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New disorder dogs overworked leaders

by on
in Meeting Management,Office Management

If work overload sometimes makes you feel as if you might have an adult version of attention deficit disorder (ADD) … you might.

A psychiatrist studying this phenomenon calls it attention deficit trait (ADT). Some facts:

ADT is characterized by multitasking and overload, and it sounds like this: “We’re working flat out just to stay afloat, and we’re not accomplishing anything important. It’s driving me crazy.”

Unlike ADD, a neurological disorder that’s partly genetic, ADT comes purely from the workplace.

Working harder won’t fix it.

Here’s what you can do:
  1. Recognize the beast. When you’re confronted with the sixth decision after the fifth interruption on top of the third mix-up, your brain begins to shut down.

  2. Reset your brain. When you start feeling overwhelmed, do one of these things to trick your brain into thinking it has switched from “fight or flight” mode back to rational, cerebral mode:

    • Reset your watch.

    • Write a note about a neutral topic (describing your house, for example).

    • Open the dictionary and read a few definitions.

    • Take five minutes to work on a crossword puzzle.

    • Start a task but tackle just the easiest part, like writing the subject line of a memo about it.

  3. Reset your organization’s brain. First, halt the practice of eliminating support staff. The more time leaders spend on administrative stuff, the less time they have for their real work: moving the organization forward.

    Second, don’t ignore the symptoms of ADT: employees who create clutter, cut corners, make careless decisions and squander their smarts. Provide amenities to help them find work/life balance so they can focus.
— Adapted from “Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform,” Edward M. Hallowell, Harvard Business Review.

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