Managing Your ADD at Work

Jan 19, 2012
6 Min Read

It seems everyone complains about distractions at work these days so you may believe your inability tofocus is just like everyone else’s.

Except it's not.

Your boss has mentioned more than once that you need to get your constant procrastination and disorganization under control. Co-workers seem perplexed that you don’t remember things correctly afteryou’ve been told once, and must be told again and again in order to get it right.

When you get home after work, you find that even though you meant to spend only a few minutes checking in on Facebook, hours go by before you realize you’re still at the computer and haven’t even eaten dinner or changed out of your work clothes.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, it could be that you are one of the 10 million adults in the country with ADHD. Symptoms of ADHD and attention deficit disorder (known as inattentive ADHD or ADD) include difficulty paying attention; being easily distracted; trouble finishing paperwork; fidgeting; talking too much; and procrastination.

If you were not diagnosed with ADHD as a child, you may feel you can’t possibly have it. Or, you may fear getting a diagnosis of ADHD will be the kiss of death for your career, especially if your boss hears about it.

But not taking action to help your condition may lead to you losing your job anyway because of poor performance. Personal and work relationships also can be harmed because those with ADHD often miss social cues and inadvertently hurt or anger someone with their verbal blunders or behavior.

While it may be that you will be prescribed medication to treat your condition, be aware that you have to do more than that to cope with the disorder in the workplace. You’ve got to monitor your own symptoms and see what kinds of situations are most difficult for you, and get input from friends and family who maybe able to spot problem areas. You also may need to work with a coach to improve some skills.

If you have ADHD, there are some ways to help you improve your work performance. Among them:

  • Getting an assistant. College students or virtual assistants can be important in helping you organize your time and provide structure. While there are online tools to help you with your schedule, even a simple kitchen timer can be effective in keeping you on track.
  • Being honest. Children are being diagnosed with ADHD more today than ever before as teachers, parents and physicians begin to recognize the symptoms. Be upfront with your boss and co-workers about problem areas and ask for their help when you need it. Chances are good they’re going to be understanding because they personally know someone with the condition.
  • Eliminating distractions. In a meeting, try to sit closest to the person leading it, or sit on the front row during a seminar. Get an agenda beforehand so that you can follow along easier. Some people with ADHD say playing music while working helps keep them focused. It also may be helpful to keep your workspace free of anything but the materials you’re currently working on so that you’re not distracted by a tray of paperclips or a new magazine, for example.
  • Looking for variety. Not every job is going to be exciting all the time, but you should look for jobs that perhaps allow you to move from task to task without forcing you to do one thing for long periods. If you find it hard to sit still for any amount of time, then a telemarketing job might not be right for you – but working in a busy warehouse might be ideal.

If you’re unsure of whether you may have ADHD, talk to your physician or a trained mental health professional about the issue. For more information, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website,

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