Attention Deficit Tips for the Workplace

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What Works at Work

Individuals with ADHD often find the traditional office environment extremely difficult. At home and with friends they can relax and enjoy themselves. Their tendencies toward being easily distracted, interrupting others or constantly talking or moving are accepted, or essentially overlooked, by friends and family.

Unfortunately, this is not the case at work.

Symptoms of ADHD can be disruptive and frustrating for individuals who are competing with their non-ADHD peers in the workplace. These symptoms, and the frustration that they cause, can be debilitating. Individuals with ADHD are often passed over for promotions or spend their working years moving from one job to the next never feeling satisfied or successful. These attention deficit tips will help individuals with ADHD navigate the often difficult waters of the workplace.

Staying Organized

The first challenge of cubicle-ville is keeping an organized desk. For individuals with ADHD this can be especially tiresome. The best solution is to be pro-active and try to put together a system before the problem even begins. Desktop tools such as inboxes, file folders, magazine holders, pen caddies and even those little boxes that hold paper-clips should all be utilized with regularity and diligence just to keep things flowing smoothly. Individuals with ADHD will need to familiarize themselves with these tools and use them until it becomes habitual.

An easy way to begin this process is to spend some time checking out the organizational tools available at local stationery stores.


Once the space is organized, a familiar routine helps to keep everything working. Individuals with ADHD should try to follow routines in all areas of their lives to help them stay punctual and to reduce stress and confusion. In the workplace, routines should be developed for:

  • Settling into work in the morning - This can pull time away from work if it takes longer than expected. Getting to work earlier than required can make a difference here.
  • Breaks - Coffee breaks or cigarette breaks should be timed with a cell phone or watch alarm to ensure that they are limited to what is allowable.
  • Lunch schedule - Extra activities should not be squeezed into the lunch hour as they disrupt the routine of the work day and often take longer than anticipated.
  • Gathering materials at the end of the workday - If the job requires materials to be taken home, it is extremely important to set up a system for gathering the necessary materials.
  • What to bring to a meeting - A special meeting binder and notebook or a check list may be necessary.
  • Updating their PDAs or calendars - This helps prevent tardiness and masks forgetfulness

Lists and Calendars

Using lists and calendars is one of the most important attention deficit tips for the workplace. Not using them can have devastating results, as many individuals with ADHD have discovered. Lists should be made for everything that needs doing. In general, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth making a list for it. This includes items such as:

  • The steps necessary to complete a project
  • The steps left to be done on any ongoing work
  • Upcoming items that need attention
  • Ideas that need to be brought up in a meeting
  • Observations about a problem

And the list goes on and on and on…

List makers are people who get things done and do not forget what they need to accomplish. Making lists is one of the best attention deficit tips a person can follow.

The second most important tip goes hand-in-hand with list making and that is following a calendar. The only people who don’t need to follow a calendar are those with nothing to do. Everyone needs to know when they have to be somewhere and when things need to be finished. All meetings should go on a calendar. All deadlines should go on a calendar. All days off or special events should go on a calendar. All significant birthdays and anniversaries should go on a calendar.

If it’s something that requires planning, there is usually some aspect that needs to go on a calendar. The online tool Google calendars is a wonderful way to keep up with both personal and professional responsibilities. The calendar in Microsoft Outlook, and particularly the reminder system which alerts users of upcoming events, is another excellent digital tool that can help individuals with ADHD stay on top of their responsibilities. Whether the calendar is on paper or digital, following one is absolutely necessary in the workplace.

Staying Focused

Individuals with ADHD are easily distracted and may have a hard time paying attention during meetings. The best way to combat this is to take good notes. This changes the experience of attending a meeting from passive to active. At the same time it provides detailed information so a person does not have to rely on their memories for action points and deadlines. Color-coding notes and lists can also be useful.

Following these attention deficit tips can make the experience of going to the office more pleasant, efficient and effective for anyone suffering with the challenges of ADHD.