Why Untreated ADHD Could Be Hurting Your Job Performance

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Have you been dealing with poor work performance? Do you struggle to meet deadlines, have trouble sustaining focus and have to force yourself to not procrastinate and almost always fail? If so, you probably spend a lot of time trying to compensate, apologize and even beat yourself up wondering what's wrong with you. After all, plenty of people who are just as smart as you are manage to get their work done, stay productive and they even get promotions. If it's possible for them, why does it seem so unreachable for you?
If you've had these problems, it may not be an indication that you need to crack down and work harder. It might mean that you have adult ADHD. For people in their 30's, it's very possible that ADHD symptoms that have been present your entire life aren't signs that you are lazy or a screw up, but signs that you have a very treatable disorder that makes it extremely difficult for you to excel in the workplace.
When I was a kid, children weren't as readily diagnosed with ADHD. Instead, children who had the worst problems were called "hyper" and parents thought that they would eventually grow out of it. The truth is that most people who have this disorder, whether diagnosed or not, rarely grow out of it. Instead, the hyperactivity that they showed as a child subsides, but the other issues of inability to focus and difficulty with memory and attention are still there.
If you suspect that you might have adult ADHD, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with a doctor who specializes in ADHD. In order to create a treatment plan that will work for you, you have to get tested and find out if this is actually your problem. There is no benefit in trying to diagnose yourself and create a treatment plan. For one, the most effective plans for dealing with adult ADHD involve medication and secondly, there are other issues that can present similar symptoms. Only your doctor can tell you for sure.
Once you know that you are dealing with ADHD, you can begin working on a treatment plan that will help you get your personal and professional life back on track. If you are diagnosed with ADHD and your doctor indicates that your symptoms are severe, the condition is recognized as a disability, and as such, you do have rights in the workplace. Of course, this doesn't mean that your ADHD diagnosis gives you a free pass to slack off and still keep your job. What it does mean is that you can request simple accommodations from your employer that will help you be more productive and work to your full capability.
Although you may not need to disclose your condition right away or ask for official accommodations, there are still some things you can do to lessen your symptoms and be more productive at work.
Consider changing your routine. If you have difficulty focusing for long periods of time, you may need to schedule your workday hour by hour. Once you have a schedule in place, you can break your tasks down into 15-30 minute intervals. Also, many people with ADHD have trouble with hyper-focusing. If this an issue, you probably have problems stopping what you're doing in order to go to lunch, attend meeting or other appointments. In addition to putting the events into your schedule, you can set alarms to interrupt you and help you get where you need to go on time. If you find that you have the most trouble with attention issues in the morning or late in the day, you may be able to change your schedule in order to come in later or earlier. For example, if you typically work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and your attention problems are worse in the morning hours, you may be able to work from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. with great results. These days, more and more employers are willing to consider telecommuting days and flexible work weeks which can really help. If your issue is more about hyperactivity, plan breaks where you can get up and walk around or do something physical. Once you understand where your problems are, you can change your schedule in order to minimize them as much as possible.
Combat distractions. It's important to understand that people who have ADHD have serious problems with distractions. The best way to handle it is to try to prevent them as much as possible. Even if your office is a loud, noisy place filled with distractions, you can do things like ask to move to a quieter area, close your office door and move your inbox to a location outside of your office. Although it's impossible to completely eliminate distractions, setting yourself up to have less distractions helps a great deal. Also, while you're working, try to avoid constantly refreshing your email inbox, Facebook or Twitter feed. Email and social media are shiny and always give you something new. They are huge distractions and ones that give lots of rewards. It's so easy to get stuck checking email and waste hours.
Combat memory problems. For people who have ADHD, remembering things for long periods of time is challenging. They have the best of intentions when they hear the information, it's just practically impossible for them to remember it later. To combat this, it's helpful to keep a notebook in your pocket or purse and write down important information. In fact, taking notes in a meeting will eliminate many of the problems that go along with a bad memory. If you try this technique, schedule time to actually review the notes later and put important dates into your day planner.
Work on time management and procrastination. Time management is something that almost all of us struggle with at one time or the other. For those who suffer from ADHD, time management is a huge problem. Along with chronic procrastination, poor use of time is one of the biggest complaints that employees with ADHD hear from their bosses. It's important to eliminate distractions and allow lots of extra time in order to arrive to appointments early instead of being late. As with most things, people with ADHD are well-intentioned but they underestimate how much time they need to complete a task, which often makes them late and causes them to miss deadlines. It's the same thing that causes them to over-commit and procrastinate. When asked to take on a project, they underestimate how much time they really need because they are thinking about how long it would take if they had no distractions and were able to focus. Because that rarely happens, their time estimate is based on a fictitious perfect world scenario. As the deadline looms, they become overwhelmed which triggers their coping behaviors of putting off working on a project. To combat this, try to set realistic time frames and commit to giving frequent progress reports to a boss or co-worker.
Work on social skills. Many adults with ADHD also have problems with social skills. When diagnosed and treated for the disorder as children, they can learn coping skills that help combat these issues. However, for adults who have struggled with symptoms without a diagnosis, low self-esteem and poor communication skills can have a negative impact on their lives and their job performance.
As a parent of two children, both who have ADHD, I've had to face the reality that either I have some genetic pre-disposition toward ADHD or I'm just attracted to men who have ADHD. Since my children have different fathers, I'm leaning toward the former. Although I don't have the disorder, I am convinced that the problem isn't just that they lack discipline and the work ethic to succeed. As with any medical condition, you can't simply work hard enough to combat the problem. But, the good news is that if you're struggling with this condition - you're not alone. There is help and treatment available. With the right medication and new coping strategies, it can get so much better.
Do you have ADHD? How has it impacted your work performance? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Image by BrandonSigma / freedigitalphotos.net

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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks, Lonna. If you're concerned that untreated ADHD is having a negative affect on your life, you should contact your physician to get a diagnosis and find a treatment plan that fits your needs.
  • Lonna
    I am hoping that you are going to be elaborating more on this issue. I was hoping for a bit more information.

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