How to Focus With ADHD

Lack of focus (inattention) is one of the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It may be seen in difficulty maintaining focus, staying organized, or staying on task. A person with ADHD may also be easily distracted.

Other common symptoms of ADHD are hyperactivity (constant moving or restlessness) and impulsivity (acting without thinking or having problems with self-control). People with ADHD may have only some of these symptoms.

According to some estimates, ADHD affects approximately 11% of children between ages 4 and 17. In addition, approximately 4% of adults have the condition. Symptoms of ADHD generally become evidenced by 6 years of age. Depending on the several factors, people who have ADHD could be diagnosed later in life.

A lack of focus can have an impact on your life at school, work, home, or in social situations. There are ways to help people who have ADHD concentrate. This article will share tips on how to focus with ADHD.

A man at a computer is having difficulty focusing on work

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Strategies for Better Focus 

With Medication

If you have ADHD, and you are concerned about your lack of focus, there is help. If your doctor prescribed medication for you, it will help with the symptoms. In addition, there are certain things that you can do to help increase focus:

  • Breathe: Get in the habit of practicing deep breathing. This will help calm the nervous system. In addition, a regular meditation practice may help increase focus and decrease stress. 
  • One task at a time: If you are at work, focus on one task at a time. This reduces anxiety and nervousness surrounding completing tasks for the day.
  • Talk to others: If you feel comfortable sharing your condition with your community, this can help them have more compassion. There are also support groups and licensed mental health professionals who can also help you in your journey.
  • Movement breaks: Take breaks and move. Whether it is a walk around the office or stretch, movement will help your focus.
  • Timing techniques: As you are working on tasks, set a timer for an uninterrupted amount. For some people, it is 15 minutes, for others, 30. Try different time segments to determine what works for you. Depending on the age, the attention span is shorter. Work with different times to determine the best outcomes. 
  • Diet: Try to reduce and/or eliminate sugar, alcohol, and smoking.
  • Plan ahead: It is important to have a plan. This will help you feel in control of what you are doing, how long it will take, and how to do it. Many times there are interruptions or complications, and it is good to have a plan and list in place to help you get back on course.
  • Organize your space: It is important to have a clean and organized space where you are working. Clutter can bring on more anxiety and confusion.
  • Set the environment: Just like your workspace, your environment is also important. A clean and ordered space can help your mindset and reduce stress. When you know where things are placed, it enables you to think clearer and relax.
  • Write it down: First, write down everything that you have to do. Then, organize the tasks by deadline and importance. If the item doesn’t have a deadline, give yourself one. Then place the tasks on your weekly and daily to-do lists. As you complete tasks, check them off and see how far you’ve come.
  • Reward yourself: If you have completed tasks, reached your goals, and feel good about it, celebrate.
  • Journal and document: If there are times that you focus better or have difficulty sleeping, write that down. You can also journal about your thoughts and feelings. You may wish to share your journal when discussing your progress with your doctor.

Without Medication

If you are not on medication and try the techniques described, there may be some improvement depending on the severity of ADHD. Due to some of the side effects of medication, some people may not want to take prescription medicine for ADHD.

Activities like spending time in nature and maintaining a healthy diet may help with your ADHD symptoms.

Behavior therapy is often used to help children with ADHD. Parents and teachers are trained in ways to help the child increase positive behavior and reduce problem behaviors.

In addition, seeing a licensed mental health professional can be beneficial. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help adults manage ADHD. Your doctor will be able to give you referrals.

Why Can’t I Concentrate With ADHD?

When an individual has ADHD, it is hard to concentrate or focus. This is part of the definition of the condition. According to the American Psychiatric Association, nine symptoms of inattention may be present in ADHD. These can include:

  • Has difficulty staying focused at work, during play, or at home.
  • Misses important details.
  • Frequently misses deadlines or has consistent disorganized work.
  • Has difficulty following through with instructions or tasks.
  • Avoids tasks that take a long time or focus to complete.
  • Seems to not listen during a conversation.
  • Has difficulty or forgets to keep appointments, pay bills, respond to emails, or return phone calls.
  • Frequently loses things that are essential, such as keys, cell phone, wallet.
  • Is easily distracted.

A person under age 18 with six of these might be classified with inattentive ADHD. Adults that have a chronic issue because of five or more of the above symptoms and little to no symptoms of impulsivity or hyperactivity may have an inattentive presentation of ADHD.

Stressful Environments for People With ADHD

If you or your child have ADHD, there are ways you might cope with lack of focus in particular environments.

At Work/School

At both work and school, a clean and orderly environment is helpful. At school, a desk organized with all of the supplies needed is helpful for completing the task or assignment. A schedule can help keep a student on track.

If there is a lesson that is 45 minutes, it might be broken up between lecture and doing the assignment. A visual time breakdown can be helpful for the student.

If a movement or stretching break between tasks is not an option, a stress ball can be helpful to ensure some type of movement.

At work, a to-do list, timer, and break times are useful for the person who has ADHD. Adults understand their focus timing better so they can gauge when the most focused work should be done during their workday.

The Bedroom

Some individuals with ADHD have trouble sleeping. The bedroom should be clean, comfortable, and an area for rest and relaxation. It is ideal not to have any work items in the bedroom. Set a time to turn off the phone, computer, and TV as well.

Make the bedroom a sanctuary with soft lighting to help calm yourself for sleep. Stretching that promotes relaxation may be helpful.

Home

There are a lot of responsibilities and tasks to complete at home. The most important thing
is to ensure that the person with ADHD doesn’t get overwhelmed with the tasks. Organization is key. A list of chores and tasks is helpful.

For younger people, it would be ideal to sit down with the child to talk about the chores, including how and when they will be completed. This helps the child think through all of their responsibilities and start to understand how they work.

Parenting a Child With ADHD

If your child has ADHD, the first step in helping them is patience and understanding. Depending on the age and diagnosis, there are ways to help your child succeed with ADHD. Understand this is their journey and communication with your child is important.

It is also important to have open communication with your child’s teachers, coaches, counselors, and learning specialist. As a team, your child will feel supported and have the tools for success.

Upon diagnosis, this is new for both you and your child. Even if you have ADHD as a parent, each experience is different. Allow them to feel their feelings, grow through the journey, and feel supported.

Summary

Problems with focus (inattention) are a common symptom of ADHD and can have an effect on school, work, home life, and social life. Medications for ADHD can address this symptom, but there are also habits and practices you can use to help you or your child focus.

If you need additional help for yourself or your child, your doctor can refer you to the right mental health professional or specialists. They can help you create a plan to help your condition. It takes patience and understanding for all involved.

A Word From Verywell

ADHD affects many people. If you or someone you know has ADHD, know that you are not alone and there is help available. There are times where it may feel isolating because you are misunderstood, but there are many ways to cope and reduce the symptoms.

Having a talk with your doctor, boss, learning specialist (school), and/or teacher is a wonderful first start. In addition, talking to a licensed mental health professional or joining a support group is also helpful. If you have any questions or concerns, speak with a healthcare professional. They can help you with referrals and lead you in the right direction.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does ADHD get worse with age?

    If ADHD is diagnosed and you have the tools to help with symptoms, it shouldn't get worse with age. There may be some changes in a child's symptoms as they grow.

  • Can students with ADHD get good grades?

    Yes, students with ADHD can get good grades. It is important to understand their learning style and create a plan that will help them succeed.

  • How do you communicate with people who have ADHD?

    Communicate clearly. In addition, ask them what the best way is to communicate so they can understand and have an effective outcome.

  • Is ADHD a disability?

    According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Depending on the severity of ADHD, it can be considered a disability.

  • Should ADHD patients drink caffeine for focus?

    It depends. There are studies that show that caffeine may help increase focus, attention, and vigilance. There are some ADHD medications that have the same effect. A study of soldiers with ADHD found some benefits of caffeine pills in reducing symptoms, including inattention.

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10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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