What do Woody Harrelson, Simone Biles, and Sir Richard Branson have in common?
Aside from being wildly successful in their respective careers, they have all been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD.
About 4.4 percent of adults have an official ADHD diagnosis, although many more go undiagnosed. Symptoms of ADHD include:
- Inability to focus
- Restlessness and fidgeting
- Mood swings
- Trouble managing time and tasks
- Anxiety and stress
- Lack of planning ability
ADHD can be tough for anyone to handle, but for an administrative professional, where things like attention to detail, time management, and organization are literally in the job description, it can mean disaster.
Over the past two years, I’ve seen more and more information published about people receiving an ADHD diagnosis as an adult. For many who have struggled with the impact of ADHD their entire lives, I imagine the diagnoses come as a huge relief because it validates their experiences and helps them understand their struggles.
I have not been diagnosed with ADHD, but I have experienced many of the same symptoms I am reading about. When I combined the information on adult ADHD with what I’ve learned in treating my generalized anxiety disorder, and my Time and Space Style Inventory (TSSI) results, it helped me create some better systems for managing my work environment for improved focus and productivity.
Here are some tips that help me:
- Turning off all of the rings, dings, and notifications for email, Slack, and messaging on my phone and computer. I use email rules for the messages or notices I should be interrupted for.
- Using a digital timer to keep me on time for meetings, and to help me “race against the clock” in focus blocks I set throughout the day.
- Clearing my desk and resetting it for a fresh start each morning with my to-do stack prioritized and ready to tackle. I keep specific actions on a sticky note for each file to help me get right into the flow of work. That way, I avoid overwhelm and getting stuck in the weeds sorting through things in the morning.
- Creating detailed checklists on paper and in OneNote. I need to use both paper and digital because I’m a very out of sight, out of mind person. I can keep my master list in OneNote, but I still need to work from paper when it comes to my daily action item list. It stays in front of me throughout the day on a bright notepad sitting on the right hand side of my keyboard.
- Using a dry erase board in my office to quickly capture ideas and tasks during the day so I can stay focused on the task I was working on without forgetting the ideas or tasks that crossed my mind. At the end of the day, what’s on the board gets added to the master list or cleared off if I handled it.
- Relying on accountability partner(s). I schedule check-in calls with my team members throughout the week, and it makes a huge difference to talk through priorities and next steps, progress, and deadlines. When I know someone else is counting or waiting on me, it helps me stay on task.
- When the weather is nice, getting outside to walk a couple times a day! Exercise of any sort seems to help.
- Playing classical music. Some people prefer white noise, but I use that at night. So I prefer classical music with no words at certain points during the day. I pull up a YouTube station and let it play until my task is finished.
- Practicing good self-care habits. I’ve found that when I’m well-rested, eating healthy, and hydrated, it’s easier for me to be more productive and less scattered. Many people find stress-reducing techniques or meditation helps them be more focused at work.
- Verbalizing my needs. My brain doesn’t always work the way the rest of my team members’ brains do. And that’s OK. In these cases, I ask for what I need. Advocate for yourself! It’s fine to say things like. “Can you follow up that request with a quick email so it doesn’t slip my mind?” or “I need to focus harder than normal today – please don’t interrupt me until after lunch unless it’s an emergency.”
ADHD and Burnout
Because ADHD makes it harder to focus, those who deal with the disorder are more susceptible to burnout than their unafflicted colleagues. In fact, in one study, researchers found that out of 62 people on long-term disability for stress or burnout issues, 24 percent had an ADHD diagnosis and 56 percent met the criteria for ADHD, although they hadn’t been formally diagnosed!
This makes it even more important for admins with ADHD to not only implement coping tactics, but recognize when a burnout is coming and take steps to mitigate it.
Thriving as an Admin With ADHD
While there’s no denying the effect ADHD can have on your job, it’s not all doom and gloom. ADHD comes with its own set of superpowers.
People with ADHD tend to be more creative and resilient than their neurotypical counterparts. They have a higher level of social intelligence, are more likely to be a great conversationalist, and can tap into energy reserves some of us can only dream of. Plus, their ability to hyperfocus on jobs they enjoy means they can perform these tasks more efficiently than others.
As an admin with ADHD, things may come a bit harder sometimes. You may need to do things differently than your colleagues or process information your own way. However, when you create habits to support your own success, there’s no limit to what you can do!
© 2022 Julie Perrine International, LLC
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures.