- A detailed ADHD plan considers a range of interventions. Flexible trial and error is one key to success.
- Stay proactive and consider everything from medication to meditation that may help with focus.
A detailed ADHD plan considers a range of interventions around attention, organization, time management, and the rest of executive function, exploring what works until someone feels they are flourishing. An effective and compassionate path of trial and error relies on a clear-sighted exploration of what’s possible without self-criticism or blame. ADHD is no one’s fault and is a complicated disorder often requiring complex solutions.
As an example of what’s possible, here are various options to consider that may help with focus:
- Adjust ADHD medications: In spite of skewed and unfair misunderstandings, ADHD medication has been around for a century, and is both safe and highly effective when used appropriately. The key is the intensive trial and error typically required to find the right dose while avoiding side effects and also covering as much of the day as possible. And then, whenever possible schedule your work during the time your medication is most effective.
- Exercise regularly: The human body needs to move to stay healthy, and ADHD gets in the way of consistent health routines. Regular exercise helps with mood, sleep, and often with ADHD symptoms as well. Brief exercise breaks may even produce more immediate gains around focus.
- Enlist a partner: As described by Dr. Roberto Olivardia, an ‘accountability buddy’ can help you stay on task. Consider committing with someone, like choosing to study or pay bills at the same time until you’re both done. Or let someone know your plan for your next work session, and text them both when you start and when you’re done.
- Problem solve sleep routines: ADHD also disrupts sleep. Addressing sleep issues and sleeping enough leads to better daytime focus and learning.
- Try meditation: Building focus through mindfulness practice is feasible for anyone. There is no expectation of perfection and having no thoughts has never been the goal – because it’s impossible. On the other hand, improved focus has been documented through even a relatively brief regular meditation practice with or without ADHD. Of course, meditation helps with sleep problems, too.
- Use timers: Many people focus better under pressure. Waiting to the last minute is one way to create this kind of forced focus but also leads to late nights, rushed work, and no time for editing. Commit to a work style called ‘batching.’ Set a timer and resolve to stick with one task until it goes off – aim to mimic that sense of a deadline. Then time a brief break and start again.
- Manage computer distractions: Computers have many benefits but are intrinsically designed to distract. And then, each shift of our attention leads to lost efficiency. If you drift into 15 minutes of idle distraction, you lose more like 20 minutes of work moving your attention back and forth. That wasted time accumulates through the day. Use programs like Freedom to protect your work time, then batch your fun time too.
- Promote active engagement: Make choices that actively push you to engage with what you’re doing. One of the more common ones is taking notes, even if you never choose to use them.
- Manage your environment: Set up your immediate surroundings to minimize distraction. Sit near the front in a classroom, for example, or move away from what you most enjoy at home. Set aside or turn off your phone. Some people use white noise machines, or background music (remember to use a preset playlist and avoid deejaying).
- Reinforce your motivation: Picture for yourself how good you will feel finishing your task, says Dr. Olivardia, or make up a small reward to give yourself when you’re done. Remember to forgive yourself; excessive self-criticism undermines motivation and persistence.
Lastly, keep track of your intentions and your perspective towards your work. If you go into any activity with the belief you’ll fail, you’ll give up more quickly. Notice that mental habit and reframe your approach as you would encourage a young child. Set an intention to make honest choices, put in the effort, and if you don’t succeed, reflect on what’s happened, adjust your plan and then try again.