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12 Surprising Ways to Improve Your Focus When You Have ADHD

12 Surprising Ways to Improve Your Focus When You Have ADHD

It’s frustrating, isn’t it? You have trouble filtering information. You constantly feel scattered. You can’t seem to manage and plan your time effectively — to the point that you’re constantly late, forgetful, and unable to meet engagements or deadlines.

In today’s fast-pace world, society demands that you’d be on point, meticulous, or productive. Anything but that, you’re put into a box of broken dolls. So naturally, you believe that you’re stupid, that you’re powerless, and that you’re unable to change your life’s course.

Your anger rumbles and you can’t help but wondering: how can others can get things done or move forward so effortlessly? Are you missing that special chip in your brain that allows you to stay focused?

You’ve been lead to believe that if you’re not highly efficient, you’re unlike the norm — you have a disease called “attention deficit” (ADHD). And it’s confusing because ADHD is not an attention deficit. It’s rather a deficit in the ability to control your degree of attention, of impulsivity, and of hyperactivity.

What you need is clever and somewhat unconventional strategies to put in practice. This way, you can manage and improve your focus.

So let’s dive in.

1. Throw out your paper planner

Normally, keeping a paper calendar or planner is a great way to write things down like appointments, reminders, birthdays, your kids’ countless activities…

There’s just one problem, though… You need to remember to look at it!

Sure, you might think that you have a great memory. You do for certain things. But your memory works best when you associate newly received information with a strong emotion or a sensory experience (sound, image, odor). Otherwise, for someone like you, remembering things easily can be difficult — as new ideas constantly race in your head at a thousand miles an hour.

So setting electronic and physical triggers work best. Synchronize your electronic calendars or reminder apps and place reminder objects in strategic places.

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2. Stop listing it all

You might believe you need to write down everything that needs to be done in order to remember them. But that’s the last thing you should do. Why? Because people like you can write or rewrite a ridiculous amount of lists. (I know I have.)

The problem is not the list in itself; it’s the implementation. It doesn’t take any effort to write down all the things you should do. But it does take effort to act upon them (even the quicker tasks). Because as soon as a shiny object presents itself, you can easily look the other way.

So only list things that require more than 5 minutes to do and do the ones that can be taken care of in lesser time right away. Seriously! This way, your list will be lighter.

3. Postpone certain tasks

Isn’t postponing tasks a bad thing? It is if you keep postponing them repeatedly. And that’s called procrastination — which I’m not telling you to do. No way Jose. Procrastination is your worst enemy.

What I’m saying is that certain tasks require a lot more time to get done. To know whether some of them require immediate attention or not, you’ll need to assess the tasks. Decide if they fit your context, your availability, your level of energy, and your priorities first.

Here’s another trick. You can postpone certain tasks if:

1) You don’t have uncomfortable feelings, like boredom, guilt, tension, indecisiveness, etc.
2) You don’t say “I’ll do it later” without knowing exactly when.

Write them down on a list (remember: they have to take more than 5 min to do), then review it once or twice a week to get them done.

4. Don’t get stuck in details

Being detailed-oriented is generally a good thing. But you need to watch out. You can focus so much on certain details that you can lose yourself in them and lose track of time. And the next thing you know, you didn’t accomplish all the other things you wanted to spend time on.

People like you are sometimes perfectionists. So the best thing to do is to set a timer, an alarm clock, or what have you, when doing all your tasks. Leave out certain details and come back to them at a later time. Or, delegate them if they’re time-wasters.

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Anyway, what does perfection look like? Move on to the next thing. You’ll be much more likely to reach all your goals this way.

5. Forget about decluttering first

It’s always nice to start fresh in a clean, neat environment. This should help improve organization and focus. It’s understandable.

How could you ever get anything done or churn out your best ideas in a cluttered space? But be aware that cleaning your space can be a double-edged sword.

If your space is a big mess, decluttering your space becomes a project in itself. And such a project can last a very long time before accomplishing the first task.

So if time is a constraint, you need to divide your projects into mini-projects and clean your space during times you’re not doing anything important.

6. Don’t take notes to a tee

Nobody will argue that taking notes while someone is speaking allows you to remember things later. But in my experience, I’ve found that I still lose bits and pieces of the conversation. And sometimes, I lose the most important information because I’m too busy taking notes. If that’s your case, I suggest doing this instead.

Record long talks with a dictation app. (If you’re a having a private conversation, make sure it stays private.) Listening to the recordings adds another task to your schedule, but trust me, you won’t regret it.

You can try to pay attention as much as you can and if you wander off, it’s okay. You’ll have your recordings to refer to and will remember things twice as much because of the repetition.

7. Ignore your incoming messages

Of course, the more you can respond to your messages quickly, the more you can keep things rolling. And especially nowadays, with all the technological progress we’ve gone through. Technological progress like voice mails, emails, and text messages mean people expect and sometimes demand immediate answers.

But the world doesn’t stop if you don’t respond right away. You don’t have to be a slave to always having to be available for phone messages or emails. Doing so can distract you and derail you from taking care of your most important tasks.

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If you’re prone to distraction, rather than reading and responding to these incessant incoming signals as they come, allocate specific times to respond to people.

8. Break the silence

Most people would say to limit other distractions or work in a quiet place in order to focus better. It’s even highly recommended to turn off or get away from any disturbing sound. The constant signaling of electronic devices (like mentioned earlier) or chatter from other people standing near you can be of putting.

But some people find that dead silence can be even more distracting and, to the contrary, background noise can help drive away distractions. When you’re studying or working, you can turn on your ceiling fan, a white noise machine or music on low volume (more about this later). This gives a constant noise and doesn’t call for your attention.

9. Embrace your least favorite task

If you have trouble getting things done, some people would say to start with the thing you love doing first to get things going. Although, it’s a great starter, it’s also a great killer. Because you leave the things you hate doing the most for last and when it comes to accomplishing it, you can find it even harder to do so.

So when you plan out your day, tackle the things you’re least passionate about first. Tackle all the things that seem tedious or boring to you. Get rid of them once and for all.

Once completed, your focus will improve when working on the other tasks since they’ll be more enjoyable.

10. Schedule time to be idle

Wait a minute. Idleness is the complete opposite of productivity, right? Not if you’re strategic. If you’re easily distracted or impulsive, you can become even more so under stress. And boredom can also ruin your productivity.

That’s why it’s important to take breaks. That’s why, it’s important to give yourself time to regroup. So make it important to detach yourself from your work and schedule time to relax, be it just deep breathing, meditation or visualization.

You can also move around. Getting up to walk around and stretching may be all you need. These things will help you get into a very focused state and help you make well-considered decisions when it comes to your priorities and actions.

11. Talk to yourself out loud

I’ll admit that people might think you’re completely loco if you talk to yourself, akin to the ones who have conversations with themselves in the subway. It’s far better to do it in closed doors. But it’s even better to do it purposefully.

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When you put objects in places, voice where you put them. Or when someone says something, paraphrase the conversation. In the first case, this will help you register where you’ve placed your items and lower the risk of losing them. In the second case, this will help you digest the conversation and ensure you understand the other person in order to formulate a response.

12. Continue fidgeting

Restlessness is a sign of hyperactivity or more fundamentally, impatience — whether you can’t stand still in one place or you cut people off when they speak all the time. But if you learn to occupy that urge to fidget, it can come to your advantage.

In fact, you can enhance your focus and improve your productivity in your primary tasks when engaging in mindless secondary tasks. I’m not talking about wriggling in your seat erratically and unconsciously. I’m talking about pacing your movements intentionally. I’m talking about using a “focused distraction.”

For instance, leave your desk to take a walk and listen to ambient music. Use a fidget toy that has interesting shapes and textures — such as pens or pencils, stones, Nerf balls, etc. Or, sit on a large exercise ball by your desk.

How to Be Successful

Paying attention can sometimes be a challenge. Especially in a world in constant movement where you need to conform and be compatible with a stiff lifestyle that isn’t yours, especially the workplace.

You don’t suffer from a lack of intelligence, strength, or talent. Your brain just works differently. You have the same abilities and potential as others. So don’t let that impede your professional or personal success.

Stop being a space cadet. Stop being ineffective. Stop being negligent.

Use the tricks above to boost your productivity. Attack your day in a whole different way and make your countless ideas come true.

Because you are an innovative thinker. You are a visionary. You are a creative genius.

It’s time to show your creative prowess and be a force to be reckoned with.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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