Understanding ADHD And Hyperfocus

understanding adhd and hyperfocusEveryone talks about lack of focus, but nobody talks about Hyperfocus.

What is hyperfocus?  It is exactly what it sounds like.

When a person focuses on something so intently that they fail to notice changes in their environment, other people, and sometimes even neglect to eat or drink.

But here is the kicker, those of us with ADHD can only hyperfocus on things that interest us. You cannot force hyperfocus to happen, even if you want to.

Put in the context of work and day-to-day activities, it makes sense that most of us struggle to maintain our focus in these areas.

In the words of Jacqueline Sinfield, “Boring mundane tasks, like housework will never be tasks that you can hyperfocus on, even though you wish you could.” Source

Hyperfocus can be a positive attribute, as long as you know how to manage it. 

understanding Adhd and hyperfocus


Understand the benefits and the downsides

When our ADHD brains get excited about something, and that dopamine starts flowing, we are able to master it quickly.

This is a good thing if you are trying to master a new skill or learn something. Hyperfocusing on a topic of interest also gives you a break from the mundane.

On the other hand, if you are so focused that you ignore your children/family or forget about important appointments, that is a problem.

Hyperfocus can be hard on our relationships because we have a tendency to just forget that the rest of the world exists.

Put another way, focusing on one thing to the point where you forget to pay your mortgage or have your car repossessed is a sign that things have gone awry.

understanding hyperfocus

Awareness is key

Figure out what types of things trigger you into negative hyperfocus.

For example, many ADHD’ers have issues with the internet and video games.

Others might binge watch a television show for 24 hours straight and then miss work for two days of work because they were so hyperfocused on the show.

The best way to figure out what triggers you is to journal. I have written before about the power of journaling.

Journaling does not have to be formalized, you can just as easily do a daily brain dump on a pad of paper. Use your writing to spot patterns in this, and other areas of your life.

It’s not a problem unless it’s a problem

If your tendency to hyperfocus is not negatively impacting your life, let it go. I give you full permission.

In fact, you might be able to use your hyperfocus to your advantage if you are feeling competitive.

Learn a new hobby or sport, see what happens. Enjoy it.

If hyperfocus becomes a problem in your life, make adjustments.

Control your environment

If you know that you cannot watch House of Cards without getting sucked in, then only watch it at a designated time. Enlist a partner to monitor your viewing time.

I know a few people who have found success by blocking Facebook at work because they know they will get sucked in.

Use block scheduling so that your day is laid out for you. Don’t leave room in your planner for play time unless you have already completed the “must do” items in your day.

Use a timer to help your tear yourself away from your phone. understanding adhd and hyperfocus Finally, think about hyperfocus.

Metacognition, as in asking yourself questions about why you are doing what you are doing, is a powerful tool for understanding ourselves. Source

Think about what your are thinking about when you hyperfocus. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

Ask yourself if you are expending an appropriate amount of mental energy on this particular task.

  • Does this make me feel good?
  • Why or why not?
  • Do I feel worn out?
  • Do I feel energized and excited?
  • Have I spoken to another human today?

I am the first person to admit hyperfocus is not an ADHD superpower. But it is a fascinating topic that should be explored.

Hyperfocus can be a positive attribute, as long as you know how to manage it.

Related links:

ADHD and Hyperfocus – via Untapped Brilliance

Understanding ADHD Hyperfocus – via ADDitude

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