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5 Tips for Getting Focused When You Have ADHD

Anyone diagnosed with ADHD as a child (or as an adult, for that matter) will tell you this: ADHD interferes with life on a daily — if not hourly, minute-ly — basis. It happens at school, at work, at home, and in social settings. For many, it begins in childhood, but ADHD affects both children and adults. Early treatment is key to the effective management of emotions, relationships, tasks, and life.

How to Focus When You Have ADHD

People with ADHD can use several strategies to successfully hone their focus. The first attempt rarely works; don’t get discouraged if you falter at first. The important thing is that you commit to finding what works best for you. Here are few tips to get you started:

1. Take Deep Breaths

Feeling stressed takes a toll on everyone, but people with ADHD often feel more overwhelmed and frustrated than their neurotypical peers. One of the best things you can do relieve the stress is to breathe deeply. Dr. Shane Perrault, clinical psychologist and founder of the ADHD Performance Clinic in Greenbelt, Maryland, explains to people with ADHD that, “Your blood doesn’t flow to the part of the brain where high-order decisions are made.” Deep breaths and breathing exercises help promote relaxation, which gets more blood flowing to your brain so it can function better and you can focus better.

2. Write It Down

People with ADHD often focus on only one thing at a time, which makes it difficult to remember information, appointments, and tasks outside that laser focus. The solution? Write down everything. Linda Richmand, a certified professional coach who specializes in adult ADHD, says people can fully attend to the task at hand by writing down a keyword to trigger a memory of their other thoughts later. She suggests keeping a thought pad nearby at all times for capturing ideas before they fade from consciousness.

[Free Download: How to Focus (When Your Brain Says ‘No!’)]

3. Combine Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Medication

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with a psychologist helps many adults with ADHD to develop time management and organization skills, but focus remains a challenge. Dr. J. Russell Ramsay, an associate professor of psychology and co-director of the Adult ADHD Treatment and Research Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, says ADHD can cause people to miss appointments, derailing a treatment plan that involves only therapy sessions. He says using medication in conjunction with therapy helps people with ADHD control symptoms, mend procrastination and frustration, and find focus.

4. Don’t Worry About Every Detail

Some people with ADHD expend so much energy and time focusing on small details that they lose track of the larger picture and don’t accomplish their most important priorities. If this sounds familiar, set a timer when completing tasks and force yourself to come back to unfinished details later. Of course, this requires you to first prioritize tasks and decide which details don’t take top billing. If you’re trying to organizing your workspace, home, and well, life, in order to better manage your ADHD, consider creating a 30-day plan, in which you focus on one room or area of your work at a time so that you don’t get overwhelmed.

5. Map Out Your Day

A study published in Science found that our brains can handle just two complicated tasks at the same time. If we try to add a third, our brains can’t keep up, so we lose track of the original task and begin making mistakes. People with ADHD especially feel overwhelmed, anxious, and frustrated when this occurs. One tip for maintaining focus is getting all of those tasks out of your head and on to paper. Physically map out your day so you can see which tasks and errands need to be completed. The visual will help you to remain focused and accomplish more. If it sounds silly, think of yourself as a serious athlete approaching a big game with research, practice, and a detailed game plan for success.

[12 Ways to Maintain Focus All Day Long]