We all think we have ADHD these days. There is a lot of external draws on our attention. Whether it’s notifications on our phones, new social media accounts to check throughout the day, or the latest show we’re tempted to binge instead of getting a few smaller things out of our way, the number of distractions we need to filter out at any moment seems to only increase year over year. Internally, we can also be drawn to distracting thoughts like worry or even pleasure seeking daydreaming that can draw us away from the here and now.
Whether or not you actually have ADHD, attention is a finite resource. By understanding the demands our attention span is facing we can give it a helping hand and assist ourselves in staying on task a little bit longer.
Fortunately, there is a lot you can do and it’s amazing how some really small steps can make big differences when it comes to staying focused. Why not pick one or two of these this week and give them a try?
Know your best times for focus, and plan your day around that window.
Maybe you're a morning person, or maybe you're more alert in the late afternoons. Whatever time it is recognize when you are more alert and productive and try and schedule within that time so that you plan to get your work done then.
Clarify expectations for big projects before starting.
Make sure that before you start something you are completely clear on all assumed deadlines, formatting requirements, and questions that need to be addressed or answered. Feeling clear on what you have to do will help you feel confident in starting and progressing through the steps.
Break large tasks into small chunks, and then schedule it out.
You may be trying to do too much at once if you find that you often procrastinate because you get easily overwhelmed. Start tasks by taking a few minutes to really break down the task into baby steps.
Take small 5 minute active breaks.
The key words here are "small" and "active", a 20 minute break turns into a Netflix binge, but a five minute break where you grab a glass of water, step outside to stretch your legs and go to the bathroom will bring you back to your task feeling energized.
Clear your environment.
A messy room or cluttered desk is not going to help you focus. Eliminate some of your environments “noise” by starting with a quick clean up. Once you minimize the physical distractors on your desk or in your environment you will already feel more productive.
Turn off notifications or leave your phone in another room.
Phones and technology are our biggest distractors. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb, turn off notifications, or just turn it off completely and leave it in another room. Go back to the old fashioned clock or egg timer if you need to. Social media is a huge distractor, but even if you just block social media there will be other sources of distraction to find on your phone or computer so its best to just put it away.
Reward yourself only when you have completed a task.
A simple check mark on your daily planner or to-do list will give you the positive reinforcement that is needed to motivate you to continue being productive.
Find opportunities for movement within your day.
If your body can’t sit any longer start going for a run before work, taking the stairs, or getting fresh air during your lunch break. You can even include movement in to your workflow by adding a standing desk.
Stay hydrated and eat brain nourishing food.
Skip the Redbull and sugary granola bar and opt for a water and something wholesome and refreshing. Your body needs energy to focus, but the wrong type of energy will just lead to a crash that makes focusing even more challenging.
Be kind to yourself, no one can pay attention all day.
Be realistic with your attention and work goals. Aim for 30 minutes at a time. But have
some self compassion, getting mad at yourself is only going to distract you further.
One by one, try to incorporate as many of these tips into your daily routine and reflect on how they help you regain some focus.
Jessica is a member of the clinical wellness and learning support team at FLEX Psychology. Jessica started Wellness Wednesday out of a desire to provide further opportunities for her clients to extend their wellness journey to all avenues of their life. You can learn more about Jessica by clicking here or by learning more about her and the clinical team at FLEX Psychology by clicking here.