Working with Distractible People

A previous blog post offered tips for distractible adults, with or without ADHD, to be more focused and effective at work. But what happens when the distractible adult is not you, but rather someone with whom you work closely? Adults with ADD can be some of the most gregarious, innovative, and fun people to have on your work team. However, other characteristics of that wonderfully creative coworker can include difficulties with prioritization, task completion, and forgetfulness.

ADHD manifests in different ways, so not all ADHD adults will have the same strengths or challenges. Below are some common behaviors that distractible people demonstrate along with suggestions on how you can more effectively work with them.


Challenge: Half-Finished Hallie starts many tasks but is less enthusiastic about finishing what she’s started. The result is a lot of active projects and tasks, a very stressed-out Hallie, and annoyed coworkers.

Strategies: Encourage Hallie to track, not only all of her active tasks, but also the reasons why the tasks or projects need to be completed. Reminders of why something is being done can help maintain motivation. Additionally, make sure that all of Hallie’s projects are broken down into tasks with deadline dates. A to-do without a date is a “to-don’t!”


Challenge: Overcommitted Oliver runs himself (and others) ragged by saying “yes” too quickly and too often when asked to take on additional projects or volunteer roles. He is excited by new possibilities and doesn’t want to disappoint anybody who asks him for help.

Strategies: Encourage Oliver to maintain a list of his active projects, committees, and other commitments. When Oliver’s “overyessing” adds another item to the list, ask him where it fits into his overall priorities or what will be removed from the list to make room for this added item. When a new project or opportunity doesn’t fit on the active list, but Oliver still wants to do it eventually, encourage him to add it to his Someday-Maybe List.


Challenge: Ten-Minute Toni grossly underestimates the amount of time that tasks or projects will take. Her time estimates are unrealistic (“only 10 minutes!”), and she has a difficult time meeting promised deadlines.

Strategies: Ask Toni how long she thinks a task or project will take. If it is not realistic, provide cogent business reasons why. Encourage her to consider that, although a particular task itself may only take ten minutes, for example, she may not have ten minutes to spare until tomorrow or the next day.


Challenge: Forgetful Fred has difficulty recalling the tasks he delegates and instructions he gives to his staff. He will delegate tasks in rapid succession and change the deadline dates or project parameters from one day to the next. His staff are continually jumping from one task to the next and fear what will change when they next speak with Fred.

Strategies: Maintain a comprehensive list of everything you have to do, including deadline dates. When Fred adds another item to your list, always ask him to help you prioritize it in the context of all of your active tasks. When he delegates something to you verbally, follow up with an email confirming your understanding of his expectations.


Challenge: Indecisive Isabelle suffers from “analysis paralysis.” She continually analyzes different options and procrastinates making final decisions. She gathers more and more data out of fear of missing something important.

Strategies: Where appropriate, impose time and budget limits on the decision Isabelle needs to make. Then help Isabelle evaluate the options she has identified. Do not add more options to her list. Ask open-ended questions that will push her toward eliminating options in order to arrive at the best solution.


Nobody’s perfect – not me, not you, not your coworkers. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Adults with ADD may have more challenges in the areas of time management and organization, but they also tend to be energetic, creative, intuitive, flexible, and successful. ADHD is one of the many individual differences that contribute to workplace diversity and the resulting success of any business.

If you are an adult with ADHD struggling with some of the issues described above, contact me. Let’s schedule some time to talk.


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


  1. Janet Barclay

    I think I’ve worked with all of these people at one time or another! Thanks for the great information.

  2. Olive Wagar

    Using a Time Timer has helped me improve my time awareness!


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