ADHD traits like creativity, high energy and hyperfocus are often highly sought after in workplaces. But difficulties with time management, impulsivity and concentration can present challenges on the job.
Whether you’re looking for a job where your strengths can shine or need ADHD management strategies that you can use in your current role, here are some practical tips for succeeding at work with ADHD.
1. Choose a job that plays to your strengths
Wherever you work, there will be challenges. However, some jobs are more likely to bring out your strengths than others. Some people with ADHD thrive in fast paced roles with plenty of flexibility, while others perform best with highly structured work that interests them.
If you’re looking for work, take time to brainstorm what work environments and job types would be a good fit for you. Talking with an employment consultant can help you uncover career pathways and job opportunities you may not have considered before.
If you’re living with ADHD and unable to hold down a job, support is available. You could be eligible for a government-funded program such as Disability Employment Services which helps people like you find a job and thrive in the workplace.
2. Ask for workplace accommodations
Workplace accommodations are changes in your job role or work environment which help you do your job well and safely. Your employer may be willing to make changes to help you feel more confident and supported at work.
Accommodations are highly individual, depending on your needs. Some examples include:
- Administration assistant to help with certain tasks
- Written instructions rather than verbal
- Recording meetings and conversations
- Clear deadlines
- Flexible schedule
- Private workspace
- Working from home
3. Plan your day
If you struggle with organisation and time management, try starting the day by planning what tasks you are going to tackle and how long you are going to spend on each. You may even find it helpful to break the day up into hourly chunks.
Be realistic about how long each task is going to take. If you have a tendency of underestimating the time required, double or triple the time when scheduling a task.
Be mindful of your natural energy rhythms throughout the day. For example, if you are most productive in the morning, set tasks that require a lot of focus during the morning. If your energy dips after lunch, set easier tasks or schedule a break.
4. Use time management techniques
There are plenty of time management techniques and applications that can help with staying on task and organising your day. Find the ones that work for you and make them a part of your daily routine.
Great examples include:
- Use a scheduling app to plan out your day
- List your tasks in order of priority and tackle the most important first
- Set a timer
- Use reminders and alarms to help you remember meetings and appointments
- Silence notifications and set a dedicated time to check emails
- Set deadlines for both small and large tasks
- Work on one task at a time rather than multitasking
5. Record important information
If you find it difficult to recall instructions your boss gives you at work or find it hard to concentrate during meetings, try recording the information so you can access it later.
Your boss and colleagues might be happy for you to use a note taker or an audio recording device during meetings and important conversations. When speaking with someone, try recapping what they said in your own words or read the notes back to them to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
Note-taking is also a great strategy if you find yourself having lots of ideas while working on an unrelated task. Simply write down your ideas so that you can deal with them later.
6. Learn how to say no
If you find it hard to estimate how much time tasks will take, it’s easy to fill your schedule and overcommit. New tasks you take on can end up competing with important or urgent tasks you have already committed to. Unfortunately, this can lead to stress and burnout in the long run.
Learning how to say no can help you keep your schedule free for the most important things in your life. Instead of saying yes straight away when someone asks you to do something, tell them you’re interested but you’ll have to think about it. That way you can think about whether you have time for it.
To get better at estimating how long tasks will take, try keeping a diary where you write down your estimates and then record how long the tasks actually took. Look for patterns. Are there certain tasks that you always underestimate?
7. Look after your physical and mental health
Your physical and mental health can have a huge impact on your performance at work. Things like getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and managing your stress should be a priority and it’s important to make time for them in your schedule.
Here are some tips for staying healthy:
- Set yourself a bedtime and stick to it every night
- Factor in the time it takes to wind down before you sleep
- Plan exercise into your schedule
- Create a meal plan every week
- Avoid foods high in processed sugar
- Practice mindfulness or other stress management techniques
- Schedule breaks in your routine
8. Get support
If you’re struggling to manage ADHD symptoms at work, it’s important to reach out for help.
Here are some ways to get support:
- Talk with trusted friends about your experiences
- Join a local support group to connect with others who are facing similar struggles
- Visit your GP
- Speak with a psychologist or other mental health professional
- Talk to your boss about workplace accommodations
- Register for Disability Employment Services
Whatever your employment goals are, support is available to help you get there. It’s not always easy, but having the right skills and supports in place can help you feel confident in the workplace and succeed in your role.