But you don’t have to let your ADHD stop you from thriving at work. By putting some thoughtful strategies in place and collaborating with your colleagues, it’s possible to find professional success and even advance your career. In this article, we’ll dive into five methods to help manage your ADHD during the workday so you can be more productive and happier while on the job.
1. Start with Treatment
If your ADHD is currently untreated, the best place to start is by having a discussion with your doctor. Implementing other strategies at work may be less successful if you don’t address the root cause of your symptoms.
Some of the treatment options you may want to consider include:
- Medication is often the most impactful way to treat ADHD. It’s important to work with your doctor to determine which type of medication is right for you as well as the correct dosage for your condition. With Done, you can connect with a healthcare provider online to discuss medication options and have your prescription shipped directly to you or your local pharmacy.
- Counseling is useful for better understanding the ways in which ADHD affects your life and developing skills to help overcome some of the challenges presented by your disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be particularly helpful since it features a strong focus on coping strategies and practical skills to improve daily functioning.
- Mindfulness meditation has been found in studies to improve mood, attention, and overall quality of life in adults with ADHD. This practice is considered a complementary treatment for ADHD, meaning that it’s supposed to support rather than replace other treatments like meds or therapy.
- Social support can also be included as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Some people find that meeting with a group of other adults with ADHD to be helpful. Others prefer to look to their own circle of friends, family, and coworkers to support them with ADHD-related struggles.
These options can help you deal with the symptoms of ADHD at work. In addition to finding the best treatment plan, consider trying one or more of the tactics listed below to make the workplace more conducive to your condition.
2. Use Time Management Strategies
Adults with ADHD often struggle to manage their time effectively. That can spell trouble at work, especially when you need to stick to strict deadlines and be on time for meetings.
Fortunately, there are a number of methods you can use to help you stay on track during the workday. The following list includes strategies aimed at overcoming specific time-related struggles at work due to ADHD:
- If you repeatedly miss deadlines or procrastinate on assignments: Break up assignments into smaller chunks and write down how much you need to complete each day on a calendar. This will help you avoid trying to rush to get it all done at the last minute.
- If you have a lot of meetings to attend every week: Use an online calendar that allows you to set notifications for 10 minutes before each meeting to give yourself time to prep. Alternatively, you could set alarms on your phone for the same purpose.
- If you always feel rushed or overwhelmed: Make sure you allot more time than you think you’ll need for each task, and don’t forget to include some short breaks. Write down your to-do list at the beginning of the day and mark off items as you complete them to stay motivated.
3. Limit Distractions
Do you find yourself getting distracted at work? That’s fairly normal for someone with ADHD. However, it’s important to minimize distractions as much as possible so you can get your work done in a timely manner.
While your coworkers may be able to bounce from task to task without losing focus, it’s important to recognize that you might need to be more intentional about how you do your work. For example, if you find that a colleague or manager popping into your cubicle or office to chat really derails your work, you could request that you set up a specific time each day to meet and discuss projects and other work details.
Those who do much of their work on a computer might find themselves distracted by other websites, whether it’s social media platforms, news sites, blogs, or something else. Consider turning off internet access to your computer temporarily or blocking specific websites to make it easier to stay on task.
Even your own mind can become a source of distraction at times. While people with ADHD tend to be creative, outside-the-box thinkers, any sudden inspiration that pops up could allow you to become sidetracked from other work priorities. Consider keeping a notebook handy where you can jot down ideas as they come to you and return to them later when you’ve finished other work that needs to get done first.
Make an effort to identify the biggest distractions you encounter during a typical work day, then try to come up with a workaround. Maybe it’s noise from coworkers, and listening to classical music through headphones will help you stay focused. Perhaps it’s phone calls that come in at random times, and replying to voicemails in batches later on would be more efficient.
While it might take a while to get into a new routine with your plan to limit distractions, try to stick to it. Once you see how much more productive you can be without those distractions, it’s likely that you’ll also experience less stress in your workday.
4. Find Ways to Move
People with ADHD might find themselves feeling restless or fidgety while they’re at work. The hyperactive nature of this disorder can be especially difficult to deal with if you have a desk job which requires you to remain seated for much of the day.
Occasional movement breaks during the workday can be particularly helpful if you have ADHD. That might be as simple as taking a walk around the office every hour. Take advantage of opportunities to get up and make copies or get a cup of coffee. Instead of emailing or instant messaging a coworker, perhaps you can get up and go to their office to chat. For your lunch, you could bring a meal to eat at your desk then use the remainder of your break time to get some exercise. Alternatively, you could walk to a nearby restaurant for lunch instead of driving.
While those tips might help with restless energy, you might also need help with fidgeting when your work requires you to be sitting still. In a meeting or while on a phone call, taking notes gives you something to do with your hands and could help your mind from drifting. Discreet fidget toys can also be useful for maintaining focus in certain work situations.
5. Ask for Accommodations
Many people with ADHD prefer to try the strategies listed above as initial steps to improving their work performance. But if you’re still struggling, it’s important to know that you have a right to reach out to your boss, your manager, or the human resources department to ask for accommodations.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees may request reasonable accommodations of their employer. While the law only applies to businesses with 15 or more employees, even small business owners may be willing to work with you to come up with practical solutions for your needs.
The ADA includes ADHD as a recognized disability. However, your condition must interfere with your ability to do your job in order for you to qualify for accommodations. Similarly, if your condition is successfully managed with medication or other treatments, your ADHD might not be considered an impairment.
This simply means that you can’t ask for accommodations at work simply because they’d be nice to have. Instead, the accommodations should be things that are necessary for overcoming challenges presented by your ADHD and which will improve your ability to perform your role at work.
So, what types of accommodations can you ask for? The following are some examples of reasonable workplace accommodations that might help someone with ADHD:
- A bulletin board or white board for visual organization and planning purposes
- Permission to turn off email and phone notifications to limit distractions
- A sit-stand desk or balance ball chair to limit fidgeting and restless energy
- Noise-cancelling headphones to help with maintaining focus
- Technology-related assistance such as text-to-speech software
- A quiet, private workspace or the option to work from home
Although not required, your employer has the right to ask for documentation about your ADHD and the functional limitations it presents at work. That doesn’t mean they’ll get access to your medical records, but you may need to speak with your doctor about providing this specific documentation. If you provide this information and receive pushback from your employer, you may want to consider contacting a work advocate or attorney for guidance in how to proceed.
Don’t let your ADHD hold you back from finding career success. There are plenty of strategies you can utilize in the workplace to overcome ADHD-related challenges, and you may qualify for accommodations that help you do your work more effectively. If you need a diagnosis or treatment to get you on the right track, Done is here to help.