ADHD and Time Lost at Work – What to Do?

In 2005, a report from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) found that adult ADHD accounted for greater than 120 million lost days at work in the United States which is $19.5B in lost revenue (Kessler et al. 2005a).

This is the part in the conversation where those adults struggling with ADHD say, tell me something I didn’t already know. I know I am late or miss days, but PLEASE someone tell me how to help avoid it, give me advice on how to keep my job!

First of all being late and missing work happens, on occasion, to everyone. In a 2010 Careerbuilder survey, 15% of those surveyed admitted to being late at least once in that week. Here is how the excuses broke down:

  • traffic-related (30 percent),
  • lack of sleep (19 percent),
  • bad weather (9 percent),
  • childcare issues (8 percent).

Being late to work and missing work is part of your state of mind or in some cases your mindlessness. That’s right, because it is not on the forefront of your mind it can automatically move to the bottom of the list in a hurry. And make a note, the survey showed the “excuses.” So admitting you have something to do with being late and taking accountability is where you must truly begin!

Here are some additional strategies that will help.

Set up your Launch Pad: Dr. Woods had discussed this being imperative for children and we believe this is instrumental for adults, college students, really all of us!

Your launch pad is exactly that, it is where all of your necessary belongings are for take off. It should be near the door, there should be a place for your coat and then a small side table with a notepad and pen, this is for your daily lists of what you need, basket for your keys, outbox for papers that need to go with you that day, etc…

Set your alarm, even on days that you aren’t scheduled to work. Get in a routine. What do you need to “wake up” in the morning? Is it coffee, reading, the news? There are certain things we all have in our minds about what is needed to get out of bed every morning. Some people feel the need to lay in bed for 10 minutes before they are “ready” and others need 3 cups of coffee. Know what this is about yourself.

Focus Homework Task: Take an inventory. For one week before implementing anything new simply carry around a pad and pen. Each day track and write the following:

  1. What time did I go to bed
  2. What time did my alarm go off
  3. What time did I get out of bed
  4. Did I go back to sleep, lay there, or get right up (and how long)
  5. What happens next and how long each task takes (coffee, shower, bathroom routine, news, etc… time/track the order and length of time for each of these)
  6. What time did you get out the door
  7. What time did you get to work
  8. What time where you at your work station, desk, etc…
  9. Make a note if anything was happening between steps 6-8 – stopping for coffee, chatting with a co-worker, etc…

What should happen is, that you should see over the course of the week where you might be able to make some extra time, where you might be abusing time or not being as efficient.

Experimental studies have docu­mented significant effects of treatment on the impair­ments associated with adult ADHD (Barkley et al. 2005; Adler et al. 2007) and we do recommend considering being tested and evaluated to further understand YOUR ADHD and the concerns and impacts on YOUR life for proper treatment and to move towards success!

Try the homework assignment we would love to hear back from you!

*Address for correspondence: R. C. Kessler, Ph.D., Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, 180 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

*For a listing of Dr. Barkley’s publications see his website:

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