" for most people, roles, and orgs.

I was taking the cue from OP's post that they thought that was "probably not an option" so I suggested they clarify as they seemed unwilling to "just do it".


> trial going off Slack for 2 hours

Ironic it is called Slack, and we are more productive when not "Slacking off."


Slack: off => Individual Productivity: up.


1. There are necessary interruptions and there are optional interruptions.

Almost all electronic interruptions are optional. Put them in a dedicated browser identity, a dedicated email identity, a dedicated virtual machine, a dedicated physical machine, etc.

2. Flow is not a magical state. Work is how you get into flow. Work is how you recover from interruptions from a flow state. So just start doing something that needs to be done.

3. Drama is interesting. It is not work.

Good luck.


My usual recommendation is to be deliberate about time you’re setting aside for focusing. Like others said, a combination of blocked time on your calendar, closing Slack and email, a Pomodoro timer, and music (or white noise) through noise canceling headphones.

> Going offline on slack is probably not an option.

Out of curiosity, what makes you say this? What would happen if you were to close slack for an hour?


My setup requires multiple monitors. Having at least 2 monitors then a laptop on the side. Turn all notification sound off and make sure the slack red dot stays on laptop screen, on the edge of your peripherals.

While focusing on work it will be harder to notice the red dot but won't be turned off.

Music helps when it's hard to focus, I prefer some genre of instrumentals.


> Turn all notification sound off

This is key for me. Not just the sound (since I keep the audio muted across the board anyway), but turning all notifications off entirely and keeping them that way. I mean all notifications, not just comms-related ones. Then you can use little dots to see if someone needs you in a comms and periodically check things manually when you're in a spot where that's not disruptive.

Notifications are one of the worst things ever.


absolutely, constant messaging interruptions are terrible. Solution is turn of messaging, hide my phone, and help my colleagues know that if they consider about the outcome / work I do they'll let me focus. It doesn't matter if they think that's unreasonable, it just is what it is, and it's important for me to communicate that. I have, ADHD, Dyslexia and Autism. Have worked in this field for a long time. The problem is not the tech. It's the social expectation and that needs to change to enable people who are neurodiverse. Because normies do things, they need to understand, other people rock it, when they do different, because we are different.


this field means neurodiversity technology / assistive tech. Obviously I distracted myself, before I completed that thought


I'm self-employed now, but back in the office I'd use a mix of different tricks:

- Aggressively filter incoming email. Leave most group conversations.

- Turn off instant messaging, check it every hour or so.

- Aggressively avoid meetings. Leave meetings when you no longer need to be there.

- Work from home more. Work from quiet parts of the office.


Meds helped me a lot.

An alternative which is almost as good is using a novel enviornment to enforce the desired behaviour. i.e Go to a coffee shop. But this stops working after a while.

Also try using apps which block or limit you from distractions. Sure you could easily disable the blocker but that little bit of resistance is often enough.


Headphones. People think you’re busy and avoid interrupting you physically.

Block your calendar to stop virtual interruptions.


Check Slack & email on a schedule, leave a phone number for emergencies, wear headphones (possibly with noise cancellation), take quiet walks, and practice deep breathing. Make sure basics are covered first, like a consistent sleep schedule, etc.


I make sure by boss understands that if I'm expected to monitor and respond to slack all day long anything else I'm asked to do is going to take forever and I won't be able to commit to having any other work done by a particular date.


Some of my inspiration came from the 4 Hour Work Week.

I block out time when I look at email, jira, and messaging.

From my own ideas, I do not schedule meetings first thing in the morning. I reserve that time to think and do strategic planning.


for me, its about getting into the task as instantly as possible... Say im returning from the toilet, i sit on my desk, open code editor, and code the next thing, all in like 2 seconds. Being adhd for me actually means i can get in to the zone TOO quickly. But that usually means the zone of music or other white noise at youtube. The wrong sequence would be like sit down at desk, open youtube to set music/white noise, open editor, check slack, get into the code cause you are already in the youtube zone.


Need to clarify why I think going completely offline is not an option. As tech lead I feel I should be available for my team.


If you have a Mac, the full screen mode with virtual desktops is fantastic.

i3wm achieves something similar on Linux.




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