Top ten tips for performing well in the workplace when you have ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disability that affects a person’s ability to regulate attention, their activity and manage their impulses. If you have ADHD you may sometimes struggle to plan, prioritise, sustain effort towards a goal or regulate your emotions and behaviour. You may need help at work focusing on certain tasks that are outside of your interests and completing them, or you may need some tips on maintaining workplace relationships.
For ADHD awareness month I want to share some advice for managing its symptoms at work.
1. Salif Mahamane is a Doctoral candidate and Assistant Professor of Psychology with ADHD. In his Ted Talk about ‘ADHD sucks, but not really’ he mentions how natural environments affect attention compared to urban environments. Urban environments have so much stimulus such as background noise and movement, they attract ‘involuntary attention’ from us and Salif says this is especially true for people with ADHD because their brains are wired in a way that makes things like background noise more noticeable to them.
If you can find a place at work with minimal distractions or use an aid to help reduce involuntary attention (e.g. a pair of headphones to listen to white noise to), have a chat with your line manager about the benefits of moving your workspace or using an aid. You may also want to ask if you can work from home if you think there will be less distractions there.
2. Use a stop watch to keep track of how much time you spend on a task. If you have a skewed sense of time and easily get absorbed in one task, this may help you be mindful about how you use your time.
3. Some people mistake symptoms of ADHD for laziness or carelessness, but that is not true as people with ADHD care a lot about getting their work done. However, if a brain with ADHD doesn’t get enough stimulation it may get bored and lose focus.
If you must read instructions or information for work, try and ask if there is an alternative that allows you to receive the information visually or with audio. This will give your brain the stimulation it needs to concentrate on the task at hand. For example, the How Do I? app is a great alternative to manuals and written instructions and we have a guide on how you can ask for it as a reasonable adjustment that you can read here.
4. Take regular breaks. Even people without ADHD need to take regular breaks to help maintain their concentration, so it’s always a good idea to take your lunch break or maybe spend a few minutes doing meditation.
5. If you forget to remember to do certain tasks, there are a lot of fantastic apps where you can make a to do list and it will even warn you when the deadline for your task is approaching. Search for apps like wunderlist, trello, etc. in the google playstore or itunes store to see your options.
6. If you work with a computer or smartphone and find it easy to get distracted by the Internet or your favourite apps, there are ways to block them. For example, Cold Turkey is an app that can block an unlimited number of websites and only gives you a short amount of time to look at your favourites, so you can focus on your work.
7. Pick a strategy that helps you manage your impulsivity. If an idea pops into your head or you have a strong urge to say something to a colleague, apps like Google Keep, Evernote and OneDrive where you can put your thoughts and feelings down. You can then return to the idea or thought later and decide if it’s something you want to follow up.
8. Pick a strategy to help you stay organised. It can be something like writing down important information on a brightly coloured piece of paper or on a Sticky Note so it’s easy to find or keeping a list of things you want to accomplish for the day hung up in a visible place.
9. Pick a strategy to help you complete tasks on time. Google Calendar and Outlook allow you to organise your schedule through colour coding, so you could organise tasks by colours or make tasks that are high priorities stand out.
10. Be mindful about where you store workplace tools or file documents. If you’re prone to distraction it may be a good idea to store everything you need for one task or project in one place so you don’t spend too much time looking for it.