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Fine line between being a creative, honest workaholic and turning into a scatterbrained procrastinator with a big mouth

Workaholic I work hard; I always have. That helps on the job. Unfortunately, since ADD/ADHD makes some things -- such as being prompt, focused, and respectful -- that are simple for others, challenging for me, this work ethic doesn't apply to all tasks. I can tackle assignments that require these skills, but doing so costs me far more time and energy than average person.

My vain attempts to try and pass off or over this kind of unrewarding and mundane work have led me to waste many days arguing with my bosses. My point? They were asking me to do something inane. Theirs? The work needed to be done regardless. Naturally, I always lost. And at what cost?

I wouldn't dare to generalize my personal experience -- work circumstances and ADD/ADHD behaviors are simply too diverse -- but I will offer the following observation: There's a fine line between being a creative, honest workaholic and turning into a scatterbrained procrastinator with a big mouth. Even when I couldn't tell the difference, my soon-to-be-former employers always could. You need to make sure you're on the right side.

Inner executive

Poor time management, difficulty setting priorities, and other job-related difficulties bedevil workers with ADD. These problems all have to do with executive functioning, a set of cognitive abilities arising within the brain's prefrontal lobe.

"This is the part of the brain that does self-monitoring," says Nadeau. "Your executive functioning tells you whether you're on time or not, whether you're doing what you're supposed to be doing and doing it in an efficient way - basically, the skills that we expect most adults to have. In people with ADD, the prefrontal lobe is chronically under-aroused, and so the ability to monitor behavior is impaired."

Poor executive functioning explains why a person with ADD can waste hours on a minor task or get distracted by the slightest interruption. It's why papers never get filed and the office is always a mess.

To their colleagues, workers with ADD may appear to be irresponsible, disorganized, or downright lazy. In fact, people with ADD often work harder than their colleagues in a desperate attempt to keep up. "Often, the patients I see are smart enough and capable enough to do their jobs, but they find they're not working up to their potential, and that their attention span seems to fluctuate," says Novotni. "Sometimes they'll do brilliant and amazing things, but other times they're just not there. Everything seems to come harder for them. They're like ducks, appearing to swim effortlessly, but paddling furiously under the surface."


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