ADHD & Employment
There are many tools and strategies to make work life more manageable with ADHD. ADHDers have interest driven brains, often a new job starts by being exciting and interesting and we get dopamine from this… And then, it becomes less interesting and more routine, and the interest may fizzle out. Sound familiar? There are a few specific areas that can come up for folks with ADHD in managing employment, we explore some of these common challenges below.
(If you’re game, grab a piece of paper and a writing instrument to explore some of the questions asked in each section below.)
1. Meeting Deadlines
The dreaded deadlines. There are a few ways to make those deadlines less surprising. Having a visual reminder of deadlines coming up and self-created deadlines to help you reach your goal sooner can sometimes be an effective way to trick the brain into getting things done a little bit earlier. It can also be nice to break it up, going for a short walk after each task is completed, breaking tasks into smaller tasks (chunking), or using the pomodoro timer method where you work for 25 minutes with 5-minute breaks in between. What have you tried in the past that has worked for you to meet deadlines? What could you try in the future?
2. Boredom Burnout
Boredom burnout can be quite common for ADHD brains in the workplace. Maybe you started your job full of enthusiasm and eventually that enthusiasm fizzled out. Perhaps the routine and mundane tasks started to feel like too much. Do you find you start new jobs and then want nothing to do with the job anymore? There can be so much shame around jumping from job to job. Before starting something new there are a few questions you can ask yourself such as: is there a way to get new experiences and growth in this job? Is it okay if I start a new job again? (Is there something wrong with changing jobs often?) Are there ways I can make my current job more interesting and engaging?
Whether it’s that colleague who is always walking around with the loud laughter, adventure Andy with the great stories, the clicking shoes pitter pattering up and down the office floors, the beeps of the photocopier or the random interruptions, the workplace can be full of A LOT of distractions. When it isn’t external distractions, maybe it’s internal distractions such as the ongoing checklist running through your mind, the upcoming meeting you are terrified of being late for or daydreams. Phew, it can be overwhelming just thinking about it.
Getting accommodations or finding ways to reduce distraction in the workplace can be a great place to start. That may look like asking your colleagues not to interrupt when your door is closed, or like wearing headphones or earplugs, or having a white noise machine. What external distractions show up for your most at work and is there anything you can do to reduce the impact of those distractions?
Now, let's talk about those internal distractions. If you find your mind is wandering often and it’s hard to remember what to do, try having a paper to-do list. Each time you can check something off (or add a shiny star sticker to mark it as complete) you get a bit of dopamine. It may also be helpful to write down what to say at meetings so you can remember what you wanted to say. Do you already use some of these strategies to manage what you find distracting? What could you add?
4. To disclose or not to disclose?
Let’s talk accommodations in the workplace. Many folks with ADHD fear disclosing their ADHD due to fear of being discriminated against and are (understandably) hesitant to ask for help. While it is possible your employer may not know much about ADHD it can be helpful to talk to human resources (if your workplace has an HR department), knowing what specific accommodations you need and would like to ask for can be especially helpful. For example, would it help to have a written checklist from your boss, speech-to-text software, or regular check-ins. What could help you in your job to make life a little bit easier?
What we do know is that when ADHD brains are interested in something, they excel! Knowing your interests and strengths is a great place to start.
If you are finding it hard to navigate your employment, we are here to help - feel free to reach out to one of our ADHD coaches or counsellors for further support.
Kaitlyn is an ADHD Coach, yoga teacher, and somatic practitioner. She uses a compassionate, open approach to help the folks she supports with reaching their wellness goals.