Managing ADD and ADHD in the Workplace

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ADD can certainly have a negative effect on your work life.

You may have trouble remembering information, managing your time, organizing and prioritizing, screening out distractions, and just getting started on tasks. You may have a hard time figuring out what is important and get bogged down and stuck on irrelevant details. You may find that deadlines seem to sneak up quickly or have a tough time simply planning out your day.

Tips for Working With and Around Your ADD

ADHD does not have to be limiting. Adults with ADHD can lead to productive, fulfilling, and successful lives. Some of our greatest business leaders, scientists, composers, and artists are known to have ADHD. They focus on their areas of strength rather than on the problems and they use simple strategies to manage their ADHD.

How can you manage your ADHD to succeed in the workplace? Here are some tips for facing those attention problems head-on.

  1. If you have an office job, request a private office for work and shut the door while you work to close out distractions. If you are unable to have a private office, ask for a cubicle away from the hustle and bustle of the main work area.
  2. Keep the work area clear of clutter. Have designated spots for pencils, paper, a calendar, and a daily planner.
  3. Use “white noise," earplugs, or earphones with other soothing sounds to mask the distracting work sounds in the office.
  4. Take frequent breaks. Plan them out in your day. Walk to get water at the water fountain, go to the bathroom, and make your way up the stairs for an exercise break. Get out of the office during lunch break for a refreshing walk.
  5. Try to have uninterrupted blocks of time during the day. Set your phone to go to automatic voice mail so it doesn’t distract you while on another task. Have a set time in the day to check messages. Write down all the messages.
  6. Keep a notepad with you during the day to write down any information you need to remember. Post-it notes are also nice for reminders. Try a dry erase board.
  7. Avoid over-scheduling your day. Schedule in extra time in casework assignments or meetings take longer than expected.
  8. During meetings hold something in your hands to keep them busy.
  9. Use a day planner.
  10. Make checklists and check off items as you complete list.
  11. Break up work into smaller, more manageable chunks.
  12. Give yourself small rewards for completed tasks.
  13. Get to work early or stay late so you can work when it is less hectic and busy.
  14. Ask co-workers to send information to you in writing or email so you can keep better track of it.
  15. Set your watch to beep about five minutes before a meeting so you won’t forget.
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  • Nadeau PhD, Kathleen G. Adventures in Fast Forward: Life, Love, and Work for the ADD Adult. Brunner-Routledge 1996.

  • National Resource Center on ADHD, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Diagnosis of ADHD in Adults. 2003.

  • Sarkis PhD, Stephanie Moulton. 10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADD. New Harbinger Publications 2005.

By Keath Low
 Keath Low, MA, is a therapist and clinical scientist with the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina. She specializes in treatment of ADD/ADHD.