Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, affects many people. It’s often diagnosed in early childhood, but adults deal with its effects, too. Almost 10 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD—that’s six million kids nationwide! And 60 percent of these kids will experience ADHD symptoms into adulthood.
Trouble focusing is one of the more debilitating symptoms of ADHD. Thankfully, this symptom is manageable with certain interventions, such as simplifying your workspace, scheduling a daily routine ahead of time, and incorporating sensory regulating techniques such as fidgeting to remain present and on-task (psst… there’s a Smunchie for that!).
With enough practice, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of this sharpened skill and create new patterns in your work or school life. If you’re wondering how to focus with ADHD, we have some practical tips to help.
Tip #1: Simplify
Maintaining total focus is a challenge for anyone, especially people with ADHD. There are several ways to simplify your workspace and style to stay on top of deadlines. A few common guidelines include:
- limit distractions
- avoid multitasking*
- “chunk” your tasks
*unless multitasking works for you!
Limiting distractions involves making sure no music or TV is on in the background, finding a quiet and unoccupied space to work, and silencing your phone (or completely moving it out of view, if need be).
We know—it’s tough to avoid scrolling through social media at random intervals, but identifying what distracts you most and controlling that variable does wonders. You can also achieve a distraction-free workspace by using noise-canceling headphones or earplugs.
Multitasking is believed to hurt overall work performance, causing more mistakes while slowing you down. Granted, some people thrive at multitasking, despite its reputation. Neurodivergent thinkers tend to excel at multitasking where most flounder, so this recommendation isn’t for everyone.
Specifically, this system won’t be suitable for those who get extra distracted when multiple tasks need tackling. Though your first instinct may be to “do it all,” try to avoid putting too much on your plate. For better outcomes, take tasks one by one.
The term “chunking” refers to intentionally breaking up larger, daunting projects into smaller, more reasonable pieces. For example, say you have a major end-of-semester presentation with a month to prepare. You would section that presentation into a simple to-do list:
- Decide on a subject
- Conduct research
- Design a slide deck
- Write your lines
- And so on!
Rather than procrastinating and letting the project snowball, this helps you stay organized and on top of your tasks. Easier said than done, of course! But this method prevents you from becoming overwhelmed and streamlines your workload—a real win-win.
Tip #2: Schedule
Another intervention to improve focus would be making a schedule (and sticking to it!). Having a schedule to reference during the busier days makes a significant difference. The key to focusing with ADHD is establishing structure and consistency in a scheduled routine each day, week, or month. To do this, implement the following habits:
- time yourself
- invest in a planner
- utilize reminders
Time management is a big factor in strengthening focus. Using a timer to set aside time for work and time for mental/physical breaks bolsters productivity and accountability. The Pomodoro technique is a popular trick here:
- Set a timer and work for 25 minutes
- Take a five-minute break.
- Return to work for 25 minutes again.
- Retake a five-minute break.
- Repeat this cycle four times and reward yourself with a break of 20-30 minutes when finished.
Planners or calendars keep things organized so you don’t forget about upcoming events, appointments, and other tasks. If you struggle to remember every detail of these tasks (who doesn’t?!), your focus diminishes because your mind is preoccupied with those details instead of concentrating on the job. You can carry a notebook to jot down the important stuff or use the calendar app on your phone.
Setting a reminder notification, much like a timer, supports time management and ensures that nothing falls through the cracks. The secret to having great focus lies in a person’s ability to prioritize.
Nobody’s perfect, so be gentle with yourself by relying on little reminders to stay organized and focused. Classic sticky notes and large format calendars are an asset, . Think of it as helping out your future self.
Tip #3: Fidget
Yep, you read that right. A fidget toy can revolutionize your concentration capacity, particularly if you’re concerned about how to focus with ADHD.
Fidgeting has been shown to increase attention spans as long as it doesn’t detract from the main activity. Handheld fidget toys enable people with ADHD to sit still without feeling as restless as they might without these tools.
The minor movement of fidgeting is proven to positively influence the brain. It could seem counterintuitive to consciously fidget while working on something, but by busying your hands, your mind can focus more sharply—you could even call this psychological phenomenon multitasking…!
So, find the fidget toy that works for you and add it to your newly simplified schedule. You’ll be amazed at how much your focus improves. Bring this toy to the late-night study sessions or long-winded work meetings and see how well you’re focusing; make note of how fidgeting supports or takes away from that focus.
Try a Smunchie
Hung up on how to focus with ADHD? We get it. Simplifying, scheduling, and incorporating sensory regulating techniques such as fidgeting are just three interventions of many, but they’ll change how you focus for the better. Regaining control of your attention span takes considerable time and effort. Patience and practice is key!
Remember that self-care (getting enough sleep, eating well, and moving your body) also determines how well you can focus on any given day. Try these tips to lessen this frustrating ADHD symptom and make concentrating easier.
And if you’re looking for a discrete & multi-functional fidget, try a Smunchie! Our unique hair tie is an adorable scrunchie, a trendy wrist accessory, and a wonderful sensory toy. Fun, fashionable, and fidget-friendly. It’s there for you when you need it and out of the way when you don’t!