Tips to Improve Your Work Habits
Last week I reported on a new study that showed how adults with ADHD lost nearly a month’s worth of productivity per year on the job. Does that really come as any surprise? When you think of how adults with ADHD are challenged on a daily basis with symptoms including procrastination, feeling overwhelmed, distractibility, poor sense of time…and more…one can understand the tremendous difficulties in getting work done in an effective, efficient and timely way.
Throw in a good dose of co-existing conditions like anxiety and depression, which most adults with ADHD are also dealing with, well…it makes sense that a typical day at work feels more like an exercise in staying afloat in a hurricane.
What You Can Do
First, make sure your ADHD fits the job and your job fits your ADHD. Sometimes, try as you may, there’s just no getting around that you and your job are a bad fit. But before making an impulsive jump into a new job, first assess whether there is anything you can do at your present job to make it easier for you to be successful and happy.
Start by writing down all the plusses and minuses and strengths and weaknesses on a sheet of paper. If the minuses are obviously outweighing the pluses, then maybe it’s time to consider a job change. But before making the leap, carefully think through ways you might be able to improve the situation. If you enjoy your job but keep finding yourself falling into negative patterns that result in poor job performance, consider consulting with a vocational counselor who might be able to identify areas you can work and improve on. Also consider working with an ADD coach who can help you set up specific systems to become more productive, efficient and punctual.
Below are ten tips to help you succeed and stay on track at work:
1. Note what time of the day you are most alert and ambitious. If possible, use that time to tackle the most demanding part of your work. Don’t work against your inner clock; if you’re sleepy in the morning; use that time to handle the more mundane chores that require less mental energy.
2. Recognize your working style. Do you work better when seeing one project through completion? Or do you need the stimulation of multi-tasking between various projects in order to stay focused?
3. Purchase a large white board and list your daily tasks on one side and long term projects on the other. Use different colored markers to further prioritize, i.e. red for urgent.
4. Request an office away from the rest of your co-workers and away from other possible distractions, such as the water cooler or other gathering spots. Face your desk away from the window and close your door if you find that helpful. Use a white noise machine if necessary.
5. If possible, set specific times for checking email and phone messages, such as in the morning when you first arrive and at the end of your day. Checking email throughout the day can lead to too many distractions. The more you routinize your day, the easier to stay on task.
6. Are you chronically late for work? Instead of thinking about what time you need to be at work, figure out what time you need to leave the house. Make sure everything you need is at hand the night before so you can dash out in the morning.
7. If you have a hard time remembering assignments given to you by your boss, consider recording your conversation on a small digital recorder or writing them down as they are given to you. There’s no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed; simply say that you want to make sure you have all the needed tasks documented so you can do your best.
8. Do you have a tough time staying engaged during business meetings? Bring unobtrusive fidgets to keep your hands busy, which will help you to attend better as well. Try and take a brisk five minute walk before to clear your head and calm your body.
9. If possible, request some flex time so you can arrive at work early or stay longer, when things are more apt to be quieter and less distracting.
10. If you’re still having trouble, consider asking for accommodations. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Law is mandated for employers with more than 15 full-time employees - Federal agencies are exempt- and recognizes ADHD as a disability. Disclosing your ADHD at work can sometimes backfire, so research this carefully before moving forward.
Terry wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for ADHD.