Tips For Staying Focused When You Have Adult Adhd
If you are one of the roughly 10 million U.S. adults with ADHD, it can be a constant challenge to stay focused and on task. A wandering mind and a tendency to be easily distracted are common for people with ADHD. Whether youre talking to your boss or best friend, you might easily lose track of conversations or forget what you were working on. Or fail to pay attention to important details and make mistakes. But this isnt an oversight on your part. An inability to focus is a prominent symptom of ADHD. While you may not always be able to fully control your capability to pay attention, you can find strategies that help you sustain it.
How to Get Stuff Done When You Have ADHD
Write Down Why This Task Is Meaningful To You
Were not going to list out why a task is important, since uh, thats potentially upsetting. Its obviously important if its stressing you out.
Im talking about examining why a task is meaningful to you.
Some questions worth asking:
- What does the completion of this task give to me? This could be as simple as a sense of relief or accomplishment, or as significant as advancing you in your career or developing a new skill.
- What does the completion of this task give to others? Maybe its a project that makes the world a better place. Maybe it just makes things a little easier on your teammates. Or maybe its a reason for your boss to give you praise at the next meeting.
Its true that sometimes a task is just lousy and we cant find much of a reason for it. Thats okay! But if we can, its always good to keep our why at the front of our minds.
What Does Being Unable To Concentrate Mean
You rely on concentration to get through work or school every day. When youre unable to concentrate, you cant think clearly, focus on a task, or maintain your attention.
Your performance at work or school could be affected if you cant concentrate. You may also find that you cant think as well, which can affect your decision-making. A number of medical conditions may contribute to or cause an inability to concentrate.
Its not always a medical emergency, but being unable to concentrate can mean you need medical attention.
Being unable to concentrate affects people differently. Some symptoms you may experience include:
- being unable to remember things that occurred a short time ago
- difficulty sitting still
- some chemotherapy drugs
If you have new medications, read the insert carefully. Contact your doctor or pharmacist to determine if your medications may be affecting your concentration. Dont stop taking any medications unless your doctor says to.
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What Is Adhd And How Do I Know If I Have It
ADHD is defined as a pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity that impacts social, academic and work performance. It is usually diagnosed during childhood and lasts into adulthood, though some people are not diagnosed until adulthood. It is rare for people diagnosed as adults to not have some indication of ADHD in childhood, such as having trouble sitting still or daydreaming a lot in class.
Though symptoms can vary person to person and over time, adults with ADHD may frequently experience the following:
- Failure to pay close attention to details and making careless mistakes
- Difficulty maintaining attention
- Difficulty waiting for their turn, such as in line
‘why Can’t I Focus’ 10 Ways Adhd May Show Up
Living with ADHD Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder means facing a LOT of everyday challenges that most people wont understand. It can make someone with ADHD feel incredibly misunderstood. If youre always wondering why cant I focus? then you might just have ADHD.
The truth is, ADHD is more than the stereotypical scatter-brained, hyper little boy. There are a lot of other signs and symptoms of ADHD, and they can affect your mental wellbeing in different ways. So, were diving thru some of the common signs of ADHD to help you try to determine if this is a condition affecting you .
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Interact With The Material
If you have ADHD, you may find it harder to focus on things that dont hold your attention. This isnt a matter of willpower, but of brain chemistry.
People with ADHD tend to have lower levels of dopamine, a chemical that helps you stay motivated and on task. With less dopamine in reserve, your brain may flutter from distraction to distraction, trying to find something naturally rewarding to engage with. Tasks you find interesting, challenging, or new can boost low dopamine levels.
You cant always make algebra homework fun, but you can make it feel novel by engaging your senses as you work. A few ideas to try:
- Highlight key vocabulary or concepts in bright colors.
- Take a pen and underline each word as you go.
- Read each question or formula out loud.
- Write comments in the margins of your notes.
Organization Takes Extra Effort
With ADHD, you might have to put extra effort in to become organized. Keeping a tidy workspace can look different for you. You might leave things in plain sight so you dont forget them, which might look messy to other people. Look, you just like having your things where you can see them! We get it, no judging here.
When youre juggling multiple things at once, you might find it helpful to use checklists, phone reminders, or a planner with colour-coded tasks to keep you on track. Basically, you gotta go the extra mile with your planning! Cause otherwise, you get overwhelmed by all of the things and all hell breaks loose.
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Ways For Students With Adhd To Maintain Focus
For students with ADHD, its often a big challenge to stay focused. This can affect your ability to study even when youre trying your best. Theres nothing more frustrating than spending hours studying and getting nowhere. The following tips are designed to help students with ADHD maintain better focus to allow them to reach their full potential.
Look For The Jet Stream
Sometimes what we need most is momentum, which lets us build up our confidence and assures us that were capable of getting sh!t done.
So look for the flow: Is there a task that you already know how to start, are excited to tackle, or utilizes a skill thats in your wheelhouse?
It doesnt have to be the most urgent or important task, either. Just getting something off the back burner and getting into the flow of things can help when its time to shift your attention to the more pressing stuff.
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Other Things That Can Affect Focus
These can also take a toll on your attention span:
Stress. Experts think the part of your brain in charge of survival takes over when youâre stressed out. The other parts of your brain, such as those that control attention and thinking, donât get as much energy.
Hunger. Your brain needs fuel to work. When your blood sugar dips, itâs harder to focus.
Multitasking. Working on a report while answering emails and listening to a conference call might seem like a timesaver. But juggling too much at once can backfire. Our brains are wired to handle one thing at a time. Research shows constantly switching gears makes you less efficient and more likely to make mistakes.
Lack of sleep. Itâs tough to pay attention when youâre tired. Thatâs because your brain cells recharge and recover when youâre asleep. They donât work as well when you donât get enough rest. Research shows that skipping even one night of sleep makes it harder to focus and block out distractions.
Eating lots of sugary or fatty foods. Sugar causes a quick rise in blood sugar, followed by an energy crash. Meanwhile, foods high in unhealthy saturated fat may trigger inflammation that affects your brain. One study found that women did worse on a test of their attention after eating a meal high in unsaturated fat.
Tips For College Students With Adhd
Every autumn, thousands of students move away from the structure and safety net of home to the freedoms and challenges of college life. While it can be an exciting time filled with all sorts of possibilities for learning and growth, it can also be a time of anxiety and overwhelmespecially for students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder .
College students face greater responsibilities, less structured time, many more distractions, and new social situations. At the same time, they may lack many of the support systems they may have had in high school.
This article discusses some of the challenges that college students with ADHD may face as well as some of the strategies you can use to succeed academically and socially.
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You Have A Hard Time Paying Attention
We all get distracted, lets be real. When our phone lights up with a notification, from a friend sending yet another hilarious TikTok, we just CANT resist okay? We gotta stop whatever were doing to watch! But then we snap out of it and get back to work, cause theres a deadline to meet. No more scrolling.
With ADHD though, distractions are a lil bit harder to ignore. Working in a shared office space with so much talking around you or studying in a busy coffee shop with music and espresso machines whirring can make it almost impossible to concentrate on what youre doing. You might even cry or disassociate when the external stimuli become too much . Its totally normal to wonder in exasperation: Why cant I focus?!
Other times, its like your thoughts are going a million miles a minute and everything else around you is in slow motion. What should I make for dinner? Perogies sound good. NO, TACOS! Yaaaa, tacos sound good. Do I have all of the ingredients??? Nope, I need tomatoes. Ill grab them on the way home from work. Okay, now remember to get tomatoes. Tomatoes. Tomatoes. Tomatoes Its sooooo easy to drift away for what feels like only a second, and before you know it a good chunk of time has passed.
Try To Beat The Clock
How fast can I complete this task is way more fun to me than the usual get this done you incompetent knucklehead strong arming I try to do with myself.
Bonus points if I have a countdown timer and Im playing Eye of the Tiger to amuse myself. Its okay if its silly the point is to complete the task by any means necessary.
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How Can I Improve Focus
Fortunately, there are several ways we can reduce stress, boost mental energy, and improve focus. If you have had trouble concentrating since the start of the pandemic, try these tips:
Establish a routine Its important to continue giving your day some structure amid all the chaos in the world. Studies show that following a schedule or routine can reduce decision fatigue, boost productivity, and fend off depression. Get up, get showered and get dressed to start your day – it can help, said Whitmore. Block a lunch break and schedule outside time even if it is just a brief walk. Dont let rain or cooler weather stop you bundle up and refresh by getting away from the screen.
Exercise regularly Regular exercise can play an important role in your energy, focus, and productivity. In addition to keeping you in shape, it can also improve your sleep and reduce anxiety. Try to get 30 minutes of activity daily and build small amounts throughout the day. Take a 20 minute walk in the morning or after dinner, do 10 minutes of yoga, hold a plank position for 1 minute, or jump rope for 5 minutes. Starting to lose to focus? That is the perfect time to get your body moving.
If youre having trouble focusing or are concerned you may have ADHD, reach out to your primary care provider. Even if its not ADHD, your provider can work with you to identify the issue and design a care plan or lifestyle changes tailored to your unique needs.
Plan Your Time: Assess And Prioritize
It may sound strange, but it’s very important to actively plan time to plan. If you dont develop this habit, youll find yourself always being reactive rather than proactive. It can be helpful to develop a high-level plan for the week on Monday morning, and for the weekend on Friday.
Then do a daily review of that plan over breakfastpossibly adding pertinent detailsto make sure you know whats coming your way that day. When you can assess what you need to do versus all that you could do, then you can prioritize what needs to be done first and take care of it.
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Time Management Is Hard
Being on time can be a real challenge when you have ADHD. These days, we all have our phones on us at all times. So, saying I lost track of time might come off as a shitty excuse. But with ADHD, its TRUE. Maybe you go over your deadlines at work. Or maybe you show up late to appointments . It can be frustrating for other people especially when it happens pretty often but its not something you do on purpose, you swear!
Time management doesnt come naturally to people with ADHD. And its not due to a lack of care. In fact, its kinda the opposite. A lot of people with ADHD are what well call time-optimists. They are super optimistic about their abilities so they tend to underestimate how much time something will take .
Adhd Coaching For College Students
Sticking to your plan is also where a coach might come in handy. There is growing evidence, both research and anecdotal, that ADHD coaching can be a vital strategy in helping students learn to plan, prioritize, and persist .
ADHD coaching has been described as a form of life-coaching influenced by cognitive behavioral-type therapy that involves helping people develop behaviors, skills, and strategies to better deal with some of the symptoms associated with ADHD. Coaching helps students develop greater self-determination and direction. It reduces overwhelm and anxiety and increases self-confidence and self-sufficiency.
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Alternatives To Study Drugs
If you need to focus and get schoolwork done, there are better choices than study drugs. Here are some proven ways to boost concentration and beat stress:
- A good night’s sleep. Getting enough rest at night improves memory and will help you focus, learn, and think clearly. Teens need about 9 hours of sleep at night.
- Exercise. Get energized the natural way by moving your body. Play sports, go for a gym workout or run, try yoga or take a walk. Exercise boosts learning, memory, and concentration. Regular exercise also improves mood, helps people sleep, and reduces stress.
- Eating right. Good nutrition is key to a healthy body and mind. Dont skip meals and choose a variety of healthy foods to fuel the brain and help keep energy levels high.
- Meditation. Meditating before tackling a big study session can clear the mind and help you focus on the task at hand. Even a few minutes of meditation a day can lower stress.
You Have Pressing Issues On Your Mind
Whether you just had an argument with your friend or are trying to convince your parents to attend a party this weekend, its hard to concentrate when your mind is busy with lots of other matters that seem more pressing. To fix this, first, try to acknowledge that these thoughts are valid. Once you validate that you are worried, upset, anxious about that specific issuewhatever it isit may be easier to move on to other tasks at hand.
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You Might Have Adhd Or Another Mental Health Issue
If youre reading all of these things and rolling your eyes because youve tried them countless times and never been successful, perhaps its time to consider whether you have ADHD. Adolescents with ADHD not only have trouble focusing they also have trouble sitting still or being quiet for more than a few minutes. If you also have high energy levels, get bored very easily, are constantly losing or forgetting things, and dont have careful attention to detail, you may have ADHD or another mental health issue.
Be Honest About What Scares You
Whether youre studying for a test, writing a paper, or going through your homework assignments, theres likely one thing about the work ahead that seems to be the scariest.
The best way to tackle that? Say it out loud.
Whats your worst fear right now? Savage asks. Are you afraid youre never going to finish that long-term project because youre so far behind? Are you afraid youre going to fail because you just dont understand the subject? Write it down.
That fear is preventing you from getting started. But, once youve expressed it out loud or in writing, youre no longer blocked by your fear, and you can get started.
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Why Can’t I Focus
Youve crafted your to-do list. Youve gathered your supplies. You know what you need to do. And yet when the time comes to actually complete the days tasks, your brain drifts off.
Why is focus both finding it in the first place, and pulling it back when it starts to stray so difficult for people with attention deficit disorder ? The answer lies in brain chemistry: ADHD brains are naturally low on dopamine and norepinephrine, which control brain arousal and attention levels. Other people may find that, when the situation calls for it, they can buckle down and force their brains to focus. For people with ADHD, the advice to just focus is maddening it simply cant be done.
You cant force focus, but you can create an ideal environment both physical and mental for it to thrive. The key is working with your ADHD brain, and combining the specific factors that help your focus flourish. When you’re wondering, “Why can’t I focus?” follow these 12 tips to get started.