By Stephanie Bayona, MS. Ed., ET & Sean McCormick, M. Ed., ET
Have you ever considered how having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect you at work? Adults with ADHD may have difficulties meeting the cognitive demands of the neurotypical-dominant workplace, such as meeting deadlines, prioritizing tasks, or staying organized. However, by understanding the fascinating ways your neurodiverse brain works and embracing your strengths, you will find that there are many ways for you to thrive in the workplace.
Here are five tips for taking charge of your ADHD in the workplace:
1. Choose a calendaring system and use it every day
Use one calendar to keep track of deadlines, meetings, and important events. Digital calendars, such as Google Calendar, are very easy to use and even allow you to color code your events by categories, which can help you stay more organized. Using your calendar should be part of your daily routine. Try dedicating at least 10-15 minutes to it in the morning and then repeat in the late afternoon or evening. Get in the habit of adding everything into your calendar, including work commitments, tasks, reminders for follow-ups, PTO requests, meetings, EVERYTHING! If you prefer to write things down, you may choose to use a good old-fashioned planner or whiteboard calendar that you can hang on an easily accessible and visible wall.
2. Focus on important tasks by creating checklists every day
Aside from using a calendar, another part of your daily routine should include writing to-do lists. Having a list can help you focus on specific tasks and reduce stress by making your tasks more manageable. This can be done digitally by using Google Tasks (it’s so simple and user-friendly!) or by simply writing the list using paper and pencil. When writing your checklist for the day, make sure to consider the priority of each of your tasks. Start with the most important task at the top of your list then work your way down into the least important. These tasks can be added into your calendar to help you budget your time and increase productivity. If you don’t get through everything on your list, transfer those tasks to the following day to ensure they are completed.
3. Create a calm and distraction- free environment
Ensure that your workspace is conducive to productivity and creates a sense of calmness. If possible, place your desk facing away from visual and auditory distractions. If you have a door, put up a Do Not Disturb sign when you are actively working and need to avoid interruptions. Reduce clutter in your space by spending at least 10 minutes at the end of every day clearing your desk and organizing paperwork or sticky notes that may have accumulated throughout the day. Are your random thoughts and ideas the cause of your distractions? Write those down on a sticky note or designated notebook for later consideration. Avoid starting a new task without finishing a previous one.
4. Take care of yourself physically and mentally
Your physical and mental health should always be a priority, but having ADHD makes it even more important to take care of yourself. Exercising regularly, whether it’s a more vigorous workout or a relaxing yoga session, is helpful for boosting your mood, relieving stress, and working off excess energy. Studies have shown that people with ADHD benefit from exposure to sunlight and exercising outdoors in nature, so make sure to incorporate time outside into your daily routine. Getting into a healthy, predictable sleep routine can help you stay more focused during the day and reduce distractibility at work. Eating healthy foods and cutting out sugary or caffeinated food and drink can help you concentrate better on tasks and reduce feelings of stress or hyperactivity. All meals should be rich in fiber and protein, and over-processed foods should be avoided.
5. Maximize your strengths in the workplace
Have you ever noticed how you can be really good at working under pressure or how much you can get done when you’re in the “hyperfocus” zone? Or how you excel when given projects that allow you to be expressive and creative? Use these gifts as an opportunity to shine! Focus on how to use your strengths to your advantage and maximize your potential at work. You may even choose to create a list of all the things you’re good at and keep it somewhere you can see it every day. Above all else, never forget that YOU ARE AWESOME!