Practical Strategies for Coping with ADHD in the Workplace

Young adult with shoulder-length hair and tattoos works in office using tablet Children who have attention-deficit hyperactivity, better known as ADHD, rarely have much control over their environments at school. As an adult, you may have more control over your situation. For example, it may have been possible for you to choose a career path or job that works well with your ADHD symptoms. Even so, it is difficult for many who carry ADHD from childhood into adulthood to cope with symptoms in an office environment.

Here are some strategies that can help you manage ADHD more effectively at work.

Time Management

Create a structured plan for completing tasks. Everyone functions in different ways, and the demands of different jobs vary. Some of these tips may apply, while others may not. See which of these ideas might help meet your specific needs:

  • Set blocks of time each day to complete different types of tasks (return phone calls/emails, write reports, perform SEO duties, networking, etc.).
  • Block out time at the beginning and/or end of the day to make a plan for what you will complete that day or the next.
  • Evaluate your work style and workflow. Do you perform better when you work for longer periods of time on one activity? Or do you get more done when you switch between tasks? Answering these questions can hlep you determine how long to devote to each task in one sitting.
  • Pay close attention to how much time you think you lose shifting from one task to another.
  • Reserve time for breaks. Set limits so you don’t spend more time than you intend on a break.

Reducing Distractions

  • If you’re working on something that requires sustained focus, set your phone to “do not disturb” and turn off email notifications. This might not be possible, depending on your job obligations, but it can be helpful to reduce as many distractions as possible. Check and return voicemails/emails at set times (perhaps first thing in the morning, before or after lunch, and near the end of the day).
  • Don’t keep personal email, news sites, social media, and other websites unrelated to work open on your computer.
  • If needed, block access to sites that distract you.
  • Use noise-canceling headphones or an app to improve focus.
  • Use Seconds or another interval app that has a chime go off at set intervals. This type of reminder can help you stay focused.

Organization

  • Take time to organize the physical belongings in your office or workspace. Make sure your desk is free of clutter and that everything has a place to go.
  • Make sure your computer files are organized so you don’t waste time searching for files.
  • Back up computer files regularly. Check company policy first. But if your work allows it, backing up things to Google Docs, Dropbox, another cloud system, or even an external hard drive could be helpful if your computer ever crashes.

Improving Focus

  • Take breaks at set intervals.
  • Use a device or other prop by your feet to minimize fidgeting.
  • Try using exercise bands around the bottom of your chair to push/pull your legs.

It is possible to minimize the impact ADHD symptoms have on your productivity at work. Using behavioral strategies such as the ones above can make a big difference. In addition, medication may be helpful. If you believe medication might be right for you, talk to your doctor about appropriate possibilities.

If you need further help developing and implementing strategies to meet your needs at work, consider seeking out a therapist who specializes in workplace issues, an ADHD coach, or similar professional. There are a lot of resources out there. Take full advantage of them!

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey A. Heller, PsyD, therapist in Bethesda, Maryland

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Nekisha

    Nekisha

    April 1st, 2015 at 11:53 PM

    Great article, I think this will help a lot of people. It has certainly given me ideas to share.

  • bozzie

    bozzie

    April 2nd, 2015 at 10:18 AM

    And those of us who don’t struggle with this? How can we open our minds a little more to be more compassionate and understanding to their needs?

  • Christa

    Christa

    April 2nd, 2015 at 2:05 PM

    I know that I would do so much better at work if I had my own office space but since that is not a possibility I always bring my iPod to work and put in ear buds with music just to kind of help me tune out the chaos around me. It is a whole lot more soothing to me than simply listening to other people work.

  • terrence v.

    terrence v.

    April 3rd, 2015 at 9:51 AM

    For me it is always about the list. I live and die by the list lol. But it is what keeps me focused and on task. I like having this kind of visual reminder of the things that I need to get accomplished each day, and that feeling of being able to mark one thing off of the list and them move to the next? very powerful feeling for me. When I look at my list at the end of the day and see just how much I have completed that is something that feels good and worthwhile to me.

  • Nicholas

    Nicholas

    April 4th, 2015 at 5:33 AM

    These are the things that I learned to do while I was still in school, and though they may seem elementary to some, they are still the tools that help me practically throughout every day.

  • Cooke

    Cooke

    April 7th, 2015 at 1:47 PM

    One of the best things that you can realistically do for yourself is to actually get to know yourself a little better. That means paying close attention to the things that you do well and the situations that lead to more job productivity for you. For many of us, ADD or not, there are going to be different settings where we perform better than what we do in others. That is fine and that is realistic and honest. The biggest challenge is finding out what your own individual sweet spot is, they setting that allows you to most be yourself and get the most done. Once you begin to see this in yourself and understand yourself a little better, I think that there are multiple new ways that you can find to be successful while in a working environment.

  • Carey Heller, Psy.D.

    Carey Heller, Psy.D.

    May 3rd, 2015 at 2:58 PM

    Thanks a lot for taking the time to read this article and for sharing your thoughts!

  • Carole

    Carole

    September 25th, 2017 at 11:50 AM

    I would welcome feedback on how to support. a member of my team that struggles with managing time, meeting deadlines and forgetting stuff or remembering when its to late, when approached about these things the person has a massive verbal attack at me accusing me of not telling her stuff, or she tells me a totally different version of what happened even though there is a clear trail on what and how it happened. Shes a great person and does some excellent sork but this is getting me and other colleagues down

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