Hyper-focus with ADHD and 4 tools for setting realistic limits.

Hyper-focus with ADHD can be a blessing and a curse. Hyper-focus is the intense fixation on a task. It doesn’t seem like it fits with something named attention deficit disorder, since it is an increase of attention. The piece to hyper-focus with ADHD is that all attention gets honed in on the one task and everything else falls out of view.

Hyper-focus with ADHD: why do you do this?

The short answer to this question is because the task you are hyper-focusing on is exciting. It could be something you enjoy, or it could be new and interesting. I talk more about the main factors that motivate a person with ADHD to get tasks done here.

The ADHD brain does not get its adequate daily dose of dopamine, so it looks for things in the environment that will provide a surge of dopamine. I talk more about how the ADHD brain works here. Hyper-focus with ADHD happens when your brain learns it can get a ton of dopamine from that one task. It can be extremely hard to break out of hyper-focus because that task is making you feel good. ADDitude magazine shares more on hyperfocus with the ADHD brain.

Hyper-focus with ADHD: the great and not so great.

Hyper-focus with ADHD can leave you fixate on a project for hours on end.

The great: You can sometimes knock out a task in one go.
The not so great: You have now neglected the rest of your life for the last 7 hours.
The great: You actually don’t lack attention as the name implies. I go into more detail about that here.
The not so great: You have trouble directing this attention towards your boring daily chores.
The great: It may prevent you from procrastinating.
The not so great: You may hyper-focus on the wrong task and procrastinate the one that is actually important.

Royce Flippin talks about training hyper-focus in children because overall it is a great tool to have! You can read more about that here.

Tools to help your hyper-focus with ADHD.

  • Set timers. If you know you are about to start a task that you may fall into hyper focus with, set timers every hour or every 30 minutes to periodically pull your attention away from the task.
  • Ask a family member, friend, or coworker to check in with you after a predetermined amount of time.
  • Use the interesting task as a motivator to complete the other boring tasks. If you have a list of chores, put the task you are likely to hyper-focus on at the end and use that as a motivator to get your other tasks done.
  • Go to a library or coffee shop. For example, If the task that you are likely to hyper-focus on is one that can be done on a computer, then go sit at a coffee shop or a library in the afternoon so that you have a hard stop when the place closes.