Work – how to be effective despite ADHD

24 October, 2017 / Mateusz

Dreamers and perfectionists

Nobody is perfect. Therefore, there are no perfect employees. Many practitioners underline that one of the most significant elements of a successful professional career is adjusting one’s occupation to personal potential (competences, qualifications, predispositions, personality etc).

Theory indicates three types of ADHD :

  • predominantly hyperactive-impulsive (most common amongst men),
  • predominantly inattentive (most common amongst women),
  • combined sub-type.

Sub-type predominantly hyperactive-impulsive

The characteristic trait of this type of ADHD is the difficulty to stop performing an activity upon order (request). “In a moment” is the typical answer for a request to end one task and proceed to another.

This trait is related to another one – the willingness to react immediately, here and now “because I want to do so”.

However, the inability to postpone reactions does not mean that persons with ADHD do not know how to behave.

What problems does an employee with ADHD hyperactive-impulsive type have to deal with?

  • inability to listen to others, tendency to interrupt their speeches and inability to wait one’s turn to speak,
  • forgetting about important matters and dates,
  • unsustainable relations with others,
  • problems with maintaining cleanliness and order.

This type of ADHD is usually related to a trait that is often sought-after in some professions – perfectionism.

Sub-type predominantly inattentive

The second type of ADHD is characterized by attention deficit disorders. A person with this type of ADHD struggles with decreased ability to focus on a particular task as well as experiences problems with divisibility of attention and short-term memory. What behavior is characteristic for such persons?

  • switching from the performed activity and using different types of “time consumers”,
  • randomness of actions,
  • mental absence , “walking with one’s head in the clouds”,
  • difficulty in planning and organizing work,
  • launching tasks but failing to complete them,
  • unwillingness towards long-term and complicated tasks,
  • forgetting, losing things, omitting details.

Nonetheless, attention deficit disorders do not pose any difficulties to persons whose jobs do not require adapting to new conditions and coping with unsuspected situations. This is a great advantage for persons with ADHD inattentive type.

How to select a profession for yourself?

Lynn Weiss provides a hint within her book entitled “Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults” where she underlines 3 types of personalities of persons with ADHD. At the same time, she also suggests professions that might be most suitable for them.

1. Extrovert ADD

Characteristic traits of this type of personality include:

  • external activity,
  • spontaneity,
  • tendency to take up risk,
  • vast range of moods,
  • strong reactions on pressure from the environment,
  • demonstrative behavior,
  • performing numerous activities at once,
  • expressing one’s mood on the outside,
  • dividing larger tasks into smaller ones.

Attitude towards long, complicated tasks – persons grow bored quickly, lack of attention, are unwilling to repeat, experience irritability, frustration, various moods.

Industries perfect for this group of persons: retail and entertainment. Also, a good idea is to launch one’s own business activity.

2. Introvert ADD

Characteristic traits of this type of personality include:

  • a high level of empathy,
  • keeping to one’s favorite activities,
  • dislikes change,
  • high sensitivity,
  • tendency to daydream,
  • often high creativity,
  • good ability to solve problems,
  • likeness to have freedom of search,
  • persistence.

Attitude towards long, complicated tasks – self-blaming, tendency to fall into depression, boredom, burning out, persistent attempts, continuously using new methods.

Perfect employment for such group of persons include: working in the creative industry, professions that require sensitivity and empathy, working outside the office

3. Orderly ADD

Characteristic traits of this type of personality include:

  • good work organization,
  • passion for working within structures,
  • perfectionism,
  • being goal-focused,
  • talkativeness,
  • persistence in thinking,
  • systematic problem solving,
  • taking the burden of making a decision during crisis situations,
  • tendency to work from beginning to end without breaks.

Attitude towards long, complicated tasks – high expectations, meticulousness, judging others, tendency to suffer from obsessive anxieties.

Perfect employment for such group of persons include: working within a clearly distinguished structure including the military, accounting; and anywhere else where meticulousness, precision and care for details are highly favored.

Work organization and time management for persons with ADHD

Persons with ADHD need to cope with bigger challenges at work compared to their colleagues. Why? This results from the specific functioning of their brains.

Brain collects all essential information and processes it in order to create a list of tasks. In the case of persons with ADHD, such processes undergo dysfunctions – chaos and absent-mindedness occur while the “to do list” is under development. Thus, the effectiveness of such employee plummets immediately. Therefore, it is worth doing everything possible in order to improve the working conditions and the manner of functioning. Here are some tips:

Adjust your work to your skills and interests

Although finding a golden measure between skills, interests and type of performed work is a hard task, it is possible. Even though it requires an abundance of afterthought and consistence in finding optimal employment, it’s still worth it!

Taking up an interesting job results in higher engagement. Engagement, on the other hand, is the thing that allows persons with ADHD to focus properly and obtain maximal result of their actions.

Open Space? Not necessarily!

If possible, select closed working spaces instead of open space offices. Currently, many companies refrain from introducing open spaces due to the fact that such solutions tend to distract employees. In case of persons with ADHD, open spaces provide excessive stimuli that won’t allow them to work

Support from a therapist, mentor or a coach

Use the help of a therapist or a mentor, or a coach. Determine your goals together and pave the way that will lead you to your goals.

Support group

Look around you and find persons who struggle with similar problems. Share your experiences with them and draw lessons from stories told by others.

Use tools that help organize work

From post-it notes on your office desk towards applications that help manage time and create “TO DO” lists – use anything there is that you will find helpful, that you like and that will help you:

  • plan your day, week or any longer periods,
  • adhere to your time schedules,
  • establish priority objectives,
  • divide bigger tasks into phases,
  • tick off performed tasks, etc.

Set your goals

Once you consult your therapists or mentor as well as equip yourself with helpful organisers, setting your goals ought not to be a big problem. However, please do remember to set your goals clearly so that they remain attractive to you, achievable, time-bound and measurable (it will allow you to determine whether the goal has been achieved already or not).

Introduce routine activities into your work

Checking your mail routinely at 8 o’ clock, conducting phone conversation with customers from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, evaluating results at 3:00 pm – these are only some of the examples on how to introduce order into your day as well as remember about most of your tasks.

Divide your tasks into phases

Upon taking an inappropriate attitude, large and complicated tasks might become overwhelming and discouraging, thus result in a higher number of errors. If you divide them into smaller phases, it will become easier to perform them and therefore completing the entire project much faster.


A clear mind works appropriately – therefore it is worth taking a moment or break (also during work). Meditation, a short nap, a stroll or a moment spent on a bench surrounded by greenery might help you a lot.