Succeeding with ADHD

 ADHD Weekly 2016-03-17

How we measure success varies by person, but some things are valued by the majority of people: achieving our goals in life, having healthy relationships, and doing well in a career we enjoy. For adults affected by ADHD, these benchmarks can sometimes seem hard to achieve if symptoms derail our best efforts.

The first step is to understand where the challenge lies. It is helpful to have a diagnosis in place, to learn about ADHD and any co-occurring conditions you might also have, and to identify where and how symptoms get in the way. Working with a specialist who can help you with a treatment plan can make a significant difference in personal, social and work life.

What are some things you can do to work towards success in the areas of life that are important to you?

Personal Life:

  • Get organized. Working with a friend, a self-help book or website, or a professional organizer can make a difference when it comes to organizing your home or office. ADHD is an executive function disorder, which means the brain struggles to keep information organized. And when that information includes daily mail, family shoes in the front hall or plastic containers in the kitchen, it can become very stressful to keep it all together.
  • Delegate the work. It’s okay to work with virtual assistants or hire a home cleaning service. Consider using an automated bill-pay system through your bank. Team up with friends or family members to create potluck holiday dinners, something that is becoming very common. If ADHD symptoms are getting in the way of your completing a task, find a friend or professional who can help you.
  • Limit your commitments. Impulsivity can lead you to agree to do “one more thing.” Look over your calendar and consider your lifestyle to see where your energy is going. What are the events, clubs or activities that you enjoy or value the most? Cut down to the few that bring you the most reward and politely back out of anything else.

Get tips for getting organized.

Social life:

  • Use your calendar and email system. Set up reminders for anniversaries, birthdays and recurring family events. Schedule a day to send all of the greeting cards at once, rather than several times in a month.
  • Carry a small notebook or use an app on your phone. Jot down ideas and things you’d like to say during conversations. You may find this helps to keep you from interrupting or adding unintentional segways to conversations. Plus, it gives you a way of keeping your best ideas before they flee your mind.
  • Confide in a friend or family member. They can discreetly cue you during social events if you find hyperactivity leads to dominating a conversation, or you miss social nuances.

Get more social and relationship tips.


  • Find ways of minimizing your distractions . This might mean working with your employer to schedule your work hours to start earlier or end later so you can have time alone in the office when it’s not busy. Other options are to work with the door closed or find quiet space in an unused conference room.
  • Get it in writing. Ask for directions or project details to come to you in an email that you can refer to as you work. Checklists for project steps or routine paperwork can also be helpful.
  • Work with a partner or a small team . The accountability of a partner or teammate can help you stay on track with your work or project. For many people, having another person present in the room, who is working separately on her own tasks, can be helpful for focusing and staying on task.
  • Have specific workplace accommodations to improve productivity. Depending on your situation, you might choose to disclose a diagnosis of ADHD and the need for reasonable accommodations in the workplace. If you don’t disclose, you can still ask for some accommodations, explaining that having specific modifications in place will help you be a better employee.

Additional information on workplace accommodations.