Have you ever woken up with the intention of getting ready for the day only to find yourself many hours later having done many unrelated tasks and still not ready for the day?
Or do you sit down at work with that one task in mind and open your computer only to do everything but the task in mind, having lost hours in the process.
Do you open your phone to look something important up and instead open every social media and currently favorite game app you have forgotten what you got on there to do?
There are many more examples I could give, and you could share, but what we need here is focus. Impossible, right? Not exactly. What it requires is a little bit of planning and a lot more paying attention to your ADHD brain.
Here are 5 Ways to Focus:
MAKE A PLAN
This can look a few different ways depending on where you are in your ADHD journey. You may be a list maker. This is great if it works for you, but what I would encourage you to do is to put your list in the order things need to happen. For example, you wouldn't want to head to the store before you got dressed.
If list-making is not your thing, write out a plan for how your day would go the night before. I like to call this your intentions for the day. It works even better if you write it as though it is already happening. Examples: I get dressed at 6am. Then I eat breakfast at 6:30am. I brush my teeth and head to the store. Seems a bit silly, but it really works to trick your brain.
The option to work up to as soon as you can is to create a routine. Here is why, with ADHD, our prefrontal cortex is not functioning as it should. It's the CEO of our brain helping us to plan, organize, prioritize, manage time, and much more. When you develop routines and those routines become habits, you get to bypass the prefrontal cortex altogether. Make your routines things you enjoy. Start with a morning routine and then go crazy.
2. RACE THE TIMER
Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique? Pomodoro means tomatoes in Italian. Remember the little tomato kitchen timers? That is what this technique is named after. You can find the timers free online, download them as apps, or use a simple kitchen timer. You can do whatever variation you would like, but the main suggested one is 25 minutes of focus working and then a 5-10 min break.
Another great option that really helps with your time awareness is a Time Timer. They used to only be available under this brand, but not, a quick Amazon search will get you any brand for about 20 bucks. A red window will show you the remaining time left on the timer. This gives you a visual sense of time. Get as much as you can get done in the time left. Stay focused.
Lastly, a trick I like to use when a project seems out of control is to use any timer, set it for 10 minutes, and then switch. Do another task 10 more minutes and switch again. For example, if you are overwhelmed by the state of your home. 10 min Living room, 10 min Kitchen, 10 min Bathroom and so on. Don't wear yourself out. If you hit every room, and you are still feeling good, go again! Work in 10-minute breaks where you need them.
3. BODY DOUBLING
I am actually writing this article in a Body Doubling group right now. There are 6 other people on the call with me right now, working away. We all have our microphones off, and we are focused on our task. Our ADHD brains love someone by our side when we are doing something difficult, boring, or something that just must be done. Body Doubling offers company and accountability. The two services I know of are Focusmate and ADHDActually .
Focusmate is free for 3 sessions a week, and for $5 a month you can have unlimited sessions. You are one on one with another person. ADHDActually is $11 a month for unlimited sessions, and you get put into breakout groups, the number of people depending on how many people are on. I'm currently in a group of 6. There is an opportunity for a discussion after, a community and even a book club. So Focusmate less social ADHDActually more social.
You can do this same thing by calling a friend, jumping on a Zoom call with someone you know, or inviting someone over to be with you. I've done this with fellow coaches. It is wonderful to have someone to talk to. You can stay on task but distract your brain with conversation. Or, as I did with my friend and peer coach, we both worked on a project that we were having challenges getting done.
4. KNOW YOUR BRAIN
The way we get lost from the original task to the 10 others we end up on is we have a thought about another task besides the one we are on, and we get the urge to move to that task, and we follow the urge. This all happens very quickly. So the work is to notice when your thinking and urges are pulling you to another task and be onto your brain.
This urge to switch from the task that we are currently focused on is no different than having the urge to eat a cookie when we aren't hungry. We think about the cookie, have the urge to eat the cookie, and we either follow the urge and eat the cookie or we don't.
Be very careful with your self talk here. If you tell yourself you can't, or you shouldn't, it's going to make the urge bigger. If you gently remind yourself you are staying on your current task, there is less resistance. Talk to yourself as though you would a small child. "Don't forget, honey, this is what we are doing right now."
5. GET COACHING
I help my clients with all the above depending on their unique brain, situation and what they want for themselves. Almost every client I have currently is flourishing with a routine. I encourage them to create routines that bring them joy, refreshes them, and also helps them to get done what they want to accomplish on a daily basis.
A good coach will help you learn about your brain. I help clients look back on situations and see what their thinking was, how they were feeling, what actions or inactions that led to and how that got them the results they got. This also works very well with results they want. I take them through each step of what they need to think, feel, do and not do to get the result they ultimately want.
What better way to have the ultimate accountability than to check in with a coach every week. It doesn't matter if you accomplished what you wanted or not because either way there is coaching to be done that will help you to move forward. It's a misconception that you will ever let your coach down if you didn't accomplish something you set out to do. You simply brought some work to do, and that is what your coach is there for.
If staying focused and on task is difficult for you as an adult with ADHD, try one or all of these things. I wrote all but this conclusion in my Body Doubling session. To recap, routines keep us mentally healthy and allow us to bypass our dysfunctional prefrontal cortex. Timers create urgency, fun and time awareness.
You have to pay attention to your thoughts and how those thoughts are creating urges. Remember that following that urge to switch tasks or quit is optional. Finally, get a coach to hold your hand through this process and teach you the skills you need to create an easier and happier life for yourself. You are in charge, not your Attention Deficit Disorder.
Want to know what it's like to work with a coach. I can't speak for all coaches, but as a coach with ADHD I am my first client. This list was easy to put together because I do this as much more for myself and with my clients. I know how your brain works because although we are each unique, we have many of the same challenges. Book a consultation and let's see if ADHD Coaching is a good fit for you.