There are steps each adult with ADHD can take to improve performance at work, control the use of time, and deal with disorganization to release individual potential.
Adults are expected to exhibit self-control and focus on job duties. Adults are supposed to be on time for work and meet deadlines. Everyone assumes jobs are work and therefore not supposed to be fun or entertaining. And of course, adults are supposed to act like adults and get along with others.
Additionally, most adults want confidentiality concerning the disorder just as one would want confidentiality regarding any sensitive medical and emotional issues. But there are ways an adult with ADHD, although impaired by the disorder, can succeed at making accommodations in the workplace.
The goal is to make the workspace optimal for success by adapting the environment to compensate for deficits caused by inattention, restlessness, and impulsivity.
How to Design an Adhd Friendly Workspace
Know the degree of impact
First and foremost, as an adult with ADHD, identify how the disorder interferes with the job and then become your own best self-advocate and take initiative to make accommodations you can make for yourself and by yourself.
Begin by making observations of yourself at work by recording what distracts you, the difficulties you have with time, what helps you stay on “task,” what colleagues are more motivating to be around, etc. Then set about changing what needs to be changed!
Choose to have your desk or office out of the traffic flow, away from the office copier, away from gathering places (the proverbial water cooler!) or by the bathroom or break room.
Use white noise (a fan or radio on low) to cut down noise distractions or wear earplugs or headphones (Noise cancelling is a great option if your workplace prohibits its use). Sit away from or with back to windows to cut down visual distractions. Reduce thinking about comfort level by adjusting the temperature (Or dress accordingly) and lighting.
Keep it simple
Keep the workspace simple. Have only what is needed to do the job as efficiently and comfortably as possible in your work area. Don’t over decorate or clutter office space with personal items. Have no pictures around the office that are distracting by taking your mind away from what you’re supposed to be doing.
Keep on track
Use written signs or notes as reminders of important projects to track or people to contact, etc. Designate wall space for a bulletin board or a chalkboard or whiteboard to post reminders, goals and project charts.
Use computer reminders in time management programs. Always have with you, available and easily accessible, a personal calendar datebook (paper version or electronic – whatever works for you) for tracking all appointments, important dates, meetings, and obligations. Call yourself and leave voicemail messages or send yourself emails.
Keep a main notebook to write things down
As great as computers are, nothing can replace a notebook and pen for making lists and jotting down quick notes. I keep note pads in every room, purse, even my car – just in case I remember something to get at the grocery store or if I happen to have a brilliant idea.
Keep a work record
Ask for feedback at regular intervals, not just during “evaluation” times. Get affirmation that you’re doing what is expected of you and the way it is expected to be done. Do good work and keep a written record to document your efforts and accomplishments.
Deal with mail and messages
If your job requires you to deal with a large number of incoming emails daily, set some time a day for this and deal with it immediately. Speaking of your incoming mails, if you have subscribed to a lot of magazines, sites or whatever your interests are, and you actually never look at these emails, unsubscribe and thus reduce the number of emails that clutter your inbox. Answer email at a specific time once or twice a day – not every second when an email is delivered.
Organizing your working space
First, at the beginning of every workday, give yourself some time to tidy up and organize your desk. You should organize and put away your papers, envelopes, files, or other things, because all of these may distract you. You may also want to use different colours to code things, write down everything that is important, and make a list of priorities.
If your job is such that you have to deal with a lot of paperwork, then you have to devise a system that will work for you and help you stay organized and productive at work. For instance, consider using files of different colours to store specific documents. Also, label these accordingly so that you can quickly find what you need when necessary. Moreover, consider minimizing the paperwork you have to deal with, so that, for instance, you may request electronic bills or statements instead of paper copies.
If you are frequently distracted while at work or while doing some other activity, make sure to get rid of or minimize these distractions. For instance, if you are distracted by some traffic noise while at work, get yourself earplugs to create a quiet working environment.
To stay focused and productive at work, you may consider beginning your workday by organizing your working space, making a working list, dealing with paperwork and minimizing distractions.
Simple Strategies for Boosting Productivity
Now that we have a working foundation about the symptoms of adult ADHD, we can start exploring tools and practices for coping with its effects that go beyond the realm of medication. Many of the symptoms of ADHD can be curbed with proper accommodations so that their impacts on your life don’t have to be so severe.
Adults with ADHD are not the only ones who struggle with productivity, and there is a plethora of information available on different productivity hacks and time management techniques. Many of these tools and strategies may work splendidly for some, while others will need to cater these strategies to their unique symptoms. The important thing is, to be honest with yourself about your needs. Maintaining an awareness of your condition and choosing to work with it, rather than against it, will increase the effectiveness of these strategies and deliver greater results for your efforts.
The biggest productivity killer of all, for people with and without ADHD, is procrastination. People with ADHD, however, face a unique set of challenges when it comes to overcoming procrastination since their brain is hard-wired to be easily distracted. This means that excuses to procrastinate come much more easily to those with ADHD, and they must take steps to undermine this tendency.
If procrastination is an issue when it comes to completing tasks, there are several things you can do to overcome this challenge. Knock small tasks out right away. If a task takes less than two minutes to complete, such as putting something away or returning a call, do it immediately. The smaller the task, the more likely it is to be overlooked later. A bunch of small, uncompleted tasks can quickly build up, just as a handful of items you didn’t take the time to put away will quickly pile up into a big mess.
Being able to prioritize tasks doesn’t always come easily to people with ADHD, but this skill is essential to productivity. Prioritizing helps you to ensure that the most urgent and important tasks get completed first so that you don’t miss deadlines or fail at projects. Use this prioritizing questionnaire to help you determine which tasks are most important, and which can wait.
Every night before bed, plan for the day ahead. List your tasks and appointments in the order that they will be completed. On Sunday nights, plan out the week, listing major tasks that need to be completed and any deadlines coming up. Do the same at the beginning of the month so that you get a feel for the big picture of your life. By doing this, you can ensure that everything gets done and gets done on time.
Routines are helpful when you have certain types of tasks that recur regularly. When you establish routines, these tasks become habits and they occur automatically. You don’t have to take the time to decide to do these things, they simply come as second nature. Much of productivity is about energy management, and the less energy you expend on decision making, the more you have for focusing on and completing tasks.
Batching is the practice of allocating specific times to knock out tasks of similar quality. For instance, you can set aside 15 minutes before or after lunch to answer emails, check social media, or return phone calls. This way, you have a designated time to handle these tasks, you’ll be sure that they’ll get done, and the awareness that you have to do these things won’t distract you from the most important tasks at hand.
Break Long Tasks into Small Steps
When planning a project, establish small milestones along the way and set up an artificial reward system each time you accomplish one of your milestones. For instance, when you complete a task, you can reward yourself with five minutes of social media time, or a short walk, or a favourite healthy treat. This way you’ll be working with your brain’s need for stimulation and helping to compensate for the gaps in your neurochemistry’s reward system.
Create an Organized, Distraction-Free Workspace
Make sure that your workspace is conducive to maintaining a high level of focus. If your phone distracts you, put it away while you work. If internet surfing is too much of a temptation, download an app to temporarily keep you off of websites that you know will suck you in, such as social media sites.
Ask your coworkers not to bother you while you’re working on tasks unless there is an emergency. Protect your time and feel comfortable with turning down requests on your time when you need to.
Play to Your Strengths
ADHD doesn’t mean that everything you do is harder. Certain qualities of those with ADHD can give them a distinct advantage over others in certain situations. For instance, people with ADHD can often have higher energy levels than others, making them perfect for tasks and careers that require a high level of energy to get things done quickly.
If a certain task or project requires someone to be able to hyper-focus on certain details, that might be the best job for you. Know what your strengths are and play to them when volunteering for projects or choosing the career path and job that is the best match for you.
If It Isn’t Working, Make a Change
If something isn’t working, give yourself permission to make a change. Change can be scary, but let yourself be excited about the novelty of a new situation. When you find a path that holds your interest and plays to your strength, you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.
Managing Your Time
Some people with ADHD also tend to focus too much on something they find interesting so that they cannot do anything else, resulting in some more important things not being done on time.
Make yourself aware of the passage of time
Since people with ADHD are not very good at estimating the time needed for a particular task, it is wise to always add an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Also, when you have some appointments, write down the time but make it about 10 minutes earlier so that you will be prepared and go to the appointment earlier and thus avoid being late.
Learn to make priorities
People suffering from ADHD can experience difficulties in completing projects or even simpler tasks. This is because they have problems with managing their impulsive behaviour and thus they jump from one task to another. Thus, whenever you are about to start doing something, a work project or a simple everyday task, determine what is the most important part of that task and what has to be done first. After finishing this one, ask yourself what the next most important thing is and so on until you finish the task. In that way, you will break up one task into its smaller building blocks that will be pretty manageable to you.
Use a planner
Whether you prefer apps and electronic calendars, or just good old fashioned pen and paper, planners are essential for keeping track of tasks, appointments, and due dates. Keep your planner close at hand and write down tasks and appointments as soon as they come up. Get in the habit of checking your calendar several times a day, every day. Even when you think you’ve got everything straight in your head, double check, just to be sure.
Keep your eye on the clock
People with ADHD swear by putting clocks in every room in their homes and offices. It can be easy to lose track of time when you’re focused in on a task or project, so getting in the habit of knowing the time will help you stay on track and get things done on time. Place clocks in positions where you can see the numbers from any point in the room. When you start a project, note the time and either say it aloud to yourself or write it down so you have a marker for when you’ve begun. Use timers on your clock or phone to remind you when time is coming up and when to stop.
Plan your day, week, and month
In addition to boosting your productivity, however, planning ahead will help you keep on top of the parts of life that matter most, such as making time to do the things you love and spending time with friends and family. When you plan ahead, you’ll ensure that you don’t double book yourself for appointments and activities and ensure that you don’t miss a thing.
Include travel and prep time in your schedule
Sometimes we often overlook the in-between spaces in our schedules, which include the time it takes to travel from one appointment to another and anytime we need to set up, gather belongings, and settle into work. Make sure that you include these steps in your daily schedule so that you don’t end up running late.
Set regular reminders
While technology can be an endless source of distraction for those who haven’t found a way to keep it in check, it can also be a lifesaver when we put it to work for us. Use notifications on your devices to send yourself reminders when it’s time to leave for appointments or begin on important tasks.
Plan to arrive early
People with ADHD are notorious for underestimating how much time tasks and travel will take. Compensate for this tendency by overestimating the necessary time and plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early to every appointment.
Deadlines are essential to complete work tasks and projects on time, but they can also help with the personal areas of life, too. If you’ve been meaning to accomplish a project or task at home, give yourself a deadline and then stick to it.