ADHD and Long Work Hours! What's Going On?

Work/life balance is a challenge for many couples, and ADHD can make things worse.  It could be that an ADHD partner is in a high intensity job that requires long hours almost as a price of entry.  So, it’s possible ADHD doesn’t have anything to do with long work hours that are affecting you and your family.

However, ADHD often plays a role.

Some symptoms of ADHD, such as difficulty planning, chronic distraction, and difficulty completing tasks, can make executing projects in an efficient manner hard to do.  Work days may extend to compensate for symptoms, or to double check you’ve gotten the details just right.  In the course of working with many couples, here are some of the work issues I’ve seen that are related to ADHD:

  • Difficulty with planning and organizing - takes longer to do the same amount of work. Address this with EF skills training with a good ADHD coach that specializes in business issues.
  • Fear of failure leading to needing to get it 'just right', which takes extra time (the person spends a huge amount of time double checking work, and lots of time on the last 5% of a project. Address this anxiety with Cognitive Behavioral Training (CBT) to start moving away from fear about needing to do it better.)
  • Wanting to avoid interacting with family. It’s more rewarding to work than to have difficult or fraught interactions with a partner.  Time working becomes the unassailable escape from difficult to manage conflict.  Address this with therapy with an ADHD-savvy professional.
  • General lack of awareness of time – the partner simply isn’t aware that time is passing and frequently arrives home much later than agreed to for no reason other than that they got caught up in stuff at work
  • ‘Night owl’ biological clock – many with ADHD are night-owls and therefore may work at home or office late into the evening because it’s a particularly productive time of day for them.  These folks also tend to sleep in late, increasing friction at home if a partner needs assistance with kids in the morning.  Address this through negotiation around what is needed by each partner.
  • Sleep deprivation – many with ADHD have difficulty sleeping well, resulting in sleep deprivation that worsens ADHD symptoms and therefore negatively impacts their performance.  They may need longer work hours to compensate.  Address this by creating a sleep hygiene regimen that increases total hours of sleep.
  • Slow reader – many with ADHD are slow readers or avoid reading all together. If an ADHD partner is in a job with a lot of reading or report writing, this could add to hours.  This might be addressed in a number of ways – partnering with others for writing; moving to a job that requires less reading; getting eye tracking training to improve reading speed and comprehension and more.
  • Too many distractions – the work environment doesn’t allow for an easily-distracted ADHDer to settle into a project to complete it.  There are too many phone calls, emails, people stopping by, and other distractions.  Working during ‘off hours’ provides more focused time.  Address this by clearing times for uninterrupted work.  That might mean only reading emails twice a day; using headphones to block out distractions; closing an office door (particularly at home) or finding a quieter place to work.
  • Work supports self-image - for some with ADHD (particularly some men), I see that work may feel like the one place where they excel.  Their reward-focused brain draws them to spending more time with this rewarding activity, and less time in the sometimes emotion-laden home/family life.

One resource for ways to address time management issues is the book ADHD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life.  Though I most often recommend it for issues at home, it can also shed light on ways to improve time management at work.