How to Deal with ADHD at Work
ADHD can be difficult to manage while maintaining a full-time job. You might struggle with keeping up with tasks or managing your time effectively. While you may struggle at work, there are ways to improve your work performance and make your job more enjoyable. Be willing to make some simple lifestyle changes and ask for support when you need it. By using time management skills, completing tasks, and decreasing your distractions, you can approach work with a clearer mind and better focus.
Prioritize your time.If you have lots of tasks to do in one day, spend some time prioritizing them. Do one thing at a time and avoid multitasking. If you get distracted, bring yourself back to the task at hand.
- If someone interrupts your work, say, “I’m working on this task and will be available to talk later. Why don’t I speak with you then?”
Schedule time for emails and phone calls.If you have a hard time getting around to tasks such as responding to emails or making phone calls, set aside time each day for these tasks. This can be helpful if you tend to get distracted by emails or phone calls. Instead of answering right away, set aside time to respond.
- Structure your day to include time slots for emails and phone calls. This can help break up your day and give some variety to your tasks.
Use timers.Manage your time by setting a timer.For example, set a timer to work on a project for 20 minutes, then allow yourself a five-minute break. If you’re struggling to get motivated to respond to emails or write a report, set a timer and aim to work on the project until the timer goes off, then work on something else.
- Use a timer to gauge your progress on long tasks.
Improving Task Completion
Control clutter and organization.Before you know it, clutter and papers can add up and begin to overwhelm you. For paper management, use color-coded folders and a filing system. If papers become overwhelming, request information to be delivered digitally and not on paper.
- Spend five minutes each hour doing a menial task such as filing or paperwork. That way it gets done and you stay on top of it without it taking over your life.
Get things in writing.If you find yourself forgetting your conversation with your boss or what projects you need to finish, ask for things in writing.When a coworker stops you and asks you to do something, say, “Ok, can you please send that in an email so that it’s clear?” Or if you attend an office meeting, ask for the minutes or notes afterward. The more things you can get in writing, the better you can remember what needs to be done.
- Once you get things in writing, you can begin to break them down into tasks.
Get moving when you need a break.Take structured breaks when you need them. When you do take a break, opt to take a walk, do some jumping jacks, or bust out some yoga moves. Take active breaks to help deal with restlessness and to help you pay attention later.
- Replace your elevator time with the stairs. Use stairs for exercise and do a flight of stairs each hour or two to take a break and get your body moving.
Reward yourself.Stay motivated at work by setting up rewards for task completion. This can help you start and complete tasks more effectively.For completing a small task, reward yourself with a walk, a tasty treat, or a magazine article that interests you.
- For larger tasks, reward yourself order a special lunch or buy something you’ve been eyeing.
Find a quiet workspace.If your current workspace is noisy or you get distracted by lots of people moving about, find a place that’s much quieter. See if any offices are available or if you can work in an empty conference room. You can also ask to switch desks to a quieter or less trafficked area.
- If moving is not an option, consider wearing noise-cancelling headphones. Ask to put up a partition if movement distracts you.
Choose a fast pace.People with ADHD tend to thrive in demanding and fast-paced environments.Do tasks that vary your day and that don’t feel boring or “same old.” Use variety to keep things interesting and to stay engaged in your work.
- A fast paced environment is stimulating and can maintain your interest day after day.
Use minor distractions.Employ some white noise such as a ceiling fan, refrigerator, or air conditioner. You can also wear headphones and listen to soft, ambient music. If you tend to fidget, have an item that allows you to fidget without causing a distraction, such as a fuzzy ball or small stress ball. By using a minor distraction, you can tune out larger distractions such as talking, doors opening and closing, and movement.
- Use a musical playlist that helps you focus. Listen to music that doesn’t have lyrics and that doesn’t distract you from your work.
Supporting Your ADHD Through Your Lifestyle
Talk about medication.If you struggle at work and cannot seem to concentrate or stay motivated for tasks, consider talking to your prescriber about medication. While medication does not cure ADHD, it can help you manage symptoms more effectively.
- As with all prescription medication, you may experience unpleasant side-effects. These may include headache, irritability, loss of appetite, dizziness, insomnia, and upset stomach.
Get enough sleep.Being tired can affect your productivity and concentration. Aim to get good sleep every night, between 7-9 hours.You’ll likely feel better and focus more clearly when you feel well rested.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. This can help you regulate your sleep and put your body into a predictable routine.
Exercise.Exercising regularly can help you to moderate your moods, energy levels, and overall well-being. Aim to exercise regularly to keep your mind and body in top shape.Find time most days to exercise and move your body. You don’t even have to go to the gym; take a dance class, start karate, or go hiking.
Practice relaxation.Budget in some time during your day to practice relaxation. This can be as simple as closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. Using relaxation can help you manage stress and also help in controlling your attention and impulses.
Work with a therapist.If you continue to struggle with work-related problems, consider seeing a therapist. A therapist can help you curb unhelpful habits into more productive routines.Behavior therapy is used most often to help people cope with ADHD. Your therapist can help you discover what works best for you and how you can succeed in your workplace.
- Ask your insurance provider, general practitioner, or local mental health clinic for a referral to a therapist. You can also ask friends and family for a recommendation.
Video: Walk In My Shoes: ADHD
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