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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.
Are you gearing up for finals? Can’t wait for it all to be over? Does this sound like you? “I know I shouldn’t wait until the last minute and pull an all-nighter. My work isn’t the best it could be, but it’s the only way I can get motivated.”
Getting back on track:
You can still get yourself back on track, even with a few days left. And here’s how. Assess your time:
- Make a calendar. Get some paper, open up a spread sheet, or set up a Google calendar.
- Sketch out a calendar for the upcoming days remaining in the school year. Block out both the days and leave space for the hours of the day. Here’s a weekly planner to give you an idea of what it might look like. (You can also download and print it.)
- Block out on your calendar plan all your classes and other critical time commitments (ex. job, sports — things you MUST do).
- Block out when you’ll be sleeping and eating.
- On the second page, list all the other things you have to get done.
- Circle the items that have big consequences for not getting them done.
- Everything else is lower priority right now. You can even let them fall off the list for now.
Break your project into smaller bits:
- Identify all the steps you need to do to get a big project done. For a paper, for instance, you need time to do research, brainstorm and/or write a draft, write the final draft, and hand it in.
- Block of time on your calendar for each of those steps.
- If it looks like you have extra hours left on your calendar plan, look to the next higher priority tasks and start scheduling them until you run out of hours in the day.
- Don’t forget to schedule some short breaks along the way.
Stick to your plan!
- Keep the plan with you 24/7. Put it in your agenda, or your phone.
- Keep checking your plan. Stick to it to the best of your ability. If it’s 1:00 pm and your plan says you should be done with lunch and working on the draft, go work on the draft.
- Remember, it is an emergency plan to get you through a tough spot. One way or another, it will be over soon.
How an ADHD Coach can help
- If you find yourself in a last minute study crunch so much of the time it feels like a habit, and ADHD coach can help you avoid emergency situations in the first place.
- One of the characteristics of ADHD is a tendency to shoot from the hip, or the “ready, fire, aim” syndrome. A coach works with you over time to develop better planning and self-management skills; skills that will help you manage your time and your things so you’re on top of your work and the rest of your life and not overwhelmed and behind all the time.
- Once you’ve met your deadline, get yourself a coach. By working with a coach, you can stay on top of your work and have fun too!
We asked our coaches for advice to share with parents of new college students. Here are 6 ideas every parent of a new college student with ADHD should know.
- Maturity Levels: Teenagers and young adults have a chronological age, an intellectual age, and a social maturity age. These three are rarely the same. With ADHD teens, often their intellectual age is years ahead of their chronological age, with the social maturity age three to five years, or more, behind the chronological age. It takes longer for these delightful and creative folks to reach a balanced level of social maturity. Remember the greatest gifts you can give your teen are unconditional love, understanding and patience.
- Staying Healthy: Support your child in establishing healthy habits away from home. For example, you may want to let her know that you would prefer she get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, even it means less study time. Or you would rather she exercise every day than get straight A’s. Ask her what might get in the way of sleep or exercise, and come up with some strategies to protect those part of her life. Sleep and exercise will do more than anything else can to keep your daughter (or son) happy, healthy and wise.
- Communicate: Set up guidelines for regular check-ins by text, phone, Skype or Facetime. Be clear about the kinds of things you want to hear about in advance (e.g., how classes are going, grades, new friends, roommates, sleep, eating, etc.). And be prepared to share news about things the college student wants to know (how the family cat is doing, what’s happening back at home, etc.). If college students are forthcoming about the things that parents want to know, it builds a relationship of trust, keeps the college student accountable to parents (and vice versa), and everyone can relax a lot more!
- Crisis Counseling: When your child calls you with a minor crisis, start by asking her what she thinks she should do. Let her find her own way. Remind yourself that when she calls expressing sadness, worry, loneliness & homesickness, it is often cured by the first friend who knocks on the door. This is the time for your student to make their own choices and figure out how to bounce back from their own mistakes. Remember, parents are often still worried long after the child has gotten over it.
- Success Measures: College success should not be assessed solely by an academic grade. Is your young adult developing self advocacy skills? Self awareness? Initiative? Connections? Look at everything she is learning, not just the grades she produces.
- Student Services: Encourage student to connect with student services and take advantage of all of their services! They may need assistance in figuring out how to supply the proof they qualify for services. Guide them, but don’t do it for them.
- Prepare for grieving. Your child’s initial departure may be surprisingly harder for you than you thought it would be. Your emotions may feel similar to when he marched off with her class on first day of kindergarten. The first couple of weeks can be a big adjustment for you. Make sure you have others parents who are in the same boat to commiserate with over beverage or a meal.
>>Parents: Do you have any advice you’d give to other parents of new college students? We’d love to hear what has been helpful to you.
Overspending during the holidays is hard for everyone – the average American family is carrying almost $10K in debt. Impulse shopping is a major reason for credit card debt and is a common problem for people with ADHD.
During the holidays it’s especially hard to keep impulse shopping urges under control. Here are five steps to keep your spending from taking over during the holiday rush and giving you a debt hangover in January!
- Make a budget: Decide how much you have to spend now – before you start shopping.
- Make a list: Write down the names of the people you want to buy for and what you want to get them.
- Prioritize: Add up how much the items on your list cost. If your list costs more than you have, brainstorm less expensive gifts to give so you keep within your budget.
- Keep it in cash: Take only the cash you plan to spend when you go shopping. That means leaving your debit and credit cards at home. Put your holiday cash in separate compartment in your wallet. When the money is gone, you are done shopping. Period. Don’t be tempted to use layaway plans to buy things you can’t afford.
- Avoid the mall: If you stay away from where things are being sold, you won’t be as tempted to buy them!