Tips For Managing ADHD At Work

Albert Einstein. Agatha Christie. Leonardo da Vinci. Alexander Graham Bell. Simone Biles. Jim Carrey. Greta Gerwig.

Those are seven people who have accomplished incredible things in their respective fields while living with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and that’s just scratching the surface. You might hear a lot about ADHD being a significant barrier to success in school or work. While it is true that individuals with ADHD may have a more difficult time holding down full-time jobs, success is well within your reach if you take steps to minimize the effects of ADHD on your career.

A quick note before we lay out these tips: ADHD in adults is usually classified into two categories: inattentive ADHD and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD. Individuals with the former type are more likely to have trouble paying attention to details and generally being disorganized. In contrast, those with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD often have difficulty sitting in one place for a long time and will constantly be on the move.

Many adults with ADHD are diagnosed as having a combination of the two types. If you would like to understand more about inattentive ADHD, BetterHelp has a collection of articles that may prove helpful:

Plan Out Your Workday And Workweek

One of the most common signs of ADHD is bouncing from task to task without completing them. This can take its toll with longer tasks that require a significant amount of brainpower. 

Many people with ADHD have success breaking up their tasks into smaller tasks, which is often easier when you block out chunks of time for your priorities. Be generous when allotting time to tasks—allowing yourself some cushion so you’re not scrambling to complete everything before you have to move on to something else.

Cut Down On Distractions

This is easier said than done in the digital age. With constant emails, Slack messages, work memos, and in-person pop-ins from colleagues, it seems like everything needs your attention right now. However, that’s rarely the case. Every job has priorities, and you should figure out yours.

If you receive emails at a steady drip throughout the workday, you could look into pausing your inbox or turning off notifications so your attention isn’t constantly being compromised. Try keeping your open tabs to a minimum.

The same principle applies to your physical workspace. A cluttered desk full of stacked papers just gives you more opportunities to be distracted. If you work in a noisy environment, consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones.

Give Yourself A Quick, Easy Task To Start The Day

Simply getting started at work is the hardest thing for many people with ADHD. Once you have some momentum, your brain can start to enter a flow-like state, which often makes completing tasks easier. Accomplishing something, no matter how small, also gives the brain dopamine, a notable feel-good chemical.

If you need an extra boost, consider rewarding yourself for completing tasks. People with ADHD often find it challenging to accomplish tasks they see as boring or unfulfilling. Find a healthy snack and give yourself a morsel or two after completing something work-related. You could also find creative ways to spice up boring or monotonous tasks. Try different classical music playlists, for example, or switch up the scenery (as long as it doesn’t have too many distractions).

Communicate With Your Colleagues

Many people with ADHD stress about their work performance. If you think you can be transparent with your manager and coworkers, consider telling them about your ADHD and the ways it may affect how you go about your workday. Some people may make unfair assumptions if, for example, you find it challenging to focus when they are talking. 

The burden should not be on you to educate other people, but saying something short and sweet about your ADHD may help prevent misunderstandings or conflicts with your colleagues. Your manager might also make reasonable accommodations to make your job easier.

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