Last week I taught how to deal with a loved one with ADHD. You learned what exactly ADHD is and how it’s diagnosed, what causes it, and my 12 steps to finding connection and peace if your partner has ADHD. Today I’ll talk about the top five problems you’ll likely face at work (whether that’s at home or in an office) if you have ADHD and my top tools to deal with each.
Top Five Problems and Fixes for Work if You Have ADHD
Problem #1: Being Easily Distracted
Distractibility is an issue from both an internal and an external perspective. If you work at an office, you might be externally distracted by things such as noises or your coworkers. If you work from home, those external distractions can be your dog or seeing that unfolded laundry on your bed. But you can also be easily distracted by internal things such as hunger or daydreaming about a trip you want to take.
Abby’s Top Tips for Being Easily Distracted
- Whether you work from home or drive to an office, make sure you have a dedicated space that’s as private and quiet as possible.
- Set up specific times you’ll be working and take breaks. Set a timer for those breaks. For example, you might work at your desk from 8:00-9:20am and then take a 10-minute break (again, set a loud timer) where you’ll physically get up and move and then come back to work.
- For many people with ADHD, it’s helpful to wear headphones that are either noise-canceling or have something that feels like “white noise” to you (which might be actual white noise or a particular type of music).
- Set up your desk area with as few distractions as possible. Do not be in front of a window where there’s a lot of movement (people, cars, birds, trees swaying in the wind).
- Have specific times set up that you return emails or answer voicemails. Again, work in discrete increments. Do NOT give in to task-switching.
- Do not have your cell phone anywhere in your vicinity, if possible.
- Schedule, schedule, schedule. Do not keep long “to-do” lists. All of your tasks should be scheduled instead.
- Write everything down, and don’t rely on memory.
- Practice mindfulness throughout the day
Problem #2: Forgetting Things
It might seem like you forget things easily, and well, you do. This isn’t just due to a poor memory, however. It’s another outcome of being easily distracted. You’re in a conversation, but your mind is somewhere else. So, practicing mindfulness will, of course, be helpful for remembering things, but there are other tools you should also employ.
Abby’s Top Tips for Forgetting Things
- After the end of conversations of any kind, get in the habit of saying, “What I heard you say is…” or “So my next steps are…” or “So what you’re asking me to do next is….”
- Get in the habit of taking notes in meetings and throughout the day. Do your best to use an actual notebook for this instead of the notes on your phone or computer (where you can get very easily distracted). At the end of the day, take any notes of what you need to do and put those things in your schedule.
- The very last thing to do every day is print out your schedule for the next day so you can see what your day will look like and plan accordingly. Having a visual for the day will be very helpful when you get to work the next morning.
- End every day by looking over that day’s schedule and seeing what wasn’t complete. Then add those items to your future schedule(s) so they don’t get lost.
- You can use sticky notes but try not to. Instead, have a notepad for quick “to-do” things and, at the end of every day, take everything off that notepad and add it to your schedule. (This is not the same as your notebook where you take notes in meetings).
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Problem #3: Trouble with Time Management
Time management tends to be a huge issue for anyone with ADHD. You either forget that you promised things, or you greatly underestimate how long it’ll take you to get something done!
Abby’s Top Tips for Time Management
- Scheduling (yes, I said it again, and I’m going to keep saying it)!
- Timers and alarms for everything!!!
- Mindfulness throughout the day
- If you’re working on a project, break it down into steps and then schedule those steps on your calendar.
- Try to work with another person on projects who is aware of your ADHD and use that person as a sounding board and accountability.
- Use the Coco Chanel Rule. The designer Coco Chanel famously said that to be well-dressed, you should always take off one piece of jewelry before leaving the house. I say the same to ADHD adults. Look at your schedule and take one thing off (maybe two).
- When scheduling, really sit for a minute and be more realistic about how long things will take. You cannot break the space-time continuum (trust me, I’ve tried)!
Problem #4: Procrastination
You put things off over and over, and eventually, your boss and everyone on your team is ready to kill you (only after you’ve berated yourself for an hour, of course). It’s time to start healthy habits to get shit done.
Abby’s Top Tips for Procrastination
- Eat the frog.
- Stick to your schedule.
- Give yourself rewards at every break or completion.
- Work with someone so you have daily accountability (don’t wait for the whole week to be over)!
Problem #5: You Get Bored Easily
Lots of folks with ADHD need a lot of stimulation and activity, or they get bored easily. You can imagine the problem that creates if you have a job with a lot of routine tasks or paperwork.
Abby’s Top Tips for Boredom
- Take those breaks often! Every break should have the following:
- Mindful check-in
- Make sure you have a job that stimulates you! Ask your boss for projects that help keep your interest and motivation.
- Make sure you’ve broken up big projects into smaller portions.
- You might have hyperactivity as part of your ADHD. In that case, make sure the movement I mentioned above is as rigorous as possible. Having a jump rope at the office would be an excellent idea.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes and work for that amount of time only before taking a quick break.
- Have fidget-type toys on your desk.
- Utilize a standing desk and switch off between standing and sitting.
Overall Tips for Staying Organized:
- Create systems for everything. For example, have email subfolders in your email so you don’t end up with an inbox of 10,000 emails (I see you)!
- Touch things only once. Mail, email, documents, etc. should only be handled one time whenever possible. Get rid of piles of papers or sticky notes anywhere.
- Get help. Think of hiring an administrative assistant or support person with your own money and meet with them once a week to keep you on track.
- Habits are your friend when it comes to staying organized and consistent, so hardwire in as many as possible. Put yourself in positions to make as few decisions as possible since impulsivity is often also an issue.
- Get enough sleep.
- Wake up at the same time each day and go to bed at the same time each night to create routine and consistency along with less decisions every day.