Betty, the remodeler's assistant, whispered in my ear, “He just can't stay with anything. I've been trying to get him to finish some estimates that might turn into jobs but he doesn't settle down and do them!” Betty's assessment fit well with some other difficulties I had noticed the remodeler, Jim, having as I evaluated his company.

“Jim, I'm certainly not a doctor,” I said, “but have you ever been tested for attention deficit disorder?” With that, Jim pulled a vial of pills of the most common ADD medicine out of his desk drawer. We then moved on to how he might manage his particular challenge: doing the quiet, settled work that every remodeler must do.

Since that epiphany 10 years ago, I have found that two or three clients I work with each year exhibit the signs of ADD — specifically distractibility, impulsivity, and restlessness. The remodeling business is so full of different roles, different jobsites, and different crises that it gives even ardent multitaskers a challenge. It is an attractive business for those who are distractible, impulsive, and restless. If these descriptions fit you, you might want to do some “googling” to research this condition or visit

Self-Inflicted Syndrome But now a prominent psychiatrist has written in a highly respected business journal that we can actually create a similar syndrome to ADD in ourselves and in those who work for us. In the January 2005 Harvard Business Review, Edward Hallowell M.D. describes what happens to our brains when we try to do too much too quickly.

“Everywhere people rely on their cell phones, e-mail, and digital assistants in the race to gather and transmit data, plans, and ideas faster and faster,” notes Hallowell.

In his article entitled “Why Smart People Underperform,” Hallowell describes how our demanding jobs can lead to overloaded circuits and ADT or attention deficit trait.

While Hallowell defines ADD as a “neurological disorder that has a genetic component and can be aggravated by environmental and physical factors, ADT springs entirely from the environment.” In other words, we bring it on ourselves by multitasking to the max. In fact you may be reading this column while otherwise occupied. It is a response to our hyperkinetic environment — often self-induced.

Heal Thyself The core symptoms of ADT are described as distractibility, inner frenzy, and impatience. Sound familiar? “People with ADT have difficulty staying organized, setting priorities, and managing time,” says the author.

What to do?

Hallowell recommends the old standbys of eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising at least 30 minutes every other day, and taking vitamins. For work he gives 12 tips for breaking the brain overload. Here are the first three.