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  • Episode 12

Standup meetings suck if you have ADHD

In today’s episode, I talk about why daily standups are awful for people with ADHD.


Hello. Hello. Hello. This is the ADHD for the win podcast. I’m Chris Ferdinandi. Thanks so much for joining me.

Today, I’m talking about why standup meetings that staple of the developer experience suck. If you have ADHD, let’s dig in. So web development and ADHD are actually a fantastic match.

Coding can put you in this Zen like hyper-focused state where you get a lot done and you build amazing things. You can be just absurdly productive when you hyper-focus in on your code. But the office practices around web development are really oriented towards neurotypical folks and they can be absolutely awful for folks with ADHD.

One of the office activities that I personally hate the most is the daily standup. A small or sometimes not so small group of devs stand around either in real life or in a video chat and share what they did yesterday and what they’re working on today.

Standup suck for a few reasons…

  • First, not every day is a productive one. I will often have days or even weeks where I may get some smaller stuff done but not anything big. I also have days or weeks where I churn out just orders of magnitude more work than my coworkers. It balances out in the end. I don’t feel bad about that. But standups are structured around the idea that you make predictable daily progress and that every day is about as productive as the last. And that’s just not how ADHD works.
  • Standups can trigger feelings of failure. Folks with ADHD typically have strong emotional reactions to things. It’s literally just a symptom of ADHD. It’s part of how we work and have dealt with being told that we’re not trying hard enough or we’re not living up to our potential for a lot of our lives by parents or teachers or whomever. The variability of our productivity compared to our peers and then putting that on display can really trigger some big feelings and that can conversely have a negative or as a result have a really negative effect on the rest of your productivity and just mess up kind of the whole day for you.
  • Standups break hyperfocus. So depending on when in the day they are and where you’re located 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. If you have ADHD, you know how kind of getting into the flow of things can be a little difficult, but then how once you do, you become like almost this juggernaut. If you remember that character from X-Men where you just you start moving and you don’t stop, right? Meetings and particularly like recurring daily something like a stand up can just absolutely ruin that and just break it and then it can set you back for a really long period of time.
  • And like honestly, standups are just boring as fuck. Like small group standups move pretty quickly, but I’ve been in some bigger group standups that last upwards of an hour and listening to that many people detail their work is boring and frankly pointless. It definitely falls under the whole this could have been an email category.
  • And in my opinion, standups are 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 we do about them?

The answer to that, I think depends on whether or not you’ve disclosed your ADHD to your company, whether or not you feel comfortable doing that and whether or not you feel comfortable asking for accommodations, but that’s another topic for another episode.

I’ve worked at some companies where standups were asynchronous and remote instead of like a set meeting at a set time. And I think that worked a lot better as a starting point. If you feel comfortable having this conversation with your manager, if you’re open about the fact that you have ADHD, you could suggest moving to that format if you’re struggling.

Anyways, that’s it for today. If you feel like your ADHD is holding you back, or you just want to learn more about how to unlock your neurodivergent superpowers, I send out a short email each weekday, head over to That’s ADHD for the win to sign up. That’s it for today. I’ll see you next time. Cheers.