Affecting at least 4 percent of the adult population of the US (and, as today’s doctors believe, probably significantly more), attention deficit disorder (also known as ADD) impacts the lives of many professional women. The workplace can be a challenging place for those who experience difficulties with focus, but with a solid gameplan in place, individuals with ADD have every ability to excel. Fairygodboss recently spoke with two working women with ADD and one therapist specializing in this type of treatment to gather their top tips for handling ADD-related challenges while in the office.
1.Take steps to eliminate distractions whenever possible.
Here’s the unfortunate truth: offices are distracting places for everyone. Between the constant emails, chat messages, conference calls, and desk drop-ins from colleagues and clients, there’s little opportunity for complete and uninterrupted concentration. Employees with ADD may find the frenetic pace of a typical office a hindrance to their productivity, but according to Silicon Valley PR rep Krista Bordner, small adjustments to one’s own habits can hugely help with the pursuit of focus. “I recently turned off my iPhone's ‘new email’ alert because it keeps me from grabbing my phone every two minutes to delete a piece of junk mail. I'm amazing by how much more focused I am without that ‘ding, ding, ding’ every few minutes,” Bordner told Fairygodboss.
2. If you find yourself struggling with a project, don’t hesitate to delegate.
Particularly during the early years of your career, it’s easy to take on an excessive work load, justified by the need to “prove yourself”. But for employees with ADD (and, truly, for any employee who wants to practice healthy time management), it’s important to know when it’s time to hand an assignment off to a trusted colleague.
California psychologist Abi Weissman, who contends with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on a personal basis, has used this tactic in her own professional life to positive effect. “When I find myself tripping up as a woman with ADHD, inattentive type, I take a deep breath and see what I can outsource to someone else who is super awesome in the skills I lack. For instance, I received a late invoice about a payment I knew that I had made, as I had set up automatic payments for it (a [useful tip] for people with ADHD), and yet, when I looked at the column of payments that I had made and the column of payments that the other company said that I had made to look for the difference(s), my brain couldn't stay focused long enough to find the discrepancy. I asked for help from someone who loves numbers, details and making columns line up neatly. It took her less time to do it than it would have taken me and as she explained to me her strategy, I learned a new way to think too! Having colleagues with different skill sets who are interested in helping if asked has helped me succeed when my focus has been difficult to sustain,” Weissman recalled.
3. Actively keep your workspace tidy, which helps keep brain activity in order.
While a cluttered desk or disorganized file cabinet may seem like a minor inconvenience, people with ADD-spectrum disorders benefit from a clean and well-appointed area, which removes distractions and helps establish a focus-positive environment.
Cara Day, a California-based behavioral therapists, recommends the “two- and ten-minute tidies” to her professional patients with ADD. “With ADD, what should be small tasks can often turn into monumental tasks due to neglect over time. In addition, a feeling of being overwhelmed with a low-interest task can be magnified with ADD, creating a cycle of disorganization which can hurt productivity and future focus. A two-minute [and ten-minute] tidy is easy and incredibly rewarding because of the immediate reward, another great outcome for those with ADD,” Day explained to Fairygodboss. Not sure how to get started? Day offered a simple guide for these quick clean-up procedures: “At each transition throughout the day, complete a two-minute tidy. This means putting pencils, pens, staplers back in their places, throwing papers away, filing other papers, and wiping up any messes that may have occurred. At the end of the day, complete a ten-minute tidy. Clean up, then prepare any materials for the next day by having them ready to go [at your fingertips]. Organize a drawer, empty a trash can, and spend a little bit more time clearing your space.”