How to Focus

Hyperfocus — at Your Service

7 steps to help your ADHD brain harness that amazing — but elusive — ability to concentrate on a task, tune out distractions, and get things done. Your guide to productive hyperfocus at work.

An operations manager is one of the worst jobs for people with ADHD
Shot of two designers using a large touchscreen monitor

What if you could use hyperfocus on command, bend it to your will, own it, and make it yours? What if you could power through complex tasks with optimal efficiency and minimal frustration? It takes a little planning, but the payoff of training your hyperfocus for good is worth it.

Chances are, you’ve relied on one of these awful motivation tricks to get into that elevated state of focus. Here’s the good news: you don’t have to rely on those anymore! The following seven steps are about as close as I’ve come to finding a magic formula to put my attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) brain into hyperfocus:

1. Gather all the tools you’ll need for the project ahead. Whatever it is you are about to do probably requires tools. Whatever they are, make a list of them and be sure you have them at the ready before you begin. Create a checklist, if you must. I know; I hate those, too, but they can be useful for getting your hyperfocus on. If you forget something, it could break your focus and require you to get it.

[Read This: What Is ADHD Hyperfocus, Exactly?]

2. Set the mood. Once you have everything you need, take a moment to create optimal working conditions for your brain. Do you work best with white noise or music, or no sound at all? Do what you can to create your favorite atmosphere.

3. Turn off all distractions. This might be hard, but again, the reward makes it worth it. If you’re working on a computer, close all of your browser tabs (yes, including Facebook!), shut off your instant messenger and any other alerts that could distract you. Yes, this is necessary. Don’t forget to silence your phone.

4. Decide on a time frame. I usually work in 45-minute intervals. If that is too long for you, you may drift out of focus and into distraction before that.

5. Set an alarm clock. Once you’ve figured out the time frame for your focus bursts, set a timer for that period. Somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour usually works best.

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

6. Take a break. When your alarm goes off, stop whatever you are doing and take a break. Drink a glass of water, use the restroom, and walk around a bit. The brain focuses best when it is hydrated, so consider drinking a glass of water between all breaks.

7. Repeat the above. In order to create a habit that works to your advantage, it is important to repeat the process until it becomes second nature. The first few times might not work out so well, you may forget things on your list or forget to set your alarm. That’s perfectly normal and OK; simply try again until setting your alarm and collecting all of your tools becomes second nature.

We may think that hyperfocus comes when it wants to, but I bet if you analyze moments when you did hyperfocus naturally, you will find that you had everything you needed, you had time set aside and had few, if any, distractions. So although it may seem an accident, in reality you did the things necessary without even realizing it. If you realize those things, you can repeat them and make them habitual. And guess what, here is the kicker: Even if you do not shift into hyperfocus, you will have set up a way to be more productive!

[You’re Not Alone: 3 Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks]