Take Control of your ADD at Work

June 5th, 2012

How to Manage Distractions in the Office

By Leslie Rouder, LCSW


One of the biggest concerns that I hear about from my clients with ADD is how to be more productive at work.   Problems with distractibility are one of the most common concerns, due to the frequent interruptions that take place in most office settings, creating significant problems for many individuals with ADD.  In an attempt to provide some solutions to this problem, I have written the following article.

Individuals with ADD often complain that the amount of distractions that create problems with being productive at work is often overwhelming.  In fact, many of these individuals suffer from anxiety and or depression due to the amount of stress this factor places upon them on a daily basis.  They may worry about how they are perceived at work and if they are able to manage their time efficiently, while keeping up with deadlines and other time sensitive work responsibilities that are part of their job.  The following is a list of suggestions that can help;

  • Reduce outside noise by wearing headphones with background music or foam earplugs.  Try using white noise or a fan to block or soften intrusive noises.


  • Shift work space to a quieter location.  Try facing your desk away from doors or distracting windows or ask to use an unused private office or conference room, if one is available.  If you don’t already have one, request a private office, if appropriate.


  • Adjust work schedule so that you can work your shift during quieter times in the office.  Perhaps coming in a bit earlier or working after many people leave.  If possible, work from home part time as well.   (But only if your home environment is conducive to getting work done, and doesn’t create even more distractions)


  • Keep a note pad near your work area to jot down any intrusive thoughts or ideas that might take you off task.  While you don’t want to forget the important thoughts or ideas that may present themselves,  you don’t want to be taken off task either.  Therefore, writing them down for a later time will be most helpful in keeping your focus on the current task.


  • Request a compatible co-worker to share office space.   Having to share an office with a co-worker who is very distracting can be extremely challenging.




Find someone in the office who has a similar work style to yours or (even better) one who is never in the office.

Along with the above tips, you might consider joining an ADD support group.  A support group is a great place to exchange ideas and find out what other people are doing to cope with similar concerns.   If you are an individual that has some great tools for managing distractions in the office, please let me know what has worked well for you.  I would love to hear some of your thoughts and ideas.

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Avoiding “Unavoidable” Interruptions

September 18th, 2011

By Leslie Rouder, LCSW, CHt.

When I first thought of writing this post, it was with the idea of providing people with ADD ways to get back on track after unavoidable interruptions, since I was recently asked to address this problem in my blog postings.  But the more I really started thinking about all the possible answers, the more I realized that there is no best way to get back on track if you have ADD and are interrupted.  This is because interruptions may make completing a task or project extremely difficult (and nearly impossible) for many people with ADD  to get back on track in a timely fashion. Now I understand that this is not very comforting to hear, but it is often the reality of the situation.

According to what research has shown, the average person working in an office is interrupted approximately every 8 minutes. (That’s over 50 times per day) In addition, the average person (without ADHD) takes 5 minutes to recover. That is over 4 hours a day, spent being interrupted and recovering. It would seem to me that almost anyone living in this fast paced life style (with or without ADD) might feel rather unproductive and a bit frustrated with the amount of unforeseen interruptions one encounters throughout the day. For this reason, my best advice on the idea of  unavoidable interruptions is to find ways to avoid them.

So the next question is how?

  • Make a list of what it is that you need to accomplish for the day.  Keep it to no more than 3 tasks.
  • Block out a segment of time that you will require to do this.
  • If you are in a distracting environment and can go elsewhere, find an alternative place that you can go to, where you will not be interrupted for this segment of time.  I have a client that goes to Denny’s (drinks several cups of excellent coffee) and studies for hours.  As an alternative, she will go to the beach and study by the ocean. 
  • If you are at home or in your office, turn off cell phones, or any electronics that are not necessary to the completion of your task that may distract you.  Turn the volume off of your computer so that you are not hearing when new e mails arrive.  
  • If you are in your office at work or at home, delegate tasks to others for the time segment that you have blocked out.  Put up a sign on your door saying “Do Not Disturb” and explain to your fellow workers or household members that you need their help in providing you this designated amount of uninterrupted time.
  • Use either ear plugs to block out noise or use static noise, background music, or TV sounds to help you stay focused.  Some people do better with no sounds, while others need background noise.
  • Keep plenty of water or snacks nearby, so that you do not get distracted by feeling thirsty or hungry while completing your work.
  • Some people work better alone, while others work better with a “body double”. (Someone in the room with them, which helps keep them on track) Find what works best for you and do it. 

Although there is no perfect solution to avoiding interruptions, if you use some of the above suggestions, I am sure you will be amazed at how much more productive you can be.  If there are other suggestions that you have found helpful and would like to share, please let me know.  I would love to hear how you have handled unavoidable interruptions effectively in your life.