By Julie Sprankles
A cursory scroll through social media at any given moment will reveal myriad versions of the same sentiment: Is it the weekend yet? The daily grind wears everyone down. But for people living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, getting through the workday comes with its own unique set of challenges.
There’s no shame in that, either. People who aren’t affected by ADHD struggle to stay focused until it’s time to clock out — you literally live with a disorder characterized by trouble concentrating and completing tasks. Kudos to you for giving it 150 percent day in and day out. No ifs, ands or buts about it… you’re a hustler.
Still, sometimes even the hardest of hustlers needs a little help to make it through the workday. So we went straight to the source: men and women with ADHD who’ve figured out how to keep their symptoms in check at the office or even how to use them to their advantage. Bonus? We talked to a few experts in the field of ADHD too.
If you’re looking for some solid insight, here are a few stellar suggestions from other people who know what it means to walk in your shoes.
Break up the day
“There are several things that adults with ADHD can do to minimize distractions and increase productivity. First, in order to increase focus, find a quiet room to work in or use headphones. If your work place allows it, use flextime arrangements so you can work when you know you will be most productive. For example, many adults with ADHD who take medication find that they work best in the morning and terribly in the afternoon because their medication has worn off by then.
“If you start to feel restless or hyperactive, don’t be afraid to take a break. Get up, walk around, grab a drink. By allowing yourself several short breaks throughout the day, you’ll be more productive when you are working. It allows your brain to rest for a moment.” — Dr. A.J. Marsden, Beacon College of Leesburg, Florida
Make yourself a to-do list (or three)
“My best tip is making lists! I make a list the night before. The next day at work, I check them off as I go. If I don’t get to one, I add it to the next day. I am retired now, but I still do this every single day. It’s really a comfort and helps me be much more efficient and productive.” — Marilyn T.
Find a job with the right flow
“The best tip I have for getting through the workday is to find a career in which the flow works best for you. It took me a long time to understand this. I tried call-center jobs, but sitting in a desk was not stimulating enough for my hyperactivity. I owned a dance studio where the physical part helped with my hyperactivity, but would leave me feeling non-stimulated mentally for the majority of my day. For the last four years, I have been working in software development. I manage a team of 50 developers, and not one day is the same for me. There are multiple challenges in a day that I have to overcome, and that gives me things to focus on in manageable ‘slices.'” — Elizabeth M.
Break a sweat
“I’m fortunate to work for a boss who was very receptive when I told her I had ADHD. Together, we troubleshot ways to maximize my productivity and minimize distractions, and my favorite solution so far has been to exercise. My boss allows me to have flextime so that I work out in the mornings before work (without having to sacrifice too much sleep) and sometimes during my lunch hour. Any time that needs to be made up just gets tacked onto the end of my day if necessary. But since we’ve been implementing this system, I’ve found I’m so much more productive that I don’t need to log a lot of extra hours to get my work done. Exercise really helps me focus, which makes me a much better worker.” — Susan L.
Utilize time-management apps
“There are honestly so many apps that can help people like me with ADHD do better at work. You can download alarms, timers, list-makers, agendas… even just making the most of Google Docs and Google Calendar can make a world of difference in prioritizing your time.” — Katie S.
Give meditation a try
“People always seem to roll their eyes when I suggest this, but meditation is the thing that has helped me the most dramatically in getting through the workday with ADHD. Because of my cyclical mood patterns, I have often struggled with making friends at the office. This of course leads to undue tension and stress, which just exacerbates my symptoms. I tend to spin my wheels too much about what is going on around me instead of the tasks at hand. I have found that short sessions of mindful meditation, say 5 or 10 minutes when the day allows, have really helped me clear my head and concentrate better.” — Marci D.
Be honest with yourself
“It’s so hard to give out any advice that will for sure work for everyone with ADHD because it is a spectrum disorder. Personally, the only way for me to effectively manage my ADHD and thrive at work is through medication. But it took me a long time to be honest with myself about that fact. I have friends who successfully manage their lower-level symptoms using organization techniques at work, but that hasn’t been my journey. So the best tip I can give is to be realistic about where you are on the spectrum, and if needed, get medication that will help you manage your ADHD.” — Ashley G.
“I use to feel like the only way to get through the workday was to juggle everything all the time. Ironically, that usually just led me to feel more anxious and less focused, which resulted in me not finishing any of the things I was juggling. I’ve since learned one of the best ways to succeed at work is focus on one task at a time. As soon as I finish that task, I clear it from my mind and allow myself to move onto the next.” — Billie R.