ADHD at Work

Seven Daily Habits to Close the “Success Gap”

Every adult with ADHD has special talents. The trick is to uncover them — and use them to achieve important goals. Learn how getting organized and learning to delegate can help.

Stay in touch with your friends to keep perspective, like this group at the base of a volcano
Stay in touch with your friends to keep perspective, like this group at the base of a volcano

Do you sometimes worry that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) will hold you back? That’s natural. But everyone has special interests and abilities that can help them reach their goals. The trick is to identify these often-hidden passions and talents — and put them to work.

In more than two decades as a psychiatrist, I’ve known countless people who have managed to thrive in spite of — and often because of — their ADHD. I’m thinking of people like my friend R.L., who parlayed a gift for gab and an ability to stay calm in chaotic environments into a dynamic career as a television anchorman.

Of course, I’ve also met plenty of people with ADHD whose careers and personal relationships were hijacked by their condition. What explains this “success gap?” Why do some struggle, while others succeed? I think it’s a matter of habits. That is, successful adults with ADHD tend to be those who have learned to focus on their strengths and who have developed these good habits:

1. Do what you’re good at.

Everyone is good at some things, and not so good at others. Often it’s more productive to focus on improving your strengths rather than on trying to shore up your weak points. And when you must do something you’re not particularly good at? Work with family members, coaches, or tutors to find coping strategies that help you become “good enough.”

2. Keep in touch with your friends.

Good friends are essential for happiness. And friends can provide you with valuable perspective.

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3. Ask for advice.

Life is tricky, but there’s no need to go it alone. Figure out whom you trust, and confer with them on a regular basis – and especially when problems arise. Ignore naysayers and finger-waggers.

4. Get enough organized.

You don’t have to be totally organized — perfect files, no clutter. That’s too hard for most, and in my opinion, nothing but a waste of your time. You only need to be organized enough so that disorganization doesn’t get in your way.

5. Find an outlet for your creativity.

What’s your hobby? Music? Karate? My outlet is writing. Life is always more interesting and fulfilling when I’m engaged in a writing project.

6. Learn to delegate.

If you’re faced with a task or responsibility that you find particularly difficult, ask someone else to do it for you in exchange for doing something for him. And don’t assume that someone else will pick up the slack for you when you don’t get things done. Ask him or her to do so. Asking for help is especially important within the context of marriage; failing to acknowledge that you are leaving the not-so-fun stuff (housekeeping, bill-paying, and so on) to a spouse without ADHD invariably leads to resentment.

7. Stay optimistic.

Everyone has a dark side, and can feel down sometimes. But do your best to make decisions and “run your life” with your positive side.

[15 Good Habits Your Brain Is Craving — But Not Getting]

8 Comments & Reviews

  1. I understand that this applies to the ADHD population in a general sense and also is a good advice to start with to boost someone’s morale but I am kind of getting tired of everyone telling the ADDers to do what they are good at. Give me a break, not everybody in this world gets to do always do what they are good at let’s just admit this for once. I am a Mechanical engineer and I have to do a lot of calculations and write lengthy reports as a part of my job. What I am I good at? I am really good at drawing. I cannot quit my job and do art for a living.
    Ok this was more of a rant but really get triggered when all the ADHD self-help blog start by telling us how we have to do what we are good at. What if we cannot always do what we are good at? What then ? I do not get this

    1. I wish I knew the answer to this. It took me years to learn what I really love to do, but between being pushed out of my career because it’s a “man’s job” and because people don’t understand that ADHD makes us function differently from neurotypicals, I have no idea what to do now. I’m good at a lot of things, but many aren’t a basis for a career or they’re not something I want to do for a living.

  2. It sounds like good advice for young adults who are just beginning to make decisions about what to do with their lives. That was me too many years ago to remember now.

  3. If I can stay in a positive mind frame, I know I can accomplish a better life for myself. For me it’s a matter of planning. Time management has not been easy for me. I’m attracted to everything sparkly and interwsting. With focus and the help of a daily planner I can achieve a happier life. I’m convinced of this fact.

  4. If only these tips were as easy as they sound. My family members pushed me to pursue a career I wasn’t good at, and now I’m stuck with no money to go back to school, no money to get coaching/ADHD counseling, etc. For some of this, help really isn’t possible.

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