For those of us who live with ADHD, maintaining a steady stream of focus may feel nearly impossible. Whether fresh ideas are pulling you into new directions that make it difficult to finish the task at hand or it simply takes a long time to accomplish projects, many people with ADHD may feel frustrated at what seems like a lack of progress.
However, there are a myriad of ways to manage ADHD symptoms to hone your focus on whatever work, creative project, or personal goal you’d like to accomplish. Today we’re exploring how you can utilize some handy tools to get through everything you need to do today, tomorrow, and next week.
What is ADHD?
ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a chronic condition that usually begins in childhood and often persists into adulthood, with symptoms of impulsiveness, attention difficulty, and hyperactivity. Having ADHD may lead to easily forgetting or losing things, struggling with organization, and having trouble with sustained productivity.
Some folks with ADHD can experience hyperfocus, a state of mind in which an individual can deeply concentrate on a particular task. While some may struggle to clean the home or complete a task, it may be easy for them to spend hours on an enjoyable activity such as reading, video games, sports, painting, or playing music.
Hyperfocus can benefit many people, from artists to scientists to designers, but it can also result in ignoring other tasks. Usually, people with ADHD cannot control when they experience hyperfocus, so it’s necessary to regulate overly engaging activities in order to balance one’s time more evenly between necessary tasks.
Challenges with ADHD
For those with ADHD, organization, time management, and focus can be quite difficult. Struggles with organization around work and life may lead to feeling overwhelmed by tasks around the home or at the office. Some may struggle to remember where they left a necessary tool or have difficulty keeping their work priorities in order.
Time management is another common challenge facing individuals with ADHD. A lack of time management may lead to missed deadlines or forgotten social meetups. When feeling overwhelmed by too many things, people with ADHD may lean into perfection or procrastination, which further obstructs productivity. Some individuals may forget to eat, leading to eating disorders such as binge eating or overeating to make up for the sudden onset of hunger felt later in the day.
Focus is constantly interrupted by internal daydreaming or drifting thoughts, or by external stimuli such as a phone call, a cute dog, or a clicking pen. Individuals with ADHD may have an overactive mind that results in difficulty sleeping, which further lowers the ability to concentrate the next day.
In today’s world, digital distractions constantly break our focus, and ADHD symptoms can be exacerbated by work notifications, text messages, social media, and much more. The ding of a notification or the buzz in your pocket are very concrete distractions that are difficult to ignore. It only takes seconds to hyperfocus into binge-watching a whole season on Netflix or get stuck doom scrolling through Instagram instead of beginning your music practice or finishing up a sales report.
Strategies for Staying Focused with ADHD
Luckily, there are a multitude of strategies you can utilize to manage ADHD symptoms, from eliminating distractions, splitting large tasks, assigning deadlines, and more. Consider how mixing these strategies can help you accomplish your goals.
- Large tasks can feel impossible to complete. However, breaking down something huge like “clean out my closet” into smaller tasks like “organize shoes,” “try on shirts,” “color-code dresses,” may allow you to better take control of accomplishing a goal at a pace easier for you. Furthermore, don’t try to multitask, which is overly taxing for ADHD brains. Wanting to clean your closet while watching a Netflix show divides your attention and may result in slower progress. Instead, some lighthearted music may be all you need to power you through the first section of your closet.
- Take back time management by assigning deadlines for every task. Research suggests that ADHD brains actually perform better under high pressure, and the completion of even a small task under a deadline may give ADHD brains the dopamine they lack to motivate them to keep pushing. Give yourself one hour to answer all necessary emails, until the end of the day to create an outline for your report, or by the weekend to clean your bathroom. Timed alarms for mealtimes can nudge you to begin cooking or eating so you have a consistent schedule.
- Leave a notepad at your workstation to jot down every distracting thought or idea that comes to mind. It may help to split these into two categories- long-term ideas and short-term tasks. Did you suddenly remember you need to book a doctor’s appointment for next week or add milk to this week’s grocery list? Instead of beginning the task and losing focus on your current work, add it to your short-term list.
- Long-term ideas may include trying a new recipe, finding an online herbalism class, or exploring a business strategy you read about last week. These are ideas that you can dedicate more time to understanding a bit later, perhaps next week or next month.
- Try out shorter focus periods. Instead of giving yourself 3 hours to write a report, try 30 minutes of sustained concentration before taking a break to do something else, like check your email, cook a meal, fold your laundry, or call a friend. Then you can return to another 30 minutes of writing your report until you’ve hit a satisfying stopping point for your day.
- The easiest thing to do is eliminate any distractions that may be hindering your productivity in your immediate environment. When it comes to your phone, put it in “Do Not Disturb” Mode, turn it off, or place it in an entirely different room to remove the possibility of emails, texts, calls, and other notifications. Placing a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door to your room or office space can dissuade people from chatty distractions. Mask auditory distractions with earplugs, instrumental music, or white noise.
- Tidy up your workplace; a less cluttered space can help with focus. If you need to get up and go to an entirely new coffee shop, business room, or building, give it a try.
Eliminate Distractions with Freedom
Having the willpower to remove distractions can be difficult. Even if you put your phone in a different room, you may find yourself visiting distracting sites on your laptop or computer without even thinking. A few minutes of scrolling and you’ll suddenly remember you originally meant to look up a company’s information, but have forgotten your mission entirely. Sometimes self-control fails to do the job. However, ADHD coach Gloria Sherrod believes people with ADHD can utilize technology to their advantage.
“Technology provides that instant gratification and dopamine boost that those with ADHD crave and really need. This can create an extra layer of distraction that everyone has but is especially disabling and harder to resist for those with ADHD,” Sherrod said in an interview. “On another hand, technology has helped people with ADHD be able to keep up with things in a way they couldn’t before so it’s a double-edged sword. I rely on this technology for my coaching and it’s wonderful in that way. “
A digital tool known as Freedom has been proven to be effective in helping people maintain focus. Freedom is an application that blocks you from accessing websites and apps that you find most distracting. You can customize different lists that pertain to particular categories based on your ideal focus session, so a creative focus session can block work-related websites and emails, while a work focus session may block social media apps and sites from both your phone and computer.
People with ADHD can truly benefit from Freedom as a way to find a way to eliminate digital distractions that detract from the things they want to accomplish. Apple even recently selected the Freedom App as Editor’s Choice Feature for Apps that support those with ADHD!
Here’s what one review had to say about Freedom’s impact:
“After I learned I had adult ADHD, I went searching for strategies to help me stay on task; especially since I run my own business. This app has its place as the first app on my desktop dock and on my iPhone dock. It’s the first app I turn on when I get to my desk. It’s worked well for me and it continues to be a resource that keeps me focused everyday.”
Freedom is available not only on iOS, but also on Samsung, Windows, and Google devices, and can collaborate across platforms and devices.
Another review praises its ability to help them set schedules:
“In love with this, it syncs all my devices macbook Samsung iPhone and I can create a custom list and block both apps and websites. Really helps me to focus! I have social media addiction alongside ADHD and I get nothing done. With this, you can set schedules daily times for specified blocklists.”
Making Your ADHD Work For You
Having ADHD may mean focusing for long periods of time may be difficult or finishing tasks may be difficult. However, Individuals with ADHD don’t have to feel that their condition prevents them from achieving their goals. By implementing strategies that mirror your bursts of energy without being overly structured, you’ll be able to accomplish everything from learning a new instrument to finishing your work projects.
Whether you decide to try maintaining a clean dedicated working space, breaking up large tasks into small chunks, or keeping notepads handy for all the ideas and to-do items that pop in your head, hopefully, you can test and discover strategies that work best with your flow. You may even be able to channel states of hyperfocus that aid your productivity.The most important aspect to achieving a productive work or creative session with ADHD is to eliminate distractions. With the aid of tools like Freedom, you’ll be able to block out digital distractions within seconds to better focus on the present task before you. Download Freedom today to begin!
Written by author Lauren Bally