17 million people in the United States have ADHD. It is the most common learning and behavioral challenge in children and one of the most common challenges in adults, leading to job failures, relationship break-ups, loneliness, drug abuse, and a tremendous sense of underachievement. It can leave you feeling scattered and disconnected.
Both men and women who have ADHD can have devastating lifelong effects on their health, mood, relationships, career, and finances. Women often go undiagnosed.
It can be difficult to get your brain to focus on the task you want to accomplish. Telling yourself to “just focus” can be frustrating and counterproductive.
It’s important to understand and benefit from the Zeigarnik Effect
The “Zeigarnik Effect” is the idea that unfinished tasks are more difficult to get out of your mind than new projects. For this reason, it can be helpful to find a way to simply get started on a project before you get too distracted. By doing things like setting an alarm for yourself to get started, even for only ten minutes, can greatly increase your focus in the long run. In order to not get frightened by the size of a task don’t force yourself to finish it. Get a little bit done and allow yourself to stop if you want to, the Zeigarnik Effect will kick in and you will be more likely to remember your task later. The best part is, thanks to your work earlier the task is now smaller.
It’s important to understand and benefit from the Zeigarnik Effect
“Just Use a Planner”
When you have ADHD you’ve heard “just use a planner” about a thousand times. Even if you have tried this a million times like I have the core of the advice is still useful.
The core concept of keeping you’re to-do’s somewhere obvious to get back on track when your mind gets derailed.
Your mind will get distracted, it’s more or less inevitable, however, if you have a clearly visible to-do list you become more efficient by getting back on task faster.
My favorite way of doing this is by hanging a medium-sized whiteboard on my wall and writing my to-do focus list on it. It’s incredibly low effort to glance over at it and remind me of what I need to accomplish. As a helpful side effect my eyes will fall on the whiteboard mid-distraction and ill snap back into clarity to get back on task.
“Parking Lot” For Your Thoughts
A lot of people with ADHD experience a lot of continuous thoughts interrupting their concentration.
The thing is, some thoughts are worth thinking about. By using a notepad as a “parking lot” you can store thoughts that are racing through your head that are worthy of attention. When an important but unproductive thought darts into your mind, you can write it down on your notepad for later use. A bit like a future Daily Focus List in order to get the idea out of your head to help you focus on your current task.
Dismiss The Need For Imperfection
Hyperfocus can lead people to focus on the wrong things. One way this manifests in people with ADHD/lack of Focus is by focusing on unimportant details. By focusing on the wrong part of your current task you end up being unproductive even when you are working on the project of your choosing. It is easier said than done but remember that reminding yourself not to be overly perfectionist about the details of your task can significantly improve productivity. One way you can do this is by giving yourself a time limit. When the alarm goes off you put down your task. If you gave yourself enough time then it is more than likely that the task has been done well. Allow yourself to move on to other things.
If a task seems large and daunting, put some time into simplifying the project. By breaking down the task into smaller simple steps you can make yourself a Focus List that is easier to deal with and that keeps you focused on the important parts of your task. Even if you know in your mind every step and how long they will take, writing it out will take a small burden out of your mind and onto the page, the clarity is relaxing and allows you to ease into the project.
Admittedly these things help you manage your focus issues but they don’t help you improve them. InnerOptimal programs are here for that. We are excited to be able to help you and others!
Let Me Give You An Example;
Al is a 20-year-old and about to drop out of college.
He could barely pass his freshman year, and he was failing in his second year. The added freedom and lack of structure were not helping. High school’s structure had given away to self-management, however, all the new freedom was the perfect recipe for disaster.
Nights were worse! The demons of his scattered brain emerged at night and he could not sleep because his brain just would not settle down.
When Al came to us, he was frightened to be “left behind” by life! He had lots of frustration, guilt, and anger as well as feeling worn out! He told us “I’ve never been diagnosed ADHD, but all my life I’ve been experiencing a short attention span, distractibility, restlessness, and a tendency to procrastinate. And on top of this, I feel exhausted!”
Neuroscientists understand the parallel between Lack of Focus/ADHD and a variety of sleep problems. One recent study found that children with ADHD had higher rates of daytime sleepiness than children without ADHD.
After the first month of his InnerOptimal Neurofeedback program, Al found that his sleep was deeper and that his energy was coming back! He reported being able to focus for longer periods of time. After a couple of months, he could sleep 7 hours a night, and very deep, refreshing nights of sleep, which was a first for him! Then his Lack of focus/ADHD symptoms faded away. At that time, he decided to register himself again to college and he pass his second year! He is now at the end of his third year. His grades have gotten better, he is well organized and happy!
What Does InnerOptimal Help With?
The goal of neurofeedback for ADHD is to teach you to produce the brain-wave patterns associated with focus. The result is that some symptoms of ADHD — impulsivity, distractibility, acting out, anxiety, low self-esteem, guilt — diminish and very often completely disappear.
Many research studies have shown Neurofeedback gives people more self-control. Neurofeedback participants show significant improvement over core symptoms of ADHD equivalent to the positive effects produced by methylphenidate without the side effects. Additional research has demonstrated that the effects of neurofeedback are sustained at 6-months post-session.
You are not alone, there are plenty of things you can do to help manage your ADHD, the Zeigarnik effect, obvious planners, parking your thoughts, allowing imperfection, and seeking clarity. And if you want to progress past managing your focus and instead improve it, we’ll be here for you!