10 Tips to Handle Adult Attention Deficit Disorder at Work


Over diagnosis of ADD, Adult ADD, and ADHD does a disservice to those genuinely afflicted.  Attention struggles are serious, and yet public perception trivializes them.  This causes further pain and frustration.  What the ADD adult needs are more filters to deal with a world of swirling activity.

Medication and psychotherapy help, but require patience and discipline the ADD adult has in short supply.  In addition, medication complicates things by introducing undesirable side effects. Withdrawal symptoms occur if medication is not taken at the same time every day.  And finally, prescription copayment may be expensive.

But there is hope.  ADD is not a disease; it is a description of a “brain style.”  The ADD adult is often an intelligent, sensitive and creative person.  Potential for success remains untapped when forced to adhere to linear thinking.  However, the ADD adult can learn a few tricks when linear tasks and communication are required.  These tips can be adjusted as needed for different strength and weakness.  Determine what they are, and the rest follows.

1. Block out distracting noises.  Use earplugs, white noise machines, electric fans, or headphones. 2. Wear comfortable clothing – an ADD trait is hypersensitivity.  Cut off clothing tags, keep acceptable slippers or sandals in the workspace, and trade dangly jewelry for other ornaments. 3. Use repetitive movement to encourage focus.  Jiggling a leg, chewing gum, drumming fingertips, pacing, and wiggling a pen are examples of an “ADD metronome.” 4. Direct attention with proper lighting.  Spotlight or dim areas with a mix of desk, area, and overhead light. 5. Be firm with availability. During focus periods, put up a “do not disturb” sign or leave the desk entirely. 6. Use a PDA. Personal digital assistants manage schedule and contact information better than paper methods.  Business and appointment cards tend to multiply, making them harder to manage. 7. Don’t abandon paper notes. Paper allows the ADD adult to write in a visually engaging and creative style.  It’s best to use a mix of paper and digital tools. 8. Block or restrict Internet access for either specific sites or time periods. 9. Arrange workspace to suit workflow.  Proper keyboard placement, monitor positioning, chair height, and desk space all reduce distraction. 10. Assess multi-tasking abilities.  Some do their best work when allowed to hop from task to task; others prefer to work single-mindedly.

With these ten tips, the ADD adult can perform better at work. It will be a long road, but it can be done.  The first step is to honor and accommodate the unique personality of the ADD adult rather than stigmatize it.  With greater confidence and self-esteem, the healing process begins.