Everyday tasks can be a challenge for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — children and adults alike. It can often be difficult to adequately prioritize and focus on your tasks at hand, leading to disorganization, missed deadlines and forgotten obligations.
But with the right support and information, you can thrive with ADHD and even improve your focusing abilities over time. Read on to learn more about the condition and how to take back some control.
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a mental health disorder that affects a person’s ability to pay attention and causes impulsive behavior and hyperactivity. Symptoms usually begin in early childhood and can continue into adulthood. Often, many adults aren’t even aware they have ADHD, as any behavioral issues they may have had as children were pushed aside.
Some common signs of ADHD include:
- Inability to follow through or complete tasks
- Mood swings
- Poor time management skills and planning
- Trouble coping with stress
How Does ADHD Affect Your Ability to Focus?
Telling someone with ADHD to “just focus” isn’t as simple as it sounds.
If you have ADHD, finding your focus and motivation to begin a task in the first place can be extremely difficult; pulling your head back as you start to get sidetracked mid-task is just as daunting. The reason why? People with ADHD have naturally lower levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, which directly affect their attention levels.
If you have ADHD, you can’t simply force yourself to focus. Your brain chemistry quite literally just doesn’t work that way. While it can seem overwhelming at times, you can find strategies to help encourage your productivity.
7 Tips for Boosting Your Brain
The following tips are proven to help people with ADHD. It’s important to note that not every tip will work for every individual, but every individual can find a tip that works for them!
Put a few into practice at a time and find which help give your brain a little boost.
1. Find Your Ideal Environment
Your environment plays a huge part in your ability to get things done, and keeping it clean from the start will help reduce getting sidetracked later. Set aside a short time as needed, whether that’s each day, weekly, or whenever works for you. Use this time to tidy up your workplace — your home, office, desk, car, etc. — so you can get back to work feeling refreshed.
Along a similar note, have you noticed you work better under certain circumstances? Maybe you find yourself at peak productivity levels on rainy days — if so, play some rain or thunder sounds throughout the day as you work and see if it helps you get things done.
If you work remotely or take online classes, finding motivation to work while in your home can easily be a big distraction for some people. If you need complete silence to do your best work, create a dedicated space. Shut the door, put headphones on and close the blinds, if needed.
Or, perhaps on the other side of the spectrum, you find yourself more productive when you see others being productive as well — take your laptop to a coffee shop where you can people-watch and see others work.
2. Do a Small Part
Finding the motivation to begin a task can feel overwhelming. Breaking your tasks into smaller chunks and starting just one aspect can sometimes help relieve the overwhelm. And once you get started, you might find yourself more “in the zone” and ready to keep going. Often, the motivation kicks in after you’ve begun a project, not before.
For example, let’s say you need to clean up the kitchen after dinner. The dishes need to be done, counters need to be wiped, leftovers need to be put away and the floor needs to be swept — just thinking about it all can seem like a lot.
There’s a theory called the Zeigarnik Effect. It promotes the idea that unfinished work is harder to get out of your brain than tasks that haven’t been started. Let’s go back to the kitchen scenario: Completing even just a small portion of a task — for example, unloading clean dishes from the dishwasher — will help the rest of the job stay fresh on your mind. Once you’ve started, your brain is more likely to be inclined to continue. Once the dishwasher is unloaded, you’re more likely to reload it with the dirty dishes than you once were.
3. Try to Beat the Clock
Do you put off tasks until right before an assigned deadline? That’s not a coincidence. Deadlines force you to push past the procrastination, and waiting until the last moment creates an adrenaline rush, boosting your motivation.
With that in mind, give yourself deadlines for things as well. Make a game out of it and see if you can give yourself a little bit of a rush as you try to beat the clock. Say to yourself, how quickly can I complete this task? Whether it’s folding laundry, putting dishes away, or running errands, giving yourself a hard deadline can help push you to complete your goals.
4. Find a Buddy
Do you know anyone else with ADHD? Having a friend who understands because they can relate can be so helpful. Hold each other accountable. Whether you talk daily, weekly, or even just periodically, you can help each other stick to your goals and get things accomplished. It’s nice to share your progress and celebrate your successes together with someone who just gets it.
5. Switch Things Up
You may find that your brain jumps from one thing to the next every short while, which doesn’t help when you’re trying to get things done. Instead of allowing the sidetracked moments to get the best of you, make it work in your favor! As you begin your day, create a list — whether that’s a sticky note on the fridge, a note in your phone, on a whiteboard, or even a mental note you verbally repeat to yourself throughout the day — of your top 3 things that need to get done that day. If you find yourself in need of a change while you’re working on one of those tasks, pivot to one of the other two things to give your brain a chance to focus on something else for a while. Then, you can return to the original tasks when you’re feeling ready to do so.
It's best to keep your list small, so you aren’t constantly straying from goal to goal without making much progress, so don’t write down more than three things at the start of your day. If need be, you can always add another task to your list once one of the original three has been completed.
6. Make Time to Move
Giving your brain breaks is important and setting aside specific times to do so can be helpful. Take a little time throughout your day to just forget entirely about what needs to be done and put the “pro” in “procrastination.” A short, 10-minute exercise break or mini dance party can do wonders for your mentality.
If you’re feeling fidgety at the office, take a short time to refill your water bottle and walk up and down the stairs of your building. Or perhaps you need a midday change of scenery — go for a walk outside around the building and take in the fresh air.
On a similar note, if you need time to relax, take it. Spend some time in meditation, focus on your breathing, or even take a small cat nap. Learn what you need and figure out a way to incorporate those things into your life, without them throwing off the course of your entire day.
The key here is to set a limit; before you begin, set a timer and stick to it. When the timer goes off, it’s time to get back to your original task.
7. Allow Yourself to Feel Whole
Remember, your ADHD isn’t something you need to fix, but rather something you need to learn to work with. Talk to people in your life about it, make room in your life for it and most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself. If you’re struggling to find tactics that work for you, don’t be afraid to find help. AdventHealth has a team of highly skilled professionals who can work with you to find solutions so you can be your best self. Learn more today.