3 Tips to Channel ADHD Hyperfocus

October 7, 2011 Douglas Cootey

Once adults with ADHD become hyperfocused, they come on like an 18-wheeler charging down a mountainside without brakes. But is there a way to control it?

Last week I wrote about how embarrassment can trigger clarity and ADHD hyperfocus. I also wrote about how trauma can cause the same reaction. These shocks to our system can lift most of us into a higher state of awareness. Think of how lucky you are to have ADHD. If you're like me, embarrassment--and hyperfocus--occurs weekly as I blunder about my life being embarrassed by my boneheaded actions.

But how long does the hyperfocus last for you? Are you able to channel ADHD hyperfocus to move your life and projects forward, or is it just another strong emotion you experience then instantly forget as you

Ohmigosh! iOS5 is available for download now? Clickity click, man!

Channeling ADHD Hyperfocus Inward and Outward

There is a switch in our mind, sometimes cobweb covered and stiff with disuse, but it is clearly labeled MOTIVATION. Once we flick it into action, nothing can stop the ADHD adult with a purpose. We come on like an 18-wheeler charging down a mountainside without brakes. Sure, there is sometimes carnage in our wake, but when we direct that energy inwardly we are able to transform ourselves and behavior with amazing results, as I wrote about last week.

When directed outwardly, ADHD adults can accomplish great things. The trick is to know how to steer that 18-wheeler along the highway to its destination, as opposed to gamboling about the countryside chasing butterflies and knocking over trellises.

How to Channel ADHD Hyperfocus Without the Carnage

When I find myself motivated and in hyperfocus mode, there are a few things I keep in mind to make the best of it.

Use the hyperfocus to stay on task.

Today iOS5 really is available for download for the iPhone, and I'm dying to play with it. However, because I'm behind on my blogging I'm hyperfocused on getting caught up. I've spent the past 48 hours being sick and bed/couch ridden. I've only had 3 hours of sleep and what would normally be a recipe for distractibility is instead a window of focus in my life.

I missed two blog deadlines and had somebody at the office put out a fire for me while I was cluelessly catatonic. Now I'm determined to get caught up and repair damages. That's where motivation comes into play. The embarrassment shocks, but the motivation keeps me focused. Whenever my tired mind wanders, and boy does it wander, my mind panics me back into focus minutes later.

Always know what is your most important goal.

Hyperfocus can be misspent on pointless pursuits if you haven't prepared beforehand. If my system of organization hadn't put my blogging job high in my list of priorities, and if I didn't work hard to prioritize this job at the top of my todo list, I very well could have spent the afternoon blissfully upgrading my iPhone and playing with the new OS. As it was, my online calendar experienced a fatal sync error and wiped out all my events. Knowing that I needed to get caught up and ahead of my job duties prevented me from spending the entire morning troubleshooting.

Limit time spent on anything besides your most important task.

As important as my calendars are to me, I didn't allow myself to spend hours reconstructing them. I restored my most important todo list for this job, set a timer as a hard limit to remind me to stop just in case it took too long, then got busy working on that list. I can fix the calendars later. Because I was hyperfocused on this job, I didn't even need a timer or alarm.

Now, many people have told me over the years that these kinds of tips are basic for anybody. I won't argue with them. But ADHD exaggerates these tendencies and makes them problematic in the workplace or at home. Hyperfocus when left uncontrolled becomes tunnel vision to a near obsessive intensity.

I certainly have experienced that in my life and lost friends and jobs over it. I know other ADHD adults and children experience that tunnel vision, too. These three tips help me stay on track and help me get back on track when I wander. With practice and preparation, they can help you use that hyperfocus as a tool, too.

What tips do you use to put ADHD hyperfocus to good use in your life? Share them below.

Follow me on Twitter for my ADHD escapades at @SplinteredMind or my novel writing project over at @DouglasCootey. And if you're a glutton for punishment you can friend me on Facebook as well.

Photo by C.P. Storm

APA Reference
Cootey, D. (2011, October 7). 3 Tips to Channel ADHD Hyperfocus, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Douglas Cootey

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