Many adults who discover that they have Attention Deficit Disorder worry about what this means to their employers. Some people choose not to disclose their ADD. Others embrace it for what it is…a mixed bag. Attention Deficit Disorder means energy, creativity, and an unusual approach to problem solving. It also means difficulties with executive function (the ability to organize time, space, and tasks while monitoring and evaluating their performance) and a need to structure their work space and large projects.
Is it possible for a person who has ADD and an unpredictable job to do well at work? Of course it is! They need to take their energy and channel it into creative problem solving. Use these strengths to develop structures that allow them to stay focused on their work over a long period of time.
If a person who has problems with Attention Deficit Disorder and executive function difficulties is given a project to manage, it is easy to underestimate how much time needs to be spent on a quality product. Also, elements of the product might not be completed, because they were not recognized as necessary. Parts could be completed hastily, because they weren’t remembered until the last minute. How can these pitfalls be avoided?
As soon as the project is assigned, make a calendar (easy to do on the computer) of all of the time covered in the project. Fill in personal obligations and any work-related responsibilities that take more than two hours. That is time that won’t be used for the project and needs to be taken into account. If the person is going to be away from the office, those days need to be blocked out.
Read through the project and analyze what discrete parts it has. Estimate a time to complete each. Make notes. People with ADD often have on-again, off-again, memories. They can’t rely on memory alone, if a project is important and complicated. Parts of projects are often inter-related. Planning helps those elements come together seamlessly. If other people are involved in the execution of the project, their roles need to be factored into the plan.
Next, try to find areas of potential problems. Who could best be assigned to deal with these possible glitches? What framework might be put into place to avoid a major headache? Use your resources early and wisely. Don’t let a potential problem spring into full bloom! Take care of it before it happens.
Make lists of items to be completed. Assign those items a due date and a person to complete them. Ask for short reports. Do this over e-mail, so that there will be a record of the correspondence. A woman might wonder, “Did I speak to Robert about that due date tomorrow?” It’s easy to check the e-mail folder. If somebody is consistently failing to reply to e-mails, start marking the e-mails, “first request,” “second request,” until you get to the fourth request. If you still have no response, see them in person to find out what the issues are. Don’t wait for weeks to find out where somebody is on their part of the project! Store e-mail where it won’t get wiped out by a server routine! Have computer folders dedicated to each project that is in progress. Back up your files on a flash drive or on another server. Nobody wants to lose weeks of work product.
Some time needs to be spent on a daily basis reviewing where the project is, in terms of completion. Lists of items to be completed need to be updated. This is crucial to relieve stress. When a person knows where she is time-wise, then she can make choices. If a woman doesn’t have a clue about what still needs to be done, good choices are hard to make.
Planning a project is not a one-time activity. Project management is a dynamic pursuit. Daily assessments must be made. Updates need to be factored into the schedule and the to-do lists. Team members have got to be informed about the progress that is being made and lack of progress. Make sure that you have a visual reminder of what has been completed and what needs to be finished.
In cases where there is a lack of progress that is ongoing, timely decisions are required. First, identify the reason for the lack of progress. If it is something that can be changed by the Project Manager, change it. It is essential to get someone with authority involved when the problem hasn’t been able to be resolved. Do this early enough so that the entire project is not jeopardized.
Complicated projects can be stressful. People with ADD and executive function problems are sometimes worried that a project can turn into a disaster. Configuring an assignment for success requires building structure within the project. With careful planning and focused attention to detail, managing a project can be a way for the person with ADD to shine in the workplace.
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