How to work from home when you’ve got kids, ADHD, autism and a ****load of stuff to do

You’ve got the laundry on. You’ve made some coffee. You’ve sat down at your desk ready for the day and you’re all set.

But then what happens?

An email from your auntie lands in your inbox. You start to reply but then your phone dings with a message from your WhatsApp neighbourhood group. You’ve also missed a text from your friend about having a Facetime meeting on Tuesday.

You deal with all that, begin replying to a work email then your partner walks in to ask you where the big felt tips are because apparently the small ones won’t do, and then the kids come barrelling in, put on your headphones, bash your keyboard and shout “Look, I’m working!”

You’re struggling to be productive. That’s perfectly understandable. You’re coping with overwhelm, uncertainty, anxiety and change. You want to work because it gives you confidence, engages your brain and makes you feel like you’re valuable, that you’re contributing. But it’s hard.

So what can we do about it?

Accept that this is our situation right now

First of all, we have to accept that in times of stress and uncertainly, our concentration will be affected. None of us can expect to work with the same focus when we’re overwhelmed or anxious. We’ll get distracted, side-tracked by the news, or suddenly have to change our plans.

I think if we accept that at the outset, we can be a bit easier on ourselves. We can try to do our best “in this situation” rather than when our environment is perfect or circumstances are ideal.

Have a schedule or routine

For people with ADHD or autism, a schedule or routine can provide the vital structure that we need.

It might not be possible to stick to it at all times – and we need to be kind to ourselves if we aren’t able to keep to it, bearing in mind we might have to switch to a plan B, or start over the next day. But simply having that routine or schedule can help, it can shape our days and remind us of what the most important thing is. Even if that’s only to get through the day.

Incidentally, while some neurodivergent people will be struggling at this time – those with ADHD who can’t focus well, or autistics who don’t like change – some are actually coping better than our neurotypical friends. We’re used to feeling isolated, we’re always living in a world that’s not really tailored to our needs, and we’re good at coming up with new ideas and solving problems. Many people I work with are not only doing fine, but are using their unique “weird wiring” to help others.

What if you’re a parent trying to work from home?

The biggest issue for a parent who is working from home while the kids are around is time.

If you are home schooling the children, you suddenly have several hours a day that you have to commit to another task. This is a huge impact on your normal schedule.

Again, accepting this is the case is the first step in how we cope. We’re not going to be able to get on with projects we were looking forward to, or we might neglect something else for the time being. That’s OK. We can prioritise the most important things and get back to the other tasks later.

Have a structured and tailored environment

Neurodivergent people (and lots of neurotypical people, come to that) normally need their environment to be structured so they can focus. Some require silence, some like music or other background noise, and for others, the environment depends on the task they are doing.

The environment may not be achievable right now, and even if it is, you might not be able to get those long blocks of time that you need. You might find that the noise of having the kids around or the prospect of being interrupted might affect your focus, even if the children aren’t in the same room.

Get up early (if you can)

Many people – both neurodivergent and neurotypical – find that the early hours of the morning are the most productive. If you’re able to get up before everyone else, you might find that you get twice as much done in that first hour as you do for the rest of the day!

Working in the evening is always a possibility too, but it depends on your individual circadian rhythms. You will probably find that you’re best at different tasks at different times – for example, I tend to do planning in the morning, and creative tasks in the evening.

And if you’re still struggling – noise-cancelling headphones could be the answer to your prayers!

Get your set-up right (for you)

Get your kit and environment as well set-up for your needs as you can.

It’s frustrating if your internet isn’t very good or you don’t have the music you like, so try to fix any of those things that are in your control. Make sure your chair and desk are the right height for you to be comfortable and if you don’t have a desk, try to carve out a dedicated space for yourself somewhere else in the house.

If you mark out your zone with washi tape it can protect it – it might sound silly but it will be much easier for your children to respect your space. You can’t sit down to work if your space is covered with crayons and toy dinosaurs!

The importance of sleep and exercise

Sleep and exercise are really important as well. You can’t do anything if you’re tired, so even if you’re struggling to sleep right now, having a good “turn-down” routine will help.

Turning screens off at least an hour before bedtime, turning off overhead lights, maybe doing some stretching, and having your book or podcast ready. These indicate to your body that it’s time to go to sleep, and it can form an important part of your self-care routine when you’re doing so much to keep working and look after your family. Having that time to look after yourself is crucial to avoid burn-out.

Many people with ADHD swear by exercise for keeping them focused. What you can do depends on where you live, but even stretching or doing videos at home will keep you in shape. It can help energise you when you’re having a slump, and will also help you sleep at night.

The importance of routine

Routine is important for all of us but particularly important for neurodivergent people. It can help those with mental health issues as well – for getting out of bed and getting ourselves clean and groomed, to help us feel better about ourselves.

I think the important thing about routine is not to beat ourselves up if we aren’t able to stick to it. We might find we don’t have the energy, or we suddenly have to do something else. I give my clients permission to switch to a Plan B, or even to ditch the routine entirely if things are going wrong. You can always go back to it tomorrow. Trying to stick to the routine when it’s just not working causes unnecessary guilt and stress.

And if you’re really struggling?

If things are very hard, I encourage people to set the bar really really low. So instead of a massive “to do” list, we just do one thing. And that one thing can be to brush our teeth. That might be enough for today.

I also tell people they don’t have to stick to unwritten rules. I’ve seen so many things telling people not to work from home in their pyjamas, but for some people (particularly autistics and those with ADHD), doing the first step is such an obstacle, that they can’t start the day.

So if you can’t get dressed today, or you can’t get out of bed, that’s fine. Grab your laptop and work from your bed for now. Maybe get up later. If you don’t have the energy or focus to make lunch, eat an apple. Drink some milk. Just do what you can.

It’s just for now

This situation isn’t forever, and neither is your mental state. Do what you can to get through it, and you’ll be in a much better state to get back to normal when the world does.

If you want help, book a session with me here. There’s no charge for the first one.

Neurotypical spectrum disorder: a factsheet

Key facts

159 in 160 children have a neurotypical spectrum disorder (NSD). NSD is a condition characterised by being normal and behaving in an ordinary way. Symptoms range from mild to severe.

NSDs begin in childhood. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to grow out of being normal, although some NSD individuals attempt it through the use of hair dye and supporting a minor league football team.

Evidence-based psychosocial interventions are ineffective. Unfortunately, most people with NSD believe there is nothing wrong with them, so they refuse to engage. Difficulties in communication and social behaviour, such as dominating the conversation down the pub even when everyone has very obviously got bored of you going on about house prices, or attempting handshakes when you have unpleasantly sweaty hands, are common.

Introduction

Neurotypical spectrum disorder (NSD) refers to a range of conditions characterised by some degree of normal social behaviour, communication and language, and a lack of interests that could bring beauty and value to the neurotypical’s world.

NSDs begin in childhood and tend to persist into adolescence and adulthood. In most cases the conditions are apparent during the first 5 years of life. Children with NSD interact with other children, even though other children are horrible. They tolerate that thing where people talk far too loudly in an annoying voice. They think the “Wheels on the bus” is a musically sound composition, despite the lack of originality and the obvious issues inherent within the demographic stereotyping.

The level of intellectual functioning in individuals with NSDs is extremely variable. Some are as thick as thistles. Others are brilliant. None of this actually matters, what’s important is being kind, but we thought we’d mention it as everyone else seems to think how clever you are is somehow connected to your value as a person.

Epidemiology

It is estimated that worldwide 159 in 160 children has a NSD.

Based on epidemiological studies conducted over the past 50 years, the prevalence of NSD appears to be decreasing globally. This is fortunate, as there are already too many people in the world who use phrases like “it is what it is” without any concern that they’re wasting everyone else’s time.

Causes

There are many factors that make a child more likely to have an Neurotypical Spectrum Disorder, including environmental and genetic factors.

It was hoped that widespread vaccination could increase the numbers of autistics but there is no evidence for that (apart from your friend’s Aunt Carol on Facebook who read about it on an alternative health website when she was shopping for Tunisian chewbacca root extract to help with her mood swings which she puts down to her menopause but is actually due to the fact that she never achieved her dream of being a celebrity fashion consultant, for which she blames her husband but it is really because she has absolutely no talent, and now she doesn’t have anything else to do with her time except bang on about vaccines and the moon).

Assessment and management

Intervention during early childhood is important to promote the optimal development and well-being of people with an NSD. This doesn’t always work, as we still see many neurotypicals who are unable to develop beyond their late teens or early 20s, attempting to fit into a similar style of jeans, and still believing their band is going to “make it”, even though said band is about as edgy and relevant as last year’s Argos catalogue.

There is no known cure for NSD. Psychosocial interventions are not routinely offered to those with NSD, despite strong evidence that these could result in fewer incidences of man-buns, posting of platitudes on social media, and people in grey suits talking about “pushing the envelope”.

Interventions need to be accompanied by broader actions for making their environments more accessible, inclusive and supportive. This means nodding politely when a person with NSD whines about how it’s “ridiculous” that Marks and Spencers no longer sell the kind of biscuits they like, trying to understand that the fact they drive an Audi is of great importance to them, and tolerating being told you’ve got “no sense of humour” even though the reason you’re not laughing is because their jokes aren’t funny.

Social and economic impacts

NSDs may significantly impact the ability of an individual to be interesting. Repetitive and challenging behaviour may be displayed as them constantly asking you if you’ve seen that film even though it became apparent some time ago that you haven’t seen any of the same films as they have.

You may find them perplexed at the lack of admiration for their music collection, even though the purchase of records, CDs and downloads is not a challenging task even for the most severely neurotypical individual.

They also struggle with appropriate social behaviour, which frequently manifests as replying to everyone in the WhatsApp group, even though a direct message to the individual would be more appropriate and the rest of the group wouldn’t have to sift through hundreds of “thank you” and “you’re welcome” messages to find out what’s happening at 3pm next Friday.

Human rights

People with NSD often stigmatise and discriminate against those without the condition.

They frequently dismiss the sensitivities of those without NSD; for example, not bumping them with their stupidly large handbag in the queue at the Co-op, or respecting the need to be quieter than the remaining Chuckle brother’s phone.

In conclusion

There are currently no efforts by any government, NGOs, or international advocacy organisations to address the challenges that neurotypicals face, despite the burdens they place on those without NSDs. Individuals can play their part by treating persons with NSDs with sympathy, compassion, understanding and acceptance, and help us all move towards a fairer and more inclusive society.

If you’re neurotypical, follow me on Twitter. If you’re one of the lucky ones, still follow me on Twitter.

How I, an autistic with ADHD, am coping (and how you can too)

The thing about neurodiverse people is: sometimes we cope really really well with stuff. And other times we don’t.

I personally cope with the practical stuff quite well. I can deal with being in isolation. I can put stuff off until next week (ADHD procrastinators know where I’m coming from with that). I can adapt what I need to do. And I’m not going to run out of food any time soon.

But the emotional side is taking its toll. I worry about being judged for the decisions I’m taking. I am anxious about what’s going to happen with work. I get sad when I see the “me, me, me” attitude of people who stockpile. And I wonder why my dad is acting like there’s nothing to worry about.

So here’s what I’ve been doing about it.

Gone to work

I’m fortunate in that I love my job. I work from home anyway so I haven’t had to make any decisions about that, and of course I’m used to it.

Being productive is a challenge of course, especially when you have ADHD. But working gives me a distraction from the worry.

Sometimes I even take my own advice on scheduling, prioritising and making sure I get things done. You can see such advice here on my blog.

Taken a break from social media and the news

Not easy when part of your job involves being on social media, but I shut the office door and leave my phone alone for periods during the day.

Someone on Focusmate (see below) told me they use selfcontrolapp.com (Mac only) to stop themselves obsessively reading the news. More blocky apps can be found in this post on Amish Time.

Found a supportive community

Focusmate (which I have talked about a lot lately) has become more than a productivity tool – it’s a supportive community too. Lots of people around the world are using it while they’re in isolation.

Ministry of Test has a self-care thread here (thanks Gem).

And social media can actually be quite supportive, if you’re talking to the right sort of people. I’ve actually found some really helpful stuff on Twitter. Which brings me to the next thing I did:

Curated my mates

In the past two days, I’ve left and deleted a WhatsApp group, and blocked a couple of people on my phone.

Some people are just not helpful right now and I can’t be dealing with people if they’re making me feel worse.

Curating friends goes further than distancing myself from unhelpful people though. I am also trying to value and nurture the people in my life who are supportive. Some of those are real life friends, colleagues and neighbours, others are those who I’ve connected with online. I don’t want to go into too much detail about it here but I feel really grateful to have such amazing people in my life.

There are some brilliant people around and they will help all of us get through this.

Done something for someone else

I’m a member of a Facebook group for the community, so I can help out the local olds and immuno-suppressed. I’ve volunteered to look after the kids of people who have proper jobs (doctors, for example).

I’m not telling you this to big myself up. It’s a reminder (to myself as much as you) that doing things for other people can help us feel better. It’s a useful distraction. It gives us a sense of control where we feel we have so little, and – for me at least – it’s a chance to get out of my own head and gain some perspective.

Tried to be kind to myself

It’s really hard when we’re not sure what to do, we might not trust the official advice and we forget what we should and shouldn’t be doing. But beating ourselves up about it, or taking others’ judgements too seriously, doesn’t do any good.

So I’d like to leave you with something I tell my clients all the time and I try to remind myself:

You are doing the best you can with what you have.

Connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn and let’s help each other out. You can email me if you’d rather.

My experience of Digital City Festival

All the links in this post go to people’s Twitter profiles, unless it says otherwise. If you’re mentioned in this and want me to change anything, DM me on Twitter or email me.

This week, I spent 2 days at the Digital City Festival in Manchester.

I was invited to be part of the Tech Community Village, organised by Amy Newton of Inclusively Tech. This was in a room off the main concourse, and was designed to be a space where people could come, have some quiet time or go to a workshop, and find out about the various tech meet-ups that happen around Manchester.

I haven’t actually asked Amy why she invited me, but I think it’s because I am neurodiverse and have experience with mental illness, so I have a good understanding of what people need.

We were outside the main area, in this room on the left with the frosty glass

Wednesday morning and my workshop

When I turned up on Wednesday morning (late as usual), I was really impressed by what she’d done. There were beanbags, drinks, snacks and a really welcoming vibe. I met some of the sponsors who were there, including MJR Recruitment, Assenty, Spike 95, Agile Automations (who sponsored the super comfy beanbags) and Digital Interruption, plus community people from Infosec Hoppers, FemaleTechFounder and MancSpirit.

There were a couple of people whom I’d met after my Ministry of Test talk last month. One was Lauren from MoneySupermarket and the other was Darryl Kennedy, who is a director at Spike 95. Both of them had been incredibly lovely to me after that talk, so I was glad to see some friendly faces, even though my prosopagnosia means I don’t always recognise them. Thank God for name tags!

I got set up for my workshop while Amy and Lauren went out into the main bit of the expo to tell people to come to it. Jay Harris (who I know from an InfoSec Hoppers workshop I went to last year) went and fetched me a coffee, which I was really grateful for, not because I needed it, but because I was quite nervous about my workshop and having someone look out for me helps calm me down.

People trickled in as I got all my props and bits of wire set up. I ended up with a good crowd in the end (I was worried no-one would come), and I was lucky they were all really engaged and interested.

Me in front of the telly

My workshop was called “What is neurodiversity and why should you care about it?” It’s a half-hour version of the 2-hour and half-day ones I do for companies – like a taster session. I try to get people to understand what it’s like to be neurodiverse (through various activities) and show that people like me have a lot to offer. We’re not just a problem to be managed because some consultant says your company needs to look like it cares about people.

Afterwards, people talked to me for a long time. They always do that, they like telling me about their own experience, or what they liked about the workshop or whatever. I find it really useful because it helps build the picture of what neurodiverse people experience every day, which is more than a Wikipedia list of “symptoms”.

I spoke to Chi-Chi Ekweozor who told me about FemaleTechFounder, and Ronak Halani (who asked really good questions). Rick, who runs Dot Net North was interested in me coming to give a talk. I was also very excited to meet Ben Halfpenny [LinkedIn link], because I’ve connected with him on LinkedIn. He is a neurodiverse recruiter so already knew a lot of what I was talking about (my workshop is an introductory one), but told me he’d come to give support. Which was lovely of him as I’d never met him in real life before.

Lunchtime

Then my mum (who is a web developer) and I went to Wagamama’s for lunch and both had the hirata buns. I ate a bowl of edamame too. My mum is currently volunteering for Code Your Future, which is a charity that trains refugees in software development, and she told me a bit about that. She brought some flyers to the expo which Amy put out for her.

I went over my evaluation forms and discovered that everyone who came rated the workshop “good” or “excellent”. So I was really pleased.

Schmoozing in the afternoon

In the afternoon, I did some schmoozing and ran into the directors from Inevitable, who I’ve been working with (I can recognise Sean O’Mahoney because of his impressive beard). Their CEO, Ben Grubert, told me I’d missed his panel discussion on diversity and inclusion, which I was disappointed about. Obviously because it’s a subject close to my heart, but also because I’d seen Ben on panels before (I did a Q&A with him myself once, in fact), and he’s a very engaging speaker.

My friend Rizwana, who is a lawyer, turned up to join me in a bit of networking. She’s a legal director specialising in employment law, and significantly better at talking to people than me. I think half the expo left with her business card!

Cybersecurity workshop

Then the two of us returned to the Tech Community Village to watch Jay Harris from Digital Interruption give a talk on cyber security and hacking. I thought it might be a bit over my head but I’ve seen Jay speak before so I wanted to give it a shot. It was really accessible and interesting – he gave real world examples of how you can stalk people online, find out all sorts of information from something as simple as a single photo or Reddit post, and how you can trick people into giving you their information.

Jay with all his bits of kit. He set up a fake Wifi network here, to show us how easy it is.

There was a lady in front of me asking loads of really interesting questions and I realised it was Naomi Timperley of rradar, who I have been stalking on Twitter for some time. She was one of those people whom I had heard a lot of good things about but never actually met. But I didn’t get a chance to speak to her then because I had to leave.

Hometime

I am a working parent and I had to go and pick up my kids from school. So I took the tram back to Didsbury, fetched the kids, and went home to make dinosaur cookies. I normally work in the evenings but all the talking had worn me out so I just read and went to bed early.

Day 2 – more flyers!

I rocked up a bit earlier on Day 2, because I didn’t have to check my bag 86 times before I left the house. (It’s so important to me to make the workshops good for the people who come, that I tend to fuss over having all my kit together).

I ran into Dan Sodergren at the door. He’s another person I’ve been stalking on Twitter, and about the only person I could recognise from their profile picture. My face blindness means I tend to recognise people mainly by their hair and… well, you can see why I could spot him. He told me about some of the panels he was chairing that day – again, that I had to miss because of my own workshop.

In the Tech Community Village, I found a stack of flyers promoting both my workshop and Jay’s, so I scooped them up and went around the expo handing them out to anyone I could find. Especially the ones who looked like they have autism, because autistics can recognise each other. We’re like the Masons.

My second workshop

My second workshop of the event was a bit quieter than the first, but there were still plenty of interested and engaged people, including Dan Smart who played the part of Romeo in my Shakespeare bit.

I had a bit of an “oh no” moment when I said I didn’t know if anyone there was dyslexic, and 3 people put up their hands (it wasn’t a question but they obviously wanted me to know!). Dyslexia is something I’m a bit less comfortable talking about, because – unlike ADHD and autism – I don’t have it. I don’t have that first-hand experience. Having been on the receiving end of people telling me what I am like when they don’t really know, I am keen to avoid imposing that sort of attitude on others.

I think I got it right though, because several dyslexics told me my dyslexia characteristics slide was bang on, and they could relate to everything in it. I strive to get first-person accounts of what it’s actually like living with dyslexia – I got a lot of help from LinkedIn, in fact, where people have been honest and open in sharing their experience with me. And, as with the other conditions, I try to highlight the strengths of dyslexia and how valuable those skills are.

After the workshop, I spent a long time talking to some of the attendees, as Amy welcomed more visitors to the village. One of them was very open about his experience of being neurodiverse and black, which is something I was keen to learn a bit more about. Partly to ensure my work is inclusive, but also because I’m fully aware that the neurodiverse experience is different (ie worse) for people of colour, especially black men and boys. And I’m keen to learn more about it so I can explore ways of tackling their specific issues.

Lunch (Japanese)

I got a text from my dad saying he was in town, even though I’d told him to stay at home. He invited me to lunch though, so I headed out to meet him at Yuzu in Chinatown. On my way, I ran into Gem Hill outside the library. She was on her way to the expo to do her keynote talk on mental health. I have a lot of time for Gem, and a lot of respect too. She’s using her experience with mental illness to help others, and she does it in a way which I find quite humbling.

I found Dad at Yuzu and we settled down to eat. I had the salmon don (raw salmon on rice, with miso soup and pickles) and he had the chicken katsu. He had the normal green tea and I had the houja, which is a roasted green tea. It tastes of earth and calmness. I love it.

I went over my evaluation forms over lunch and found that everyone had rated the workshop “good” or “excellent” again. I really appreciate people taking the time to give me feedback. Especially the dyslexics, because I know that filling in forms can be quite difficult for them!

Thursday afternoon

I headed back to the tech village, after giving Dad stern instructions not to go near anyone, ever. He assured me he’d “be careful” then tootled off to a concert hall which was doubtlessly full of old sneezy people.

While I was standing around, pondering what to do next, a stranger suddenly rushed up and hugged and kissed me. I was quite taken aback, but I like any kind of attention, so I didn’t say anything. She told me that Amy had been telling her about me, and as she talked, I caught sight of her name tag. It was Saskia Coplans, who I had heard a great deal about but I don’t think I’d ever met her in real life before. I was really pleased, because everyone speaks so highly of her, and she seemed to like me.

Made myself a nice little chillout zone.

I realised I needed a bit of chill time before heading back out into the fray. So I wrapped myself in a fluffy pink blanket, grabbed a brownie (they were amazing by the way), and squashed myself into a beanbag. I talked to Paul Kilty [LinkedIn link] and Jay about vitamin supplements, the Irish, and a photo of a Chinese person who wasn’t Chinese. The room was fairly busy but still quiet, as people sat around chatting. You know, I always pretend I don’t need stuff like this – a quiet space and a soft blanket – because I have spent so long acting like I’m normal, but I really do.

Refreshed, I picked up a pile of leaflets and prepared to head back out into the expo to encourage people to come to Jay’s workshop. I did a bit of schmoozing on my own behalf as well.

I went over to the boohoo stand (I was wearing one of their dresses the day before) and they said I could have my picture taken. I really struggle with this. I never talk about it, but I used to have body dysmorphic disorder and it was so serious that… well, I’m not going to go into that now. But part of my mental health recovery has been facing up to stuff, so I went to have my photo taken. The photographer (I think he was called Chris) was amazing. I told him not to make me look old or like a prat and… well, he managed it! At least, the not looking old part – he’s not a magician after all. I haven’t been sent the photo yet but I’ll share it when I get it.

Before I left, I tried to get a glimpse of Gem doing her keynote but they were running a bit late and I had to leave, so I missed it. Missing stuff I wanted to see turned out to be kind of a theme of my time at Digital City!

I headed off to pick up the kids again, this time to take them to their swimming lessons. On the tram home, I had a look at LinkedIn and found that Jay had posted a couple of pictures of me doing my workshops, with the following comment: “Rachel Morgan-Trimmer‘s neurodiversity workshop is hands down one of the best workshops I’ve ever attended (on any topic).”

Blimey, I had not expected that! What a review. I might even get it printed on a t-shirt!

I was exhausted by the evening. Talking to people I don’t know is so hard for an autistic like me, and the ADHD means I do a load of stuff then I tend to crash and burn. But wow, I was so pleased to have the Tech Community Village and all those wonderfully supportive people around both days. People to work with, collaborate with, learn from or just chat. It’s the first time I’ve been to an event like this and not felt like an imposter, or that I was alone, or that I had to wear my adult face all day.

There was a new teacher at the swimming lessons. He was trying to get my 4-year-old to swim on his back, and my kid was struggling to stay afloat, even as the teacher gently held his head in the water. But then he started to relax as the teacher leaned towards him and softly said:

“I’ve got you.”

Thanks everyone.

How to work from home when you feel like you can’t

If you have to work from home and it’s not your choice, you might feel like you can’t do it. But you can! Here’s how.

1. Use a virtual co-working service

This is my absolute, number one, very favouritist productivity tool.

I have ADHD and I struggled a lot with productivity until I started using Focusmate nearly 2 years ago. I get so much more done now and it’s a great community too. They have free and cheap versions.

You can read more about my Focusmate experience, and how it made me lose all my hair, here.

2. Get an accountability partner

Focusmate gives you accountability hour by hour, but if you have goals you want to reach, an accountability partner can help you get there.

I have two. One is for exercise and one is for work. They are both amazing! I found the exercise one through Get Motivated Buddies and the work one through a Facebook group for women who use Focusmate.

When you get an accountability partner, you agree between yourselves how often you’ll talk to each other and what you each need from your partner. My exercise one and I talk on WhatsApp every day, and the work one and I talk about every 3 days on Facebook Messenger. I haven’t met either of them in real life.

It can take a while to find the right partner for you, so if your first match doesn’t feel right, or isn’t helping you get stuff done, politely break it off and find a new one. Otherwise it’s pointless.

3. Fuel yourself properly

You’re going to get nothing done if you’re surviving purely on caffeine and creme eggs (believe me, I know).

Do your shop (online if you can’t go out, in real life if you can) just after lunch or dinner. Then you won’t be hungry and will be less likely to buy massive bags of chips, or boxes of fondant fancies. If you can’t cook and/or don’t like eating plants, get yourself the healthiest and tastiest ready meals you can find. Eating decent food will make such a difference – not only to being able to work effectively, but also to your mental state.

Also, drink plenty of water.

4. Move

You tend to move a lot less when you’re working from home than if you’ve got to get up to go to the printer, to avoid your boss, or go and talk to your mate a couple of desks over.

Sitting on your bottom all day is bad for your body, your mind, and your soul. You need to move to get or stay in shape, to keep you awake and alert, and to feel good about yourself.

If you find it hard to get up and about (mentally, not physically, that’s a different thing), use your accountability people to help you. Tell your partners that you need to move a certain amount and hour or a day – the simple fact of telling them will actually help you do it, even if they don’t check on you!

You can also make or buy yourself a standing desk. If you’ve got ADHD you should find it helps you concentrate more, and if you haven’t, you should still find it helps you concentrate more.

5. Sleep

Not at your desk, obvs.

As I tell so many of my clients, getting enough sleep is the first thing you should focus on if you want to be productive.

You can’t do anything if you’re tired. You can’t focus on your work, you can’t get excited about your projects, you might find you can’t even play with your kids. And being unproductive and feeling like you’re not able or willing to do the things you want or need to will have a knock-on effect on your mental health.

It’s tempting to go to bed late when you know you can get up later because you don’t have to wash your hair, get dressed or physically go into work. But sticking to a daily routine, even when no-one is forcing you to, will help you to be at your best.

So there you have 5 tips to help you work productively and effectively from home. Do you have any more? Tell me on Twitter.