Work Strategies

Do a Better Job on the Job

Organization skills. Time management. Focus. Follow through. If these are not necessarily your strongest traits, use these tips to improve your job performance and harness your ADHD.

A businesswoman signs a document while keeping her desk clutter free, a good way to manage ADHD in the workplace.
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Focus on One Thing Only

When sitting at your desk, keep only what you're working on in front of you. Place paper and future assignments in an inbox, drawer, or the credenza behind you — out of your line of sight. If your eyes keep jumping around when reading long documents, use a folder or a piece of construction paper to block out everything but the line you’re reading.

[Free Guide: How to Manage Your Time at Work]

A man who is letting his inner critic control him, which is detrimental to controlling ADHD in the workplace.
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Silence Your Inner Critic

Don't let perfectionism thwart your ability to get things done. Ask yourself how to make things quick and simple. Try bulleting items in memos or calling a coworker instead of e-mailing him.

A paper to-do list rather than a digital one, is a good strategy for managing ADHD in the workplace.
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Download Tasks to Paper

If a swarm of concerns is keeping you from attending to the task at hand, take five minutes to get things out of your head and on paper. Once these to-do items are on paper and you no longer have to worry about remembering everything, you'll find it easier to focus on your current assignment.

[Time Wasters and Productivity Killers at Work]

An employee stays focused and attentive at a meeting, helping to control symptoms of his ADHD in the workplace.
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Stay Focused in Meetings

  • Confide in a friend who sits near you in business meetings. Ask him or her to tap you lightly on the shoulder if you appear to be zoning out.
  • To fight off boredom in meetings, take a lot of notes. This not only helps you focus, but also provides an outlet for restlessness.
A woman climbs some stairs to activate her attention before continuing her job, an excellent way to manage ADHD in the workplace.
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Activate Your Attention

Before tackling a boring task, do some physical exercise or a favorite activity. Walking up and down a few flights of stairs, doing a crossword puzzle, or listening to music for 15 minutes enhances your executive functioning, priming you for the work ahead.

[The Get-More-Done-at-Work Guide]

A stack of color coded folders to be used for documents of differing degrees of importance, a good strategy for controlling ADHD in the workplace.
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How Important Is This?

  • Color-code papers and projects according to their priority. Place projects with impending deadlines in red folders, for example.
  • Go through your in-basket several times a day. This keeps you from being sidetracked every time a new piece of information crosses your desk.
A group of alarm clocks set to remind you of important times, a valuable tool to manage ADHD in the workplace.
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Put Time on Your Side

  • People with ADHD often have a poor sense of time. Instead of giving yourself all day to finish that report, give yourself two hours. Set an alarm or a computer alert to go off when time's up.
  • Figure out the time of day when you are most productive and schedule your hardest tasks for that period.
A worker lists and arranges his priorities, helping him stay focused and control his ADHD in the workplace
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Arrange—and Rearrange—Your Priorities

Each morning list your top 10 "to-do" items. This keeps you on track during the day. Write them on a dry erase board. If your priorities shift, you can re-juggle the list with the swipe of a paper towel.

A woman with a tidy workplace, an essential part of mastering ADHD in the workplace.
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Keep Your Work Space Tidy

Take 20 minutes every day to straighten up your work space, placing unwanted papers and junk mail in the shredding bin. This is the best way to avoid "buried desk" syndrome. If you wait until later in the week to get organized, it will seem too overwhelming to tackle.

A stack of clothes ready to go for the workday, allowing you to start the day strong and control your ADHD in the workplace.
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Start the Day Strong

If you have trouble getting to work on time or getting organized in the morning, start getting ready the night before. Lay out your clothes, fill the coffee pot, and prepare lunch before you go to bed. Create a launch pad by the door to place important items you will need, such as your car keys, cellphone, and purse.

A businesswoman taking notes which allows her to easily recall details later and manage her ADHD in the workplace.
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Take Notes

  • People with ADHD often have trouble remembering spoken instructions, so keep a written record of all requests. Write down any assignments your boss gives you.
  • Keep a carbonless message pad by your office phone. File one copy of the message with relevant project materials. The remaining pad becomes a "master list" of numbers and contacts.
A woman schedules all her tasks for the day before checking her email, allowing her to control her ADHD in the workplace by putting her in charge of her schedule.
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Don't Let E-mail Control You

Do not check your e-mail first thing; it puts you in a "reactive" mode—allowing others to set your priorities. Instead, set your own priorities by scheduling all your tasks for the day. Schedule regular times for checking your e-mail, rather than allowing it to interrupt and drive the focus of your day.

A woman blocks out noise and limits interruptions, allowing her to more easily manage her ADHD in the workplace.
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Block Out Noise and Limit Interruptions

People with ADHD are often distracted by the smallest sound. If you are taken off task by office conversations or noise around the office, use a white noise machine, noise-canceling headphones, or listen to music to block it out. Limit interruptions by hanging a small sign on your door or cubicle that says "Busy working on a big project. Will be available at 2."

Two workers reviewing documents, which improves coordination and assists in mastering ADHD in the workplace.
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Get on the Same Page

If you have trouble remembering details from conversations with your boss about projects, ask her to send a detailed follow-up e-mail. After being given instructions, repeat them back to make sure you are both on the same page. Ask for specific deadlines, so you know that what is being asked is really doable.

A worker sits in a quiet office with a controlled environment, allowing him to better focus and master his ADHD in the workplace
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Manage Distractions

Work on major projects early, late, or on weekends when the office is quiet. If you work in an open office, or if your office has too many distractions, see if you can arrange for a quieter workspace—a file or storage room, say—or ask about working from home.

A businesswoman schedules meetings ahead of time to allow her to keep track of everything and plan accordingly, helping her manage her ADHD in the workplace.
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Get Ahead of Things

People with ADHD often have trouble keeping track of details and oral instructions. For big events, such as conferences, find out as much as you can ahead of time. Ask for a list of conference participants, a schedule of events, and any resources pages that will be given out during presentations. Review these before the event starts.

Two workers discussing a project, which allows them to improve efficiency and manage ADHD in the workplace.
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Ask—Discreetly—for Help

You can ask for assistance without bringing up your diagnosis. If you do ask for help managing your ADHD in the workplace, be prepared to give a business justification for it. “By working from home one day a week, I’ll be able to finish those reports two weeks before the deadline” is preferable to “There are too many distractions in the office, so I need to work from home.”

A coach helps her client manage ADHD in the workplace
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Seek Outside Help

Get an ADHD coach to help you develop a weekly to-do list, or to call you at work to make sure you stay on task. Have a professional organizer sort your office papers and files on a weekend when no one else is in the office.

An employee maintains his attention by standing, helping master his ADHD in the workplace.
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Pump Up Flagging Attention

  • Feel the urge to fidget at your desk? Clicking a pen, playing with your hair, or sucking on a hard candy will help you pay attention.
  • If you have the need to move, find a place to stand or walk while you work. Take your work to an empty conference room or stand at the counter in the office kitchen.

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