Getting things done might be challenging if you have ADHD, but some techniques can help you maintain focus and stay on task.
If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you might often find it difficult to stay focused on what you’re supposed to be doing.
You might begin projects but never finish, jump from one task to another, or delay beginning something that doesn’t particularly interest you.
These symptoms and behaviors may trouble you and cause problems at work and with family, friends, and loved ones.
Staying focused long enough to complete projects can be a frustrating aspect of ADHD. But it’s important to understand that these challenges are not your fault, and there are ways to manage these symptoms.
If you have ADHD, these tips may help you stay on task and finish what you started.
Other research suggests that although adults with ADHD may have difficulty with sustained attention, performance in selective attention – focusing on one task or object for a period of time – is no different from neurotypical people.
This means that if you have ADHD, you may find it more difficult to focus on undesirable activities for a long time but easier to pay attention to tasks that are important to you.
If you have ADHD and find it difficult to stay on task, try to find what enhances your focus. Once you discover techniques that work for you, staying on task can become much more manageable.
Here are a few strategies to consider:
Use your device to stay on track
Cellphones and tablets are more than just devices for communication and surfing the web. These electronics can also be an excellent tool for managing tasks.
For example, if you have trouble remembering what you have on your to-do list or appointment times, you can use calendar apps with alert functions to set reminders.
On the other hand, you might find that you become hyperfocused on projects you enjoy. This can result in spending too much time on one activity and neglecting other, less desirable projects.
If you experience this, you could try setting a timer while doing a project you enjoy so you don’t lose track and forget to do other tasks.
Work with your ADHD instead of against it
One symptom of ADHD includes difficulty staying focused on one task for an extended period. Consider working with this tendency by choosing two tasks you need to accomplish and switch between them throughout the day.
Having the option to change tasks when your attention begins to diminish may help boost productivity.
Have a structured daily routine
Sometimes scheduling tasks instead of creating a general to-do list is more effective for staying on track if you have ADHD.
A to-do list can seem overwhelming and lead to procrastination. But one or two scheduled tasks may feel more attainable.
For complex activities requiring lots of focus, breaking them down into smaller tasks might help.
You might also consider using productivity methods such as the Pomodoro Technique to schedule blocks of time for specific tasks throughout your day.
Use tools to enhance focus
For some people, movement helps with attention and focus. If you feel this might benefit you, consider using a balance ball chair, wiggle seat, or an under-desk bike pedal exerciser or elliptical machine if your tasks require you to sit for long periods.
For a more portable option, tools such as stress balls, squishy putty, and fidget spinners are ideal for use at school or in the workplace.
If you’re concerned someone might notice you using a fidgeting device, some rings and necklaces look like fashionable jewelry but are actually fidget spinners.
Make your environment distraction-free, or not
Creating an environment that promotes focus is especially important if you have ADHD. For some people, eliminating clutter, reducing noise, and removing extra stimuli help with concentration.
In contrast, some people with ADHD find that background music is motivating and helps them stay on task. If this is the case for you, turning up the tunes might be the key to getting things done.
Create healthy boundaries
Whether it’s social or work-related, overscheduling yourself can quickly become overwhelming and leave you feeling scattered and unfocused. If this occurs often, you could consider saying no to some projects, telling your friends and family not to call or text during work hours, and committing to social events only if you feel they comfortably fit within your schedule.
Advocating for yourself and communicating your needs to others can be a positive step toward managing your ADHD symptoms and fostering your ability to get things done.
Treat yourself when you complete a task.
Once you’ve successfully checked a task off your to-do list, consider doing something you enjoy. Maybe you like spending time outdoors, having a snack, or dancing to a favorite song.
No matter how small the task, consider rewarding each success.
If you or someone you know has ADHD, these strategies to direct focus and attention may help you find effective ways to stay on task. These tips aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so you may have to experiment with each one to find out what works for you.
Still, if these or other methods aren’t working for you or you’re concerned about your ADHD symptoms, talking with a mental health professional can help. There are also many useful treatment options possible.
If you have ADHD, you’re not alone. Many people live with ADHD or know someone who is living with ADHD. Support groups and forums can be a great way to connect with others who have similar experiences and offer tips and strategies to help you stay focused and on task.
For a list of support groups and forums, you can visit our ADHD Resources page.
If you or someone you know has ADHD, these resources can help you learn ways to manage daily life:
- Tips for Living with ADHD
- 9 Ways for Adults with ADHD to Get Motivated
- 9 Tips for Creating a Routine for Adults with ADHD
If you’re looking for extra help toward staying on task, consider an ADHD coach. A coach can teach you strategies and tools to accomplish your goals and overcome challenges. The ADHD Coaches Organization directory can connect you with a coach who’s right for you.