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Succeeding in the Workplace

Some adults with ADHD have very successful careers. But for others, the symptoms of ADHD can create a variety of challenges, including poor communication skills, distractibility, procrastination, and difficulty managing complex projects. Here are some of the challenges and tips to overcome them.

Challenge: Distractability
There are two types of distractions that can affect adults working with ADHD, external and internal. External include things such as noises or movement in the surrounding environment while internal distractions originate internally such as daydreams.

Tips: Noise-cancelling headphones can help minimize external sounds. If you have an office, consider closing your door to avoid being distracted by your officemates. Limit your access to social media when you need to get stuff done. To-do lists can help you keep on task and combat your tendencies to daydream.

Challenge: Impulsivity
Adults with ADHD may struggle with impulsivity and excessive temper when frustrated.

Tips: Self-talk, working with a coach, asking for regular and constructive feedback, practicing mindfulness, and developing coping mechanisms may help adults learn to identify their triggers and express their frustrations in appropriate ways.

Challenge: Hyperactivity
Adults with ADHD often have trouble sitting still and may fidget.

Tips: Consider jobs that allow movement or that require a lot of physical activity such as sales, teaching, or exercise trainers. For those who are in careers that are more sedentary, take intermittent breaks, take notes in meetings, and move around. You can also bring your lunch so you don’t have to spend time buying it and can use your break to exercise instead.

Challenge: Poor Memory
Failing to remember deadlines and project details can negatively affect job performance.

Tips: Use tape recording devices to record details, write checklists for complicated tasks, or use reminders such as sticky notes for announcements or as memory triggers.

Challenge: Boredom-blockouts
Some adults with ADHD become more easily bored at work from a need for simulation especially when doing detailed paperwork and routine tasks.

Tips: To prevent boredom, set a timer to stay on task, break up long tasks into shorter ones, take breaks to get up and walk around, or find a job with stimulating responsibilities and minimal routine tasks.

Challenge: Time Management
Adults with ADHD have a harder time keeping track of time than adults who do not. They may not realize how much time a task takes.

Tips: To prevent losing time, break larger projects into smaller pieces with individual due dates. Reward yourself for achieving each goal. Use alarms, buzzers, etc. to remind yourself of meetings and other tasks.

Challenge: Procrastination
Putting things off can seem like second nature for adults with ADHD.

Tips: Break projects into small pieces, enlist your supervisor’s assistance in setting deadlines for tasks, if possible, or work with a co-worker who manages time well.

Challenge: Paperwork/Details
The inability to find important papers, turn in reports and time sheets, and maintain a filling system can seriously impede one’s ability to get work done in a timely manner.

Tips: Create a filing system that works for you or ask an administrative assistant to handle detailed paperwork, and regularly purge papers you are not using.

Challenge: Interpersonal/Social Skills
Individuals with ADHD may unintentionally offend co-workers by interrupting frequently, talking too much, being too blunt, or not listening well.

Tips: Ask others for feedback, learn to read social cues, work with a coach, or seek a position where you can be your own boss.

Challenge: Difficulty managing long-term projects
Managing complex or long-term projects may be the hardest organizational challenge for adults with ADHD because of issues with time management, organizing materials, tracking progress, and communicating accomplishments.

Tips: To make long-term projects easier to manage, break them into smaller parts; shorten the time allowed on the project to better utilize “sprinting abilities;” partner with a co-worker; or if you cannot handle long-term projects at all, look for work that only requires short-term tasks.

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