Hyperfocus: An Upside to ADHD

hyperfocusPeople with ADHD know that despite their reputation for being easily distracted, they can also have an uncanny ability to concentrate when truly engaged with something they enjoy.  It may not happen all the time – or at the best time (!) – but it’s still worth celebrating.

The official term in the ADHD world is hyperfocus, and it’s defined by Ari Tuckman, PsyD, as “a locking-in of attention wherein the person becomes completely absorbed in an activity to the exclusion of awareness of the rest of his environment.”  It can range from throwing oneself into a writing or painting project, to playing videogames for hours.

The good news is that hyperfocus offers the potential to get a lot done, often with ease.  

When you connect with what you want to accomplish in a way that grips your attention, it can be quite satisfying and productive.  Find ways to take ownership of your projects by making them creative and appealing, even if others question your methods!  When it comes to washing the kitchen floor, this may be a stretch, but even then, sing, dance around or do whatever occurs to you to make it more engaging.

There is a downside as well.

When you lose track of time and forget promises or appointments, it’s not such a blessing.  Besides the obvious personal frustration, it can lead to significant problems with others who may be disappointed or downright angry.  If this continues to occur, it can become a major source of tension, leading to a lack of trust or resentment.

Hyperfocusing on low-priority items can also be a form of procrastination that takes you away from what needs to get done.  When you finally “emerge” it can be devastating to have wasted so much time yet still have to face whatever you were avoiding in the first place.

Many people slip into hyperfocus without much awareness, which makes it hard to control.  By noticing the types of activities you tend to get absorbed in, you can begin to take cautionary steps such as setting an alarm or even choosing not to get started.

Enjoy hyperfocus by asking yourself a few quick questions:

1.  Is this the best use of my time?

2.  Am I forgetting or avoiding anything else that has to be done now?

3. Will I be ignoring or hurting anyone else by doing this – kids/partner/others?

If you have a green light, go for it and enjoy the time!