I want to start with a story.
When I graduated from college for the first time in 2001 I took a job as an “executive trainee” for a large retailer. I had just come off a wonderful internship at an upscale luxury retailer.
Lets just say that transitioning from merchandising luxury handbags to using a markdown sticker gun did not go well.
I got bored. I got discouraged.
5 months later I had burned myself out and lost a promotion.
At the time I didn’t even care. I had no desire to continue working in retail.
And so began the struggle of my adult life – bouncing from job to job, trying to figure out what to do with myself.
Check out Failing Forward To Success for more info on my career mishaps.
I recently came out of the closet about the two competing sides of my personality that exist today. If you read my guest post then you are aware that I am productive at work these days despite my myriad of inattentive ADHD symptoms.
I have read more than a few posts on my group boards from women struggling with ADD/ADHD symptoms while at work. I desperately want to see my ADD girlfriends find success in work and in life.
In light of this I am offering my suggestions for you to supercharge your productivity in the workplace almost immediately.
Be On time
I cannot stress this enough. Everyone has the occasional rough morning with traffic or other issues but in order to be taken seriously you need to be on time. This rule applies whether you are an astrophysicist or you work at McDonalds. (Sorry I love The Big Bang Theory!)
The location is irrelevant – being on time 99% of the time makes you look responsible.
Being perceived as responsible is a good thing. Your boss will notice immediately, as will your coworkers.
Coworkers can make or break your career. Respect in the workplace is earned. Little things like being on time earn you respect.
This is how to make sure you are always on time. Or better yet…early.
Schedule Your Waking Time
Getting up in the morning is not easy. Unless you are a morning person like the hubs, in which case you likely are not reading this.
My alarm is set for 5:15 a.m. My clock is set 8 minutes fast, on purpose. So I am first pulled out of sleep at roughly 5:07 every morning. I know that I need at least 3 hours to get to work by 8 a.m.
How much time do you need from the time you wake up until you arrive at work?
Really think about this – and then SET YOUR ALARM.
If you can determine how much time you need to bathe, dress and get your children off to school you have won the first battle.
[ctt title=”Build time into your morning for things like clothing malfunctions, dropping your children off at school and traffic.” tweet=”Build time into your morning for things like clothing malfunctions, dropping your children off at school and traffic.” coverup=”QNMdf”]
If necessary, make a list of every single thing that has to happen from the time you wake up until you walk in the door at work. I have done this, and the list is staggering.
On a good day it would take me 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to work by 8 a.m. Check it out: (without judging my handwriting.)
Create structure in your day
When I say structure I am again referring to time. For the sake of simplicity, lets say you work 9 hours per day with a 1-hour lunch break.
You need to take the hours and break them down. Here is an example:
First 15 minutes – Say hello to your coworkers or anyone else you feel obligated to. Grab a drink of water or coffee, hit the restroom and then settle in to your workday.
60 minutes – Try to knock off the little things that take up your time. In my first 60 minutes I like to return calls and work emails. I check the calendar to see what our office has going on. I complete annoying tasks such as filing paperwork or organizing the files themselves.
Take care of administrative tasks or the, “low-hanging fruit” as I like to call it.
15 minutes – Take a break. This is the time that I allow myself to check personal emails and chat with coworkers a little more.
My reasoning for short breaks is twofold: it gives your brain a break, and it allows you to form relationships with your coworkers.
Your relationships at work are extremely important, particularly when you have ADD/ADHD. (There is more information on this when you sign up for my mailing list and receive my free eBook. No worries, I don’t email often.)
60 -90 minutes – I schedule client meetings, office meetings and any major creative projects for this mid-morning time frame. By 9:30 or so I am much more articulate and I have had enough coffee to sit through a meeting.
Some people are morning people. (Not my people, that’s for sure.)
Some people like myself are more creative and motivated in the middle of the day.
Some people are just getting revved up starting at 4 p.m.
15 minutes – Another short break to check your personal email and your cell for messages/texts – if time allows take a short lap around the office to be sociable and get your body moving.
60 minutes – Take lunch. Personally, I feel better when I move my body a little so I like to walk to the local market or at least around the block. My coworkers have recently joined me in this walk. We all agree that we are more productive if we take a full lunch hour.
I think you can see the pattern I am creating here.
Continue breaking your day into these 1- 1.5-hour working segments with short breaks.
At the end of the day take at least15 minutes for yourself before you leave to compile a list of items that you have not finished for the day. Here is a free downloadable end of day reflection sheet for you.
Physically write your list. It feels more official that way.
This list of unfinished business should be front and center on your desk in the morning. (If you are anything like me you remember nothing from day-to-day.)
Success at work is all about relationships. Get to know your coworkers.
Find out about the guy who likes to hunt squirrels or the girl who is obsessed with online dating. I’m not saying you need to dig into their personal lives, but get to know them. You never know when you might need a friend.
Accept that every workplace will have a whiner.
Every workplace will also have a tattletale. Or at least a person that tries to sabotage everyone else. Look at this person as an opportunity to hone your interpersonal skills.
Study the office jacka$$ so that you can learn how not to behave.
I use this phraseology in jest – but really, studying what doesn’t work is a great way to figure out what does.
I recently had a client accuse me of sending him an empty envelope in the mail. When he made the accusation in front of my office, my coworker friend spoke up right away, saying that she was there when I was stuffing the manila envelope. The subject was dropped.
I reciprocated when a client got quite nasty with her this week. When I heard the commotion in the conference room I immediately went inside to assist her.
My point here is that when you are loyal to your coworkers they will be loyal to you. They can also serve as accountability partners.
My coworkers know (because I have told them) that I work really hard to compensate for my ADHD symptoms. They understand that when I am working, head down with my ear buds, that I cannot be bothered to answer the phone.
They support my attempts to pull my weight in the office, and they forgive me when I make a mistake because we have a genuine relationship.
With that said…
Avoid office gossip
I have worked in 3 types of environments throughout my career trajectory: retail, office and education. Each of these environments had their own set of challenges and each had advantages.
One thing they all had in common was gossip.
When people work together, breathing the same air and talking about the same business, conflicts arise.
Many of these conflicts arise out of a misunderstanding created through technology.
For example, when I was teaching I witnessed an epic battle that erupted when one teacher sent an email to another teacher questioning her choice of enrichment materials for her class. The issue in question boiled down to the tone of the email.
Some things to consider:
– When you email someone it is very hard to convey your tone and inflection, so choose your words carefully.
– When reading email see above.
– If you are witness to office gossip politely excuse yourself.
– Do not tell someone if you hear gossip about him or her. Put it out of your mind. Yes, this is difficult, but it is possible.
I am famous for stating, “I don’t know her well enough to comment on that.” Works every time.
I am the most non-confrontational person on the planet and I have had to force myself to speak to people that have been talking smack about me.
Talking smack is a great expression, no?
Anyway, just make sure you are wearing extra strength deodorant, plan what you will say…and then do it.
Every single time I have confronted someone head-on it has turned out to be a positive experience.
You are there to do a job or perform a service in exchange for money. You are not there to speculate on what anyone else in your workplace is doing. (Or not doing as the case may be.)
Keep things light and positive and communicate openly. I promise you will not regret it.
This is a biggy. Always, always take responsibility for your actions at work.
If you are late, apologize.
If you miss a deadline, stay late and finish the project.
Whatever you do, don’t start denying the obvious. Don’t point fingers at anyone else.
Only you can own your mistakes and only you can repair them.
If you fail to complete work assigned to you go to the supervisor and tell them the truth. Don’t make excuses, just tell them you missed the deadline, and offer a sincere apology.
Explain what you will do differently next time.
The more you bring to the table with your sense of integrity and loyalty to your employer, the more likely he/she is to consider you an asset to their business or department.
You don’t have to lose your job over a simple mistake.
keep personal internet usage to a minimum
In our technology obsessed daily lives, the idea of missing a Facebook post or a text message is horrifying. Or is it? How often does anything vitally important happen on Facebook?
I like Facebook. You all know I use Facebook for our group.
My life will not end if I cannot check Facebook until I get home from work. Neither will yours.
At work I recommend you check your personal email and other social sites every couple of hours. Here are some quick tips:
– Keep it fast – less than 10 minutes.
– Keep it work appropriate.
– Do not open any attachments that may have adult content. (Duh!)
I once had a boss tell me that I shouldn’t use my office email address to send personal emails to my (then) boyfriend. He said a couple other things that implied he had actually read my emails.
I could have freaked out, but I knew nothing in those emails was inappropriate.
I also knew that this same guy looked at porn all the time on his computer at work.
This experience exemplifies some things we all know but choose to ignore:
– Even the smallest employers will monitor your email and Internet usage, and
– Sometimes life as an employee is not fair.
Is it fair that I wasn’t allowed to email my (then) boyfriend from a work email address while this guy looked at porn all day? Nope.
Did I complain? Nope.
As it turns out he got fired a few years after I left the position.
You can ponder the karmic implications of that situation on your own.
Because this post is getting entirely too long I will wrap it up.
I am sort of dipping my toe into the waters of advice giving. Is that a thing? Advice giving?
Anyway, I hope that my advice was useful to you. And I hope that you will join my mailing list and download my Ebook where I will expand upon and go even deeper into detail on all of these topics.
I do not consider myself an expert on ADHD.
I do consider myself to be an expert on living your best life with ADHD.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot.
Because I am trying to offer some actionable advice here, I took it upon myself to gather resources on all of the above subjects just for you!
If you are at work and you cannot click on any links I have also saved these articles to my “work Stuff” board on Pinterest. You can follow me by clicking the link on the right sidebar of this post.
For info on being on time, check out:
http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/935.html via ADDitude.
http://time.com/106815/stop-being-late/ via Time Magazine online and Refinery29.
For info on creating structure (time management) at work, check out:
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/219553 via Entrpreneur.
For info on getting along with coworkers, check out:
https://hbr.org/2014/05/most-work-conflicts-arent-due-to-personality/ via Harvard Business Review.
https://hbr.org/2014/02/tackle-conflicts-with-conversation/ via Harvard Business Review.
For info on taking responsibility for your actions, check out:
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2008/05/19/youve-made-a-mistake-at-work-now-what via UsNews & World Report.