7 Strategies to Make Hyper-focus Work for You

We are pleased to offer this guest post on ADHD healthy habits from Edge Coach, Beth Prosser.

How is it possible that someone with ADHD can focus for hours on something that’s interesting?  It’s a common misconception that people with Attention Deficit have a deficit of attention.   It would be more accurate to say we have trouble paying attention appropriately.  This intense concentration we sometimes experience is called hyper-focus.  It’s the other extreme.  Sometimes it’s as inappropriate as not being able to focus at all.

The ideal solution is to arrange your life so that the things you tend to hyper-focus on are things that bring you closer to your goals.  For example, if you are an artist, it would be advantageous to get lost in a painting and oblivious to the world for six hours.  But if you’re an accounting student and you have a final exam tomorrow morning, getting lost in that painting is probably not going to result in a good grade.

Here are seven strategies to help you manage ADHD hyper-focus:

  1. Identify the types of activities you tend to hyper-focus on.
  2. Don’t start any hyper-focus prone activities close to bedtime, or before doing something you’re likely to procrastinate on.
  3. Make it a point to be aware of your mental state at all times.  We often don’t even realize it when we’re hyper-focused.  Being aware of when you’re in it is the first step towards getting out of it.
  4. Practice being fully present.  Use mindfulness exercises to stay in the here and now.
  5. Use timers and alarms to be cognizant of how much time has elapsed since you started the activity.
  6. Change your physical position to help break a hyper-focus as soon as you recognize it.
  7. Plan milestones in your projects.  Stop every time you reach one.

Hyper-focus can be a wonderful gift if it’s used constructively, for things we truly want to focus on.  It can be a curse if we hyper-focus on things that don’t matter at the expense of everything else.  Controlling it is the tricky part.

Editor’s note: Do you hyperfocus?  We’d love to hear what you are passionate about and what do you do to keep the rest of your life in balance.

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9 Responses

  1. Stacy Best

    See this is my 2nd blog posting after reading an article on things others with ADHD do to that helps themselves, however once again while I’m happy for the people that do get help from these strategies. The strategies listed above will in no way help me manage a thing. For example one strategy mentioned above says “to not start any hyper-focus prone activities close to bedtime, or before doing something you’re likely to procrastinate on”, and another says “make it a point to be aware of your mental state at all times. We often don’t even realize it when we’re hyper-focused. Being aware of when you’re in it is the first step towards getting out of it.”
    If there was a way that someone with ADHD could keep this (the 1st one I just mentioned) part of their disability from starting or stopping as mentioned above, to coincide with their schedule by using a method of mind exercises, I don’t think that this part of our disability could be included as a symptom of ADHD, much less a disability.
    The second strategy (I am commenting on)I listed from the article I don’t agree with because 80% of the time I always realize when I am hyper-focusing on something and it doesn’t bring me out of it at all! For one I notice it because I can feel it not only in my brain, but in my body, and it’s most of the time very exhausting, as well as I worry about how others are perceiving me during the time I am in this state of mind. My point is if I could stop it just by noticing it, I wouldn’t do it, then this part of my ADHD disability would also not be considered a symptom of ADHD orbe considered a form of disability either. ADHD is considered and labeled a disease/disability, this label means we cannot control how the many types of affects that ADHD has on one who lives with it, or it wouldn’t be a disability or a disease, that would mean that we have control (even if we wanted to learn the strategies really bad) over these symptoms caused by our disability without using medicine, research, or miracles but by using our strong minds by wanting to learn how to make your mind make these symptoms stop and go away just by simple acknowledgement, sounds a bit out there to me. I feel two different definitions are being put out there and causing even more confusion on this disability!

  2. […] It is a common belief that people with ADHD  have trouble paying attention. FALSE! People with ADHD do not have trouble paying attention, but they do have trouble paying attention to the “right” things. Those with ADHD struggle paying attention to those things that they find “uninteresting.” On the flip side, there is a tendency for adults and children with ADHD to focus very intently on things that do interest them; in fact the ADHD mind cannot ignore things it finds interesting! This leads to what is called “hyperfocus,” a focus so strong that one becomes oblivious to the world around them. (Resource : Strategies to Make Hyper Focus Work For You) […]

  3. my hyper focus

    I do it a lot, I am darn good too. How can I make money solving problems. You name it I can solve it

  4. Lynnette Lum

    I would like to add to this rather old post. I, too have a hyperfocus problem related to my ADHD. As an adult, I believe that since I was not diagnosed as a child, that I learned to hyperfocus as a coping mechanism to get through college and to get to work and basically just function in life. In school I was said by my teachers that I did not know what was expected of me, also that I worked too slowly and that I needed to read more to get caught up on reading comprehension. I speculate that I was not yet able to hyperfocus in my earlier grades.

    I just want to say in defense of the guest host in the original post that she is correct that it is a misconception that ADHD or ADD is looked at as an attention deficit or attention inability. I do think the better word is misperception. It is as she stated an inappropriate way of paying attention. I agree, that we are able to pay attention if we are interested but if we are not, we are unable to. I think this is why so many people think that ADD or ADHD does not exist. Don’t we all feel this way? ADD or ADHD does exist in differing colors and in differing levels.

    I took the 14 minute Conners space bar test and I passed it with flying colors so a psychologist was ready to rule out ADHD all together. She did not look into my history nor the trouble I have paying attention long term and does this mean that since I can pay attention for 14 minutes, that I do not have ADD? This is bull.

    Is ADD or ADHD a disability? It depends upon the situation. If the ADDer has been able to use hyperfocus in a constructive way then no. If the person with ADD has been unable to manipulate this strength in a positive way then yes it is a disability. I am only speaking about hyperfocus here. There are many other problems associated with ADD that cause significant distress in social, educational achievement and ability to maintain work.

    For me, I too lose time because I am unaware that I am too engrossed in something. I don’t see this as a so called strength.
    I do try to limit my time on doing things I like. I do set alarms to jolt me out of my deep thinking process. I do make notes. However overall I do not think the ability to hyperfocus is a totally positive attribute. So much time goes by and it just seems a waste of time if it is not constructive. If one can master this hyperfocus then great but if you are not able to, it is a detriment.

    • Peggy Dolane

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your story. I hope you will also follow us on facebook or sign up for our newsletter to keep informed about the latest news on the ADHD, attention and Executive Function fronts.

  5. Kristina Vecchio

    I have just become aware of my hyper focus condition recently, well into my 20’s as an adult.

    I’m my adult working years, I have been able to use this to my advantage to learn and problem solve in my roles. My brain is very logical, so I am able to break down processes very quickly and focus in on one area.

    I say I am hyper focused because daily, at work, I completely zone into a specific task for hours, uuntil it is completed. Something that may take one co-worker days to complete, I am able to complete in a shorter amount of time by maintaining a high level of focus on that one item. This level of focus always makes me feel exhausted once I break away. My mind feels like quicksand, and my body feels like it needs sleep. Often times my co-workers mistake my focus as ignoring them, or being non responsive. They othen try to talk to me during my focused times, but I am not able to hear them as all stimulation is blocked. When my focus is broken mid task, I usually feel frustrated and exhausted, as it consumed more energy to break and regain focus then maintaining the constant flow. This has harmed my relationships at work, as sometimes I do not see the need or value in socializing. It makes me come off as cold, and distant, but it is really because my mind is in hyper focus mode.

    I made a daily checklist at work , prioritizing what I should work on and accomplish first. This has helped, but I still find myself straying from that and tuning in on activities that are gratifying to focus on. Usually the tasks that are small, or the fastest, are the most difficult for me to complete.

    I agree with some of the advice in this article. Understanding that you are hyper focused and what your brain is doing, is the first step. I am still trying to come up with systems and ways to help my future self do healthy things. Like paying bills – I have automated all my bill payments because I found that I would knowingly be late, because the focus it would take to go online to pay it., or go to the post office, was more exhausting than the most difficult task at work. Once I because aware of my hyper focused mind, I started telling coworkers, so they know my tuning them out is not intentional.

    I love reading up on this condition and how others are coping. If anyone knows of an ADHD hyper focused chat, or forum, please let me know 🙂


  6. […] retains me from predictably pillaging the sandwich bars of Midtown, it’s ADHD. I’m prone to hyperfocusing on issues that curiosity me. Fortunately these issues are sometimes work associated. And despite […]

  7. […] is always to ensure that guests have the best possible experience. The best way to do this is to stay hyper-focused on the details of the establishment and its interactions with patrons. From special personal touches, like fresh […]