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Strategies for Handling ADD/ADHD in Your Work

Strategies for Handling ADD/ADHD in Your Work

Were you one of those kids who just couldn't sit still in school? Maybe you had trouble focusing on what the teacher was saying or you found it difficult to follow a project through to completion. Somewhere along the way, you were either diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder, or you have a strong suspicion that you qualify. Now you are an adult with a job, and you still have trouble focusing.

Look at the bright side: You are intelligent, creative and enthusiastic. You have great ideas, but sitting in long meetings to plan how to implement those ideas and handling the many details is difficult and frustrating. How can you maximize your strengths and cope with the tasks you find more challenging?

Find Jobs More Suited to You

First, if you have the luxury to do so, carefully consider which types of positions are most suited to you. Taking a job that involves long hours sitting or handling routine tasks, or being responsible for multiple details, will probably not suit you as well. Take this into account when applying for jobs and speaking with hiring managers about a particular position's day-to-day aspects.

Adjust to Your Current Job

Here are some strategies that may help. While everyone who has ADD/ADHD is different, chances are at least a few of these tips will be useful. Note: If you feel you need some supervisor-approved adaptations to your work, it's better to be proactive than to wait for a performance evaluation. Approach your supervisor, tell him what your best work style is, and ask for what you believe would be successful. Be ready to hear your boss's recommendations, too. He will have to consider how any accommodations might affect your coworkers.

Time Management

  • Consider a flexible work schedule. See if your job allows this, or if you can work it out with your boss.
  • Set alarms for yourself to remind you of meetings, calls, etc. Check the software your office uses to see if you can set up automatic reminders. Email reminders to yourself. Also, use alarms to bring you back to task if that is a problem for you

Keep Focused

  • Give yourself periodic, structured (time-limited) breaks. You might walk around the building or have a short chat with a coworker. The key is to time yourself, not lose yourself in the break activity. Again, use a vibrating alarm or some other mechanism that will remind you to get back to the task at hand.
  • Have someone you trust check your work for things you might have misspelled, left out or placed out of sequence. Be sure to help them out with a work-related project in return for their assistance


  • If you're a blurter, write down a note on your pad to remind you of your idea. Give it a few minutes. If it still feels like the right thing to say, go for it.
  • Be careful what you agree to or promise. Again, training yourself to wait and think before saying yes or no may keep you out of trouble from taking too much on or turning down an opportunity that may not come again.
  • When scheduling your workweek, build in time for exercising, stretching, or just getting out of the office for a few minutes or for lunch. The change in scenery and new activity will help you focus when you get back to work

One more suggestion: Coaching. If you can afford it, get yourself a coach. There are coaches who specialize in ADD/ADHD. Coaching is not therapy. Therapy tends to focus on the problem; coaching is solution-oriented -- how to help you get what you want.

Working with ADD/ADHD can be a challenge, but using these strategies and being proactive about addressing issues can help you cope.

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