How is it possible that someone with ADHD can focus for hours on something that’s interesting? It’s a common misconception that people with Attention Deficit have a deficit of attention. It would be more accurate to say we have trouble paying attention appropriately. This intense concentration we sometimes experience is called hyper-focus. It’s the other extreme. Sometimes it’s as inappropriate as not being able to focus at all.
The ideal solution is to arrange your life so that the things you tend to hyper-focus on are things that bring you closer to your goals. For example, if you are an artist, it would be advantageous to get lost in a painting and oblivious to the world for six hours. But if you’re an accounting student and you have a final exam tomorrow morning, getting lost in that painting is probably not going to result in a good grade.
Here are seven strategies to help you manage ADHD hyper-focus:
- Identify the types of activities you tend to hyper-focus on.
- Don’t start any hyper-focus prone activities close to bedtime, or before doing something you’re likely to procrastinate on.
- Make it a point to be aware of your mental state at all times. We often don’t even realize it when we’re hyper-focused. Being aware of when you’re in it is the first step towards getting out of it.
- Practice being fully present. Use mindfulness exercises to stay in the here and now.
- Use timers and alarms to be cognizant of how much time has elapsed since you started the activity.
- Change your physical position to help break a hyper-focus as soon as you recognize it.
- Plan milestones in your projects. Stop every time you reach one.
Hyper-focus can be a wonderful gift if it’s used constructively, for things we truly want to focus on. It can be a curse if we hyper-focus on things that don’t matter at the expense of everything else. Controlling it is the tricky part.
Editor’s note: Do you hyperfocus? We’d love to hear what you are passionate about and what do you do to keep the rest of your life in balance.