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Old 04-19-04, 08:28 PM
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Post Top Ten ADD Traps in the Workplace-long post, print out

Top Ten ADD Traps in the Workplace,
and how to avoid getting caught by them!
Kathleen G. Nadeau, Ph.D.
Author of ADD in the Workplace

Many people with ADD ask, "What are the best jobs for someone with ADD?" If you talk to a number of ADD experts you will receive a jumble of responses. Some feel that entrepreneurial activities, allowing maximum freedom, are best for those with ADD. Others will recommend stimulating, action-oriented jobs - pilot, fireman, rescue worker. If you poll a large group of adults with ADD who are successful in their work, however, you will discover that adults with ADD are achieving positive results in a huge array of careers including teachers, computer scientists, attorneys, photojournalists, and almost any other type of career you can name. A better question to ask, in seeking career advice, is what are the characteristics that make a particular job "ADD-friendly"? The truth is that almost every career path contains jobs which are very good for someone with ADD, as well as those which could be disastrous for someone with ADD. The key is to find or to create ADD-friendly jobs within your career track.

Step one is to find a career track which is a good match for you. To do this you need to consider your:


Personality type

Areas of strength

Areas of weakness

Level of training

Once you have honed in on a career track, and have received the type of training you need to pursue this career, then is the time to think about "ADD Traps" at work, and how to minimize or avoid them in your job search. What are some of those typical traps? Not surprisingly, many of those "traps" read like a list of ADD symptoms. Dealing with those potential traps requires careful consideration before you accept a job, but will also require that you become "ADD-savvy" once you are on the job. And remember, if at first you don't succeed, ..... Don't lose heart. You may need to go through a series of jobs, either within an organization, or among several organizations before you have learned enough about your own patterns and needs to make the very best choice.

The "Top Ten ADD Traps" at work and what to do about them:


Distractions can be "external" in the environment, or "internal", i.e., distracted by our own meandering train of thought. External distractions are rampant in the current open office environment, which is very ADD-unfriendly. Here are a few ideas for coping with external distractions:

1- Ask for flex-time in order to have some less-distracting time at work.

2- Ask for permission to work at home part of the time.

3- Use head phones or a white noise machine to muffle sounds.

4- Face your desk away from the line of traffic.

5- Ask to use private offices or conference rooms for periods of time.

Internal distractions can be even tougher to avoid, but here are some tips.

1- Write down your intrusive ideas so you can get back to task.

2- Use a beeper to sound at regular intervals to remind you to come back "to task."

3- Work at a particular task for briefer intervals, and shift to a new task when you find your attention wandering. This technique may work best at tasks which you find boring and repetitive.


Impulsivity can take a number of forms at work - but the common denominator is lack of thought before action!

1- If you impulsively commit to projects and then can't follow through, develop the habit of saying, "I'd like to, but let me check my schedule."

2- If you are an impulsive job-hopper, catch yourself before you "take this job and shove it." It may help to talk your dissatisfactions over with a friend or spouse, and look for less drastic solutions.

3- If you impulsively blurt out comments in meetings which you later regret, learn to take notes, write down what you're thinking of saying. This will give you time to consider - is this a good thing to say? What is the best way to say it?

4- If you impulsively jump into complex projects without a plan, which can lead to enormous inefficiency and increased cost, team up with someone who is better at planning an organizing. That way your energy and enthusiasm can be put to positive use!


Many jobs today are sedentary, and are poorly suited to ADD adults on the hyperactive end of the continuum. If you tend to tap, pace or wander throughout the building aimlessly your hyperactivity may be misconstrued negatively as boredom or poor motivation. Here are some coping techniques.

1- Engage in "intentional fidgeting" by taking notes during meetings - you'll look interested, not bored (but don't doodle!).

2- Plan your day to include productive movement - picking up the mail, talking to a colleague, walking to a meeting the long way.

3- Bring your lunch and exercise during your lunch break.

4- Look for work which requires movement - from one job site to another, multiple contract jobs, or work which is outdoors or on your feet.

Memory problems

"Forgetfulness" is often a daily problem for adults with ADD. The more complex or high stress your day is, the more likely you are to forget. What to do???

1- Live by the rule - "Do it now or write it down."

2- Don't just write it on a scrap of paper - keep your agenda with you at all times.

3- Learn to check your agenda often during the day.

4- Set beepers or timers to remind you of times to make a phone call or leave for a meeting.


Many adults with ADD comment that they "can't stand to be bored" and that they are very prone to boredom. The first and most important step to avoid boredom is to select a career path which is of high interest to you. Even in the best chosen of careers, however, boredom can enter in. Here are some tips.

1- Do the boring stuff at high energy times of the day. Don't wait until you are tired.

2- Delegate boring tasks whenever possible. What is intolerable to you may seem like an easy task to someone else.

3- Break boring tasks up into small bites.

4- Recognize your need for change and stimulation and actively work to introduce more change or challenge into your work life.

Time management problems

There are several types of time management problems which are classic to adults with ADD. You may recognize yourself in some of these dilemmas.

1- Hyperfocusing - Oh, no! It's what time? I should have left 20 minutes ago! If you get caught up in what you're doing and lose track of time, develop the habit of setting a beeper to go off when you should leave.

2- Running late. Also often known as "just-one-more-thing-itis" Plan to be early, and take something to do when you get there (a book, paperwork) to counteract your "I-hate-to-wait-itis". Catch yourself answering the phone, or doing one last little task, stop, and remind yourself - "It's time to leave. I'll do that later."

3- Over-commitment - Many ADD adults tend to cram far too many things into each day. This leads them to be highly stressed and usually late to each of the day's commitments. Try to consciously under-commit your time. There are always things you can do if you find free time on your hands, and you'll find you're doing things more effectively because you're not always rushed.


Procrastination can be a tremendous stumbling block for adults with ADD. Although everyone procrastinates to some extent, it is often a huge problem for those with ADD. Deadlines serve as starting points rather than finishing points - leading to huge time crunches, all-nighters, and projects and proposals turned in late, time after time - not a good way to promote yourself as an effective, responsible professional.

1- Look for work that requires more immediate responses by its very nature. This eliminates the possibility of procrastination.

2- Build in rewards for completing undesirable tasks.

3- Request closer supervision. Procrastination flourishes in secrecy!

Difficulty with Long-term projects

Problems completing long-term projects are often related to a cluster of difficulties including poor time-management, procrastination tendencies, and difficulty with planning and organization. For adults with ADD, participation in long-term projects usually works best if you can:

1- Team up with others to work in close-cooperation. Weekly or even daily team-meetings can help you stay on-track.

2- Break the project down into stages, estimate the time required by each stage.

3- In planning, start at the due-date and then work backwards in your calendar, setting dates for the completion of each part of the project.

4- Review your progress regularly with your supervisor.

5- Identify parts of the project that you are having trouble with - and actively identify a solution. Ask yourself - Do you have the knowledge or resources for this portion. Do you need the help of another team member?


Paperwork is typically the "black hole" in the workplace for adults with ADD. Paperwork requires organization, self-discipline to complete boring tasks, and attention to detail - all of which are typically difficult for those with ADD.

1- Look for work which minimizes paperwork.

2- Look for ways to streamline your paperwork. Can you dictate and have someone else type your notes for you?

3- Do your paperwork FIRST before you are tired and frustrated from other events of the day.

4- Ask for help before you have created an insurmountable mountain of paperwork.

5- Develop a filing system which is SIMPLE - then USE IT!

Interpersonal difficulties

Many adults with ADD engage in behaviors on the job which bother co-workers, and about which they are completely unaware! Feedback from a trusted friend or spouse can help build awareness. Here are some typical ADD interpersonal patterns which you may need to monitor in order to minimize.

1- Monologuing - Some individuals with ADD become so engrossed when they are talking about a topic which interests them that they forget to monitor the reactions of their audience - are they interested in what I'm saying, or are they giving signs that they would like to shift the topic or leave the interaction?

2- Interrupting - This is a widespread pattern, rarely meant to be rude, but which often results in irritation and resentment over time. In meetings write your comment down if you're afraid you'll forget. In conversation, monitor yourself, and apologize and stop talking if you catch yourself interrupting.

3- Being blunt. This gets back to that old truism - "It's not what you say, but how you say it." Some adults with ADD blurt out a reaction without taking the time to phrase it in a sensitive fashion. If you are one of those adults who congratulates yourself on your "refreshing honesty", you may want to ask for a little feedback about how your comments are taken.

Now that we've covered the "top ten traps" at work, I hope that you come away with the message that these traps are manageable, both through careful job selection, and through honest self-assessment and self-management. If you are in a job where you are experiencing serious difficulties don't immediately assume that you are in the "wrong job." Try some of the coping tips mentioned in this article before deciding that you need to move on. Don't get caught in the biggest trap of all - that dream that somewhere the "perfect" job exists which won't require any efforts or adjustments on your part. Yes, you need to make an "ADD-savvy" job choice, but also you need to take charge of your ADD - by understanding your needs, knowing your limits, knowing when to ask for help, and learning how to emphasize your strengths and talents! Good luck in staying out of the traps and heading for a hole in one!

About the author:
Kathleen G. Nadeau, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized expert on Attention Deficit Disorder in adults, and the author of several books on adult ADD, including the recently released ADD in the Workplace, Choices, Changes and Challenges, published by Brunner/Mazel. She is a frequent lecturer and consultant on issues relating to ADD in the workplace. Dr. Nadeau is co-editor of ADDvance Magazine (see Books and Webs page for ADDvance
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Old 04-19-04, 10:36 PM
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I've found that using the reminder function of Outlook helps immensely in my keeping to a clock-in/break/lunch/clock out schedule.

I also keep a new reminder dialogue box open to jot down notes as I talk to people on the phone which will remind me to do those things if I forget.

If I can handle them before the next phone call comes in, I just delete them from that box. If not, I set a reminder for it that will pop back up in a few minutes.

To be able to open these boxes quickly, I've created a shortcut on the start menu, so I just have to hit windows key(start)>down arrow(this reminder is at the top of the list, so hitting the down arrow highlights it)>enter.

If you have quick/macro keys (that open email, a certain website, etc., automatically, you may be able to set them open it with one button push.

If anyone knows how to reprogram the f1-f12 function keys to do this and can explain it to me more simply than the stupid microsoft help guide, PLEASE reply here or email me. Thanks!
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Old 04-20-04, 01:22 AM
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Thank you Kassie! I am going to modify these and use them with the kids for school projects and other things. We spent a tearful yesterday doing Saturn, fast and half-a**ed, only to find out it is due next Monday.
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Old 04-20-04, 10:40 AM
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cool kassie..............AND i read the WHOLE thing thru
If you always do,
what you have always done.....
you will always get,
what you have always gotten.....
IF there is NO change,
there is NO change.
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Old 08-25-04, 04:18 PM
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Great post I read it all the way through as well. I think I have problems with all of it.
Diagnosed 06/2003
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Old 09-09-04, 02:48 AM
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Thumbs up

Thanks for the great info ummm yep I have probs with all those areas ...

Dont know how many diaries, daily planners, to do lists I have started and they work great, for about the first week or 2, then I either lose them (absent mindedly put it down somewhere) or forget to take it with me (usually when needed the most) then I dont write in it... oh well ... I will try it again at a later date............ Kimmmie
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Old 09-23-04, 11:19 AM
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I Have Been Hyper Since A Young Age, Add Adhd, I Am On No Meds For It. At Work People Comment About My Hyperness, I Work At Mcdonalds
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Old 10-18-04, 06:42 AM
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Thanks for the information, I am now on my way to better understanding and dealing with this disorder.
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Old 10-18-04, 01:34 PM
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LOL I have two planners and about six notebooks that I randomly use and lose. I try to write things down, I just can't remember where I wrote them.

I'll have to try bringing some work to do at home, though I already have stuff to do here that I need to get done. hehehe I'm such a procrastinator, but when I decide to do it, I do it well!


Originally Posted by Kimmmie

Dont know how many diaries, daily planners, to do lists I have started and they work great, for about the first week or 2, then I either lose them (absent mindedly put it down somewhere) or forget to take it with me (usually when needed the most) then I dont write in it... oh well ... I will try it again at a later date............ Kimmmie
"But the man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend." Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception
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Old 10-19-04, 05:53 AM
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There is a good free program that helps me remember stuff at work that helps me remember what I need to do. It's called Task Plus and has helped me a bunch. I also have several notepads around and I carry a planner as well but always forget to write in it. Pretty darn funny now that I think about it.
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Old 11-30-04, 04:23 PM
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Funny-I hate money, can't add/subtract/multiply/divide, the times table makes me scream, but I'm extremely happy/successful with my work as a broker's assistant. Sometime's considering your interests, personality type, areas of strength, areaso of weakness, level of training, etc, doesn't work because you don't know enough about a type of work/don't realize how well you'd do at it/etc. I was very lucky that I fell into this job. Very lucky.
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Old 01-01-05, 03:30 PM
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Dear Kassie,


Thank You for sharing this article. I will have a print out taken of it.

I am looking for a job right now..and I get stressed everytime I think about finding and holding the job..and invaribly I am reminded of past..when i hated to work..feeling like a machine with no feelings..and I just couldnt breathe in that environment..left all the jobs in few months time..without even collecting my dues. I would love to work as a healer..but have no konwledge nor do I have any contacts, confidance and dont know if such job can pay me..

Hoping to find a job that would keep my heart alive and pay me as well..

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Old 07-12-05, 03:17 AM
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Thanks Kassie,

I found this article to be very helpful. I use PDA to organize myself, I works most of the time.
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Old 10-30-07, 04:29 PM
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Re: Top Ten ADD Traps in the Workplace-long post, print out

i have been alone all my life (not physically i have good friends who forgive me) it really is great to realise ther are others who have the same little difficulties now if i can just find that shopping list, i will go shopping tomorrow..great list,,thank you
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Old 10-30-07, 07:27 PM
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Re: Top Ten ADD Traps in the Workplace-long post, print out

Holy Mackeral!! Thank you Malcolm for digging this one up! After reading all of the POSSIBLE traps that ADDers MAY fall into at the workplace, I feel much more convinced of my own diagnosis. (Yikes! All those blunders sound like the stuff I DO/DID! OUCH!)

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