5 Steps to Stay Focused When You Have ADHD

Staying focused is hard for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for those who have ADHD. Watching classmates and coworkers complete tasks in a matter of minutes that took you forever to finish can be frustrating.

However, comparing yourself to others or getting down on yourself won’t help you grow or succeed. Rather than trying to suppress your ADHD, you can embrace your limits and get creative to help yourself not get distracted.

If you feel stuck in your ability to stay focused, try these five steps to get yourself on the right track.

1. Set Up Your Space

Get your Pinterest board ready! Whether for work, school, or a personal project, the space in which you work makes a huge difference in how well you focus. Create an environment that you want to work in. Keep your area clean, and put up pictures or inspirational quotes – whatever will motivate you to want to be in that area and work.

If you can, set up your space in an area that’s different than where you relax or hang out. There is a term in psychology called “context-dependent memory,” which means that something we learn or experience is more likely to be remembered when we are in the same context we experienced it.

For example, if you learn a concept in a classroom, you are more likely to remember that concept if you take the test in that same classroom.

With this in mind, setting up your workspace in an area used solely for what you need to work on can help you start focusing much more quickly and efficiently.


2. Make a T̶o̶-̶D̶o̶ Priorities List

Let’s be honest. You will never stop having things to do, and that can make to-do lists more anxiety-inducing than productive.

When we feel like we will never be able to finish everything we need to do, we often either give up and do none of it or keep switching back and forth between different tasks. Either way, we never really get any of them done.

Instead of making a to-do list, make a priorities list. You can still write out what you need to do, but put your list in order from most to least important. You can make a chart to plan out when you will get each task done and decide which can be pushed back until later. Hopefully, having it laid out like this will relieve some stress and provide clarity over what actually needs your attention.


3. Phone a Friend

Regardless of whether or not you have ADHD, there will be things each of us can’t do on our own. We need friends who know us and can help us focus when we can’t ourselves. Rather than just trying to push through on your own, accept your limits and let your friends help you!

Pick two or three family members or friends that can help hold you accountable, and express what you need from them. Have them check in with you throughout the day or week to ask how your project is going, go over your schedule with them to help you make your priority list, or ask them to help you set boundaries for yourself. This will help you not only have someone to hold you accountable but will also help you not feel so alone in your attempts to focus.


4. Utilize Your Strengths

Though it is easy to focus on the limitations and weaknesses that come with having ADHD, it is just as important to remember your strengths and use them to your advantage.

Do you tend to hyperfocus and fixate on certain tasks or during specific times? Recognize when you are in “hyperfocus mode” and use that time to crank out your more important tasks.

Are you more sensitive to certain sounds, touches, or smells? Create your space to be one that doesn’t allow for overstimulation, and give yourself tools to help you access the stimulation you need. Playing soothing music, using a weighted blanket, or keeping an air freshener in the room are just a few examples to help you focus.


5. Expect Progress, Not Perfection

Alright. You’ve set up your space, made your priorities list, and found a friend who is willing to hold you accountable. You’re even trying to use your ADHD to your advantage.

Even when you do everything you can to focus, something is bound to come up. Maybe you still got distracted even after “doing everything right.” Maybe something that you didn’t expect to be a priority ended up being much more important than you thought.

Aiming for perfection actually does the opposite of its intent. We end up feeling defeated and discouraged because we can never make it go exactly the way we think we should.

Rather than expecting yourself to be perfect, aim for healthy progress. The more you work at focusing, the more you will learn about yourself and what does or doesn’t help you. Give yourself a break and allow yourself room to grow!

For more tips on how to stay focused with ADHD, check out this article, “12 Ways to Maintain Focus All Day Long.”