Struggling with focus? Try these techniques (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Imagine that it’s 4:59 p.m., only one minute before your deadline.
You swore you’d never put yourself in this position again, and yet you have. This isn’t your best work, and you’ll be lucky just to turn anything in. What would you do differently if you could turn back the clock?
Living with ADHD can feel like this on a daily basis, but it doesn’t have to.
For millions of adults throughout the world, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, best known as ADHD, is a persistent disorder that begins in childhood and is characterised by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, or a combination thereof. Complicating the diagnosis is that ADHD often co-occurs with, and is sometimes mistaken for, other health conditions like anxiety or substance abuse.
Because of the steady stream of negative feedback people with ADHD receive about their productivity, organisational skills and time management, some people with the disorder may have low self-esteem or feel inadequate.
But rather than an intrinsic personal defect, ADHD is a treatable condition. Research shows that behavioral strategies, along with medication when necessary, can help people improve their focus and ease of functioning in daily life.
As a psychologist and an assistant clinical professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, I lead an adult therapy group that focuses on skills to manage ADHD. From that work, I’ve compiled numerous strategies to help anyone who has trouble harnessing their attention, whether or not they’ve received a formal ADHD diagnosis.
ADHD can be treated and managed through various options including medication, therapy and time-management techniques.
Organisational systems and prioritising
A simple organisational system can improve focus by providing a way to keep track of important activities.
Ideally the system is centered on one tool, such as a notebook or phone app, assuming the phone is not too distracting.
Developing a routine that includes a daily schedule, a regularly updated to-do list and a calendar to remind yourself of appointments can provide a foundation for building focus and a sense of control.
With the to-do list, it’s crucial to break tasks down into manageable parts and then prioritise them.
Knowing what to prioritise can be difficult, but one helpful approach is the Eisenhower matrix, which divides tasks into four quadrants: urgent and important, like a work project that’s due tomorrow; urgent and unimportant, such as a request that someone else can fulfill; nonurgent but important, like long-term projects; and nonurgent and unimportant, meaning something that doesn’t need to be done.
Many with ADHD are motivated to first fulfill urgent and unimportant tasks such as responding to the requests of others, because someone else’s sense of urgency seems more important than their own needs. Also, doing something for someone else can lead to quick positive feedback and provide a welcome break from what may be a stressful task.
The Eisenhower matrix prioritises what’s most …read more