Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) face many challenges in the workplace. Following directions, remaining on task, completing projects, and organizing tasks are just a few problems that can arise at work, but coping with long business meetings can be a particularly challenging issue.

ADHD is often diagnosed during the elementary school years, but studies show that 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD still exhibit symptoms as adults, and about 2.5% of adults are diagnosed with ADHD.

ADHD can be difficult to diagnose in adulthood. In fact, the requirement that several symptoms be present before the age of 12 conveys the importance of clinical presentation during childhood. While adult’s recall of childhood symptoms is often considered unreliable in the clinical setting (necessitating ancillary information, i.e. old report cards or family reports), current research does suggest that ADHD can manifest in adulthood with or without a previous childhood diagnosis.

In most individuals, symptoms of ADHD do change course during adolescence and adulthood. To that end, it’s useful to understand the how ADHD manifests in adulthood.

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Symptoms of ADHD in Adults

The defining feature of ADHD is a persistent pattern or inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interfere with functioning (in more than one area) for a period of at least six months. For adults, ADHD symptoms can include:
• Failure to pay close attention to details
• Difficulty remembering information
• Difficulty following directions
• Difficulty concentrating or remaining on task
• Struggling to organize tasks
• Difficulty completing work on time
• Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
• Social intrusiveness – frequent interruptions or making important decisions without consulting others
• Hyper-focus: Intense focus on things of interest (i.e. shopping online, video games) or tasks that are rewarding/stimulating
• Reckless behavior
• Poor planning
• Easily stressed out
• Explosive temper
• Difficulty sitting still
• Excessive talking
• Becoming bored easily

Risks Associated with Adult ADHD

Adults diagnosed with ADHD have lower levels of employment and suffer from poor work performance due to their symptoms. Adult ADHD also puts people at risk of increased traffic accidents, job loss, and substance abuse.

Strategies to Stay on Task During Business Meetings

Business meetings are just one example of a situation at work that may be challenging if you have ADHD. A long meeting is a recipe for distraction, but there are ways to mitigate the symptoms of ADHD that may crop up in these environments and help adults with ADHD stay on task.

Choose your seat carefully.
Arriving at meetings early to secure a seat away from distractions is important. Try to choose a seat close to the speaker (or person leading the meeting) so that your focus and attention remains on the subject of the meeting. Keep your back to any windows to reduce a wandering mind, and avoid sitting near doors in case of interruptions.

Prepare in advance.
If materials are provided prior to the meeting, make sure to read through them carefully and make notes about any questions you might have or ideas you want to share. In preparing ahead of time you can avoid the risk of impulsive comments or interruptions.

In the event that materials are not available in advance, check in with colleagues to discuss the topic of the meeting and go over a few ideas to organize your thoughts.

Get some exercise before the meeting.
Physical activity arouses the brain and improves focus. You don’t need to schedule a full gym session to reap the benefits of physical activity. A brisk walk up and down the nearest stairs a few times or a few laps around the building will do the trick.

Eat some protein.
Protein helps balance your blood sugar and focus. Fill up on a high protein snack before the meeting to give your brain a boost. Keep snack packs of raw nuts handy to eat on the go. Lean chicken and turkey are also good choices. Protein powders can work in a pinch but read the labels carefully – you want to avoid sugar.

Keep a fidget toy in your pocket.
A small stress ball in your pocket is a great way to cope with the urge to move and fidget during the meeting. Attempting to suppress the need to move can actually intensify the feeling. Keeping fidget toys handy meets the need without disrupting the meeting.

Consider taking notes.
Note taking works for some people with ADHD, but not others. On the one hand, taking notes can help you focus. On the other hand, you might end up hyper-focusing on the notes and lose your focus on the meeting.

Enlist support.
One supportive colleague can be a huge help when it comes to staying focused and following through on items discussed in the meeting. Develop a secret signal your colleague can use to help get your attention if your mind wanders. Schedule time to meet with that colleague after the meeting for a quick recap and to discuss any lingering questions.

The best thing you can do is identify and track your own symptoms. When you know your specific triggers and how your brain responds to lengthy meetings, you can implement the strategies that work best for you.

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Last Updated: Jan 10, 2020