by Lisa Thompson

Navigating the workplace is never easy. But it’s definitely harder when you have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). If you have difficulty focusing or managing your time, you may get passed over for promotions or receive poor performance reviews. Your employer may even fire you. Don’t be discouraged. Find out what you can do to succeed in your career even with ADHD.


What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

ADHD is often characterized by difficulty paying attention, staying focused, doing things in proper order or sequence, and in stopping activities or behaviors. People with ADHD tend to have poor follow-through and are often criticized for being impulsive and hyperactive.


Managing Your Career with ADHD

I recently learned of a woman who has struggled with ADHD as well as ADD (the non-hyperactive kind) for many years. Let's call her Sally. She told me that she lost a number of jobs because of her condition. She struggled to meet deadlines and follow the processes required in her career path.


After Sally was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, she sought help at a Minnesota Workforce Center and credits its Career Exploration Workshop and honest self-reflection for turning her life around. For the first time in years, she is getting positive feedback from her employer and her self-esteem has risen.


When exploring new career options, there are some things everyone should do:


  • Take interest, skill, and personality assessments. This will help you focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses to find a career that matches you.
  • Research your career matches to decide how well they fit you. This will also help you figure out whether or not you need more (or even different) training to succeed in a new career.


Below are a few things that Sally suggests you can do to take more control of your career:


  • Seek counseling and ADHD testing with a licensed psychologist. Learn as much as you can. There are ways to accommodate your symptoms’ with or without prescription medication. (See the list at the end of the article for ways to keep on task.)
  • Decide whether or not to tell your employer. Disclosing your disability to your boss will protect you under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), but not all employers will respond positively. If you can make changes or accommodations yourself, then it might not be necessary.
  • Ask your boss if you can come in later (or earlier) so your work hours reflect when you are most productive. For example: Instead of working the typical 9-to-5 day, suggest alternative times like 10-to-6 or 11-to-7 that might work better.


Self-management Tasks to Keep You on Track

There are also a number of things you can try to help you stay focused on your tasks:


  • Create to-do lists. Complete those tasks that are most difficult for you during your peak attention span hours.
  • Develop a daily routine and stick to it. For example, check your voice mail first thing in the morning and then take 15 minutes to look at and respond to e-mails.
  • Takes notes to help your remember details. Keep these notes in one notebook or one place.
  • Keep your workspace tidy and uncluttered.
  • Use colored Post-it tabs to quickly identify tasks of an urgent nature.
  • Create a list of commonly used codes in your job so you don’t have to look them up. Keep it handy at your desk.
  • Use a timer or stop-watch to limit the amount of time you spend on a task (like searching the Internet). When the timer goes off, move on to your next task.
  • Use a calendar to keep on top of work and personal commitments. Electronic calendars often have “reminder” and “task list” features which can also help. It may help to have one calendar for work and one for your personal life.
  • Use spelling and grammar check on all communications, including e-mails, before sending them.
  • Ask that agendas be sent out prior to a meeting. This will help you prepare ahead of time.
  • Have designated “open” and “closed” office hours if your job allows it. “Open” office hours are those when you can meet with people and will respond to phone calls. “Closed” hours are the opposite. They provide you time to focus on work without being interrupted or forced to multi-task.


For more idea on how to better manage your ADHD, visit ADDitude Magazine.