Working Smart

Gosh, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the number of such great blogs from autistic women! There are people sharing such eloquent insights into what it is like to be autistic and this is fantastic, but sometimes I hardly know where to begin and what I can add.

I guess I’ll just keep sharing what I am learning and experiencing in my little world and see how it goes.

At the moment I am struggling to work with my poor executive function at work. I have been in my current job 18 months now, but I still don’t feel like I’ve really got a handle on the rhythm of the office. This is partly because events in our company over the past year have been more than a lot of my NT colleagues can handle: very public divorce of partners, threats to close the company, office move, doubling the size of the staff, re-branding… It’s all been highly emotionally charged. But I am feeling thoroughly confused with my work process in a way that I haven’t before.

This has lead to me doubting myself. I doubt my abilities, which leads me to doubt all my decisions, which leads me to asking lots of questions, which leads me to wondering whether I am driving my colleagues to distraction and stopping them from doing any work as well!

Thankfully, everyone keeps telling me I am very good at the technical aspects of my jobs, which has been thoroughly career saving. I would have given up long ago if I had just relied on what I thought of my competence. But I think I have a lot to learn about my executive function skills (or lack thereof) and savvy ways to compensate for them.

The ways I’ve come up with so far to accommodate are:

  • Writing lists, and list, and lists, and more lists.
  • Putting EVERYTHING into my calendar. I am absolutely hopeless for double/triple booking myself, or completely forgetting about an event once I’m engrossed in work.
  • Working out my priorities for the week with my boss every Monday. It takes me a long time to prioritise on my own, it is more efficient to get help. This also helps me to not get bogged down in the detail of some menial task at the detriment of what is important.
  • Keeping all my folders (physical and virtual) and emails organised. I don’t let stuff build up so that I have to spend a huge amount of time organising it later, I do it as I go. To be honest this is more something I do because I am autistic rather than something I do to compensate but it is useful nonetheless!
  • Getting people to write down instructions and taking notes in meetings. I am likely to forget everything if someone just talks through what they need me to do.

Things that I haven’t figured out yet are:

  • The more sensory aspects of work: Do I need to wear headphones? Would I want to listen to music? Would I prefer a smaller office? (I know the answer to that really: yes, but there isn’t much I can do about it.) Do need to sit facing the door or is that distracting? Do I need to get a stim toy? (And what should this be?!)
  • And how to keep from getting distracted and having to switch tasks often. I am thrown by reading and responding to emails, being asked questions and answering the phone.

So that’s how I’m doing. Slowly figuring it out.

One thought on “Working Smart

  1. Hi Beth,
    Excellent post, I am identifying with most of it, just thought of chipping in with my own experience to your questions:
    “Do I need to get a stim toy? (And what should this be?!)”
    Well, in my case, it’s a small rag monkey, if you might know the PG Tea brand’s toy monkey. I discovered that its soft/rough sackcloth texture has a very calming effect when I feel stressed. It’s got really long “arms”, so when I feel really stressed I just hold strong onto its left arm (I don’t know why only the left… :-)), you know like when holding onto your own thumb…
    And it works for me 🙂
    I also discovered that using ear plugs and ear defenders, which I know it’s not always possible, especially when at work, provides a good fence when I’m in danger of sensory overload, which in my case is a BIG problem. I have earplugs now in every place where I may need them, and my ear defenders always in my bag.
    So, in the end it’s whatever comforts you, whatever that might be. And just as side note, it’s funny how I ended up with my rag monkey.
    I have a strong aversion of new places, so when I have to attend for example trainings or lectures, I tend to stick with colleagues who know about my condition. Some time ago, on such an occasion, for some reason I became very agitated, probably because I forgot to use my earplugs, and my senses were close to overload. In that moment, out of the blue, a thought crossed my mind, to ask my colleague if I can hold one of her fingers… 🙂
    Now, I quickly decided NOT to voice my thought, as even if she is very kind and supportive, that could have been sadly misunderstood, mostly by other people around, with unwanted consequences. But as I reached quickly for my earplugs, I remembered my rag monkey, which was on my car’s dashboard. So as I got in my car, I grabbed the little thing, and it was absolutely amazing, like something just flushed the stress out of my brain 🙂
    Explanation? None! Results? Yay!
    Good luck in finding THAT something which gives you a bit of extra comfort when you need it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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