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Daily standup meetings suck if you have ADHD

Web development and ADHD are a fantastic match! Coding can put into a zen-like hyperfocus state where you get a lot done and build amazing things.

But the office practices around web development are really oriented towards neurotypical folks, and can be absolutely awful for folks with ADHD.

One of the office activities I hate the most is the daily standup.

A small (or not so small) group of devs stand around (IRL or in a video chat) and share what they did yesterday and what they’re working on today.

Standups suck for a few reason…

  • Not every day is a productive day. I’ll have days or even weeks where I may get some smaller tasks done, but not anything big. I also have days or weeks where I churn out orders of magnitude more work than my coworkers. It balances in the end, but standups are structured around predictable, daily progress. That’s now how ADHD works.
  • Standups can trigger feelings of failure. Folks with ADHD typically have strong emotional reactions to things, and have dealt with being told we’re not trying hard enough or not living up to our potential for most of our lives. The variability of our productivity compared to our peers (and putting that on display) can really trigger some big feelings.
  • They break hyperfocus. Depending on when the in the day they are and what your natural ADHD flow is, they can throw off your entire day and tank your ability to shift into hyperfocus and get stuff done.
  • They’re boring AF. Small-group standups move pretty quickly, but I’ve been in some bigger-group standups that last upwards of an hour. Listening to that many people detail their work is boring and pointless. Definitely falls under “this could have been an email.”
  • They’re a bad proxy for good communication. The goal of a standup is for people on a team whose work depends on each other to understand who’s working on what, where they are in the process, and if anyone needs help or has more capacity. None of those things require a standup. Your ticketing tools can and should convey all of that information already, and project managers can have conversations with individuals on the team as needed.

So, standups suck, but what can you do about them?

The answer to that depends on whether or not you’ve disclosed your ADHD to your company, and whether or not you feel comfortable asking for accommodations. But that’s another topic for another article.

I’ve worked at some companies where standups were async and remote instead of a set meeting, and that worked a lot better. As a starting point, you could suggest moving to that format if you’re struggling.