The word "Focus", unfocused.

ADHD and Focus

Post Disclaimer

The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. The posts on this blog represent the opinions and thoughts of those with ADHD, and are in no way, shape or form meant to be used as a way to diagnose anyone with anything. If you believe that you have ADHD we urge you to reach out to our general practitioner for an initial assessment and possibly a referral to a specialist.

It can be pretty difficult for a neurotypical individual to understand how those of us with ADHD can’t just focus when we absolutely should (work, school, etc…). A neurotypical brain can connect A to B to C to D, and understands that A may be tough, but then we’ll get to B, and then C, etc.. Our ADHD brains are wanting to connect D to A to C to B. We’d love to connect A to B to C to D, in that order. BUT, what if we could figure out a way to complete D first (the last one, but most fun), THEN a little of A (the first one), and probably some C and B…. Oh and then more A. That’ll going to keep me focused!

Get it? Don’t worry, it seems illogical, but let me explain.

The Fastest Car

I started using a “Fastest Car” analogy with my partner. I’m not sure where I heard it, but I’ll reference it below when I remember. Imagine your brain as an 8-lane freeway (expressway, highway, parkway…). Each lane is a thought or task. The fastest car on the freeway is your most desired need, or want.

Neurotypical Brain “Freeways”

A neurotypical 8-lane freeway has one fastest car that is in front of all of the other cars until it takes its exit and a new car becomes the fastest until its exit, so on and so forth.

ADHD Brain “Freeways”

The ADHD freeway is a mess. The fastest car on the ADHD freeway is whatever one feels the best in that moment. The fastest car changes frequently, and sometimes there isn’t enough room on the road for all the cars that want to drive faster. The cars in the back are driving way too close to the cars in front of them (the same way that we’ve sometimes been told that we drive, hehe), and this causes the cars in front to become anxious and want to rush to get to the exits. This keeps happening over and over again until a car crashes or gets off the freeway safely.

“Fixing” Focus

As you can imagine. It would be pretty hard to focus on driving safely if you had someone tailgating you non-stop. This is sometimes why it looks like we’re “rushing” or “making needless mistakes”. Our brains lack Dopamine, which helps us with motivation, focus and happiness, among other things.

Don’t give us less of something because you think we’re not focused because it’s too hard. Give us a challenge, make it worth our while by increasing the difficulty. We’d rather be lauded for completing 1 extremely difficult task, and will likely learn much more, than by completing 10 less challenging tasks that are exactly the same.

If you have ADHD this is a great technique for getting through those boring tasks that are so easy you want to poke your eyes out, yet so hard that you can’t do them the same way, twice. Make it a challenge by introducing personal improvement. Don’t strive for perfection, strive for improvement.

I sometimes create little games whereby I challenge myself to do a “boring” task both faster, and of better quality then I’ve done previously. Is this something new? Never done it before? Use your first foray into a new experience or task as a new baseline for completing that “boring” task, in the future.

Quality over Quantity

This isn’t an excuse to rush and quality needs to be an aspect of your strategies for dealing with focus. Getting a task done at home of less quality might be fine, but you’ll need to know that completing a task at work with lesser quality might get you in trouble.

Ask yourself this, “What is the minimum viable product?” Create yourself a baseline for what you see the bare minimum of completing that task to look like. How long would that take? Is it an appropriate quality solution for the situation? Does it make sense to spend more time of this task to improve the quality? What result will the extra effort have and is it worth the time put in?

Closing Thoughts

Focusing is difficult for those with ADHD and will most likely always be an intentional act for all but the most motivating of tasks. Develop a strategy and use it purposefully. You don’t need to have a reason for doing things differently, and whatever reason that you give is good enough!

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