Learning to focus with add

Tips for Adults with ADHD

1. Narrow your line of sight

While at your desk, keep only what you’re working on in front of you. Get everything else out of your line of sight.

– Sandy Maynard, ADDitude’s coach on call

2. Give yourself a message

If you need to buckle down and work on a research paper for a few hours, write a note and post it within view:

“This is not the time to clean my room. I can do that tomorrow.” “This is only the first draft. It does not need perfect sentence structure and wording.”

– Patricia Quinn, M.D., Nancy Ratey, Ed.M., and Theresa Maitland, Ph.D., coauthors of Coaching College Students with ADHD (#CommissionsEarned)

3. Withhold criticism

Don’t critique the job you’re doing until you’ve completed it. That way, you can avoid getting waylaid by perfectionism or frustration at how much you have left to do.

– Christine Adamec, author of Moms with ADD (#CommissionsEarned)

[Click to Read: Fidgeting — It’s Not Just for Kids!]


Make a list

If a swarm of concerns is keeping you from attending to the task at hand, take five minutes to write down what you have to do. Once these tasks are on paper and you no longer have to worry about remembering everything, you’ll find it easier to focus.

– Thomas Whiteman, Ph.D., and Michele Novotni, Ph.D., coauthors of Adult ADD (#CommissionsEarned)

5. Ask for a friendly reminder

Confide in a friend who sits near you in class or in business meetings. Ask him or her to tap you lightly on the shoulder if you appear to be zoning out.

– Khris, teen contributor to A Bird’s-Eye View of Life with ADD and ADHD (#CommissionsEarned)

6. Get regular exercise

It’s the best way to promote long-term focus. Exercise sends more oxygen to the brain, and stimulates the release of nutrients, hormones, neurotransmitters, and other agents that optimize brain function.

– Edward Hallowell, M.D., and John Ratey, M.D., coauthors of Delivered from Distraction (#CommissionsEarned)

[Read: All-Natural Ways to Boost Your Focus]


Know your limits

When you simply can’t listen any more and find yourself drifting, be frank. Tell the person you’re talking to, “I’m sorry. Can we stop for a minute? My meds are gone and I can’t pay attention.”

– Alex Zeigler, coauthor of A Bird’s-Eye View of Life with ADD and ADHD (#CommissionsEarned)

8. Set a goal

If you have a goal that’s aligned with who you are and what you’re excited about, you’ll move mountains to stay on task and get the job done.

– Michael Sandler, Success at School columnist for ADDitude

[Read This Next: 9 Ways to Trick Your Brain Into Focus]

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#CommissionsEarned As an Amazon Associate, ADDitude earns a commission from qualifying purchases made by ADDitude readers on the affiliate links we share. However, all products linked in the ADDitude Store have been independently selected by our editors and/or recommended by our readers. Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication

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"Why Can't I Focus?" 12 No-Fail Focus Tricks for ADHD Brains

Smart phone alerts with speech bubbles from megaphone to distraction working businessman

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Why Can't I Focus?

You’ve crafted your to-do list. You’ve gathered your supplies. You know what you need to do. And yet when the time comes to actually complete the day’s tasks, your brain drifts off.

Why is focus — both finding it in the first place, and pulling it back when it starts to stray — so difficult for people with attention deficit disorder (ADHD)? The answer lies in brain chemistry: ADHD brains are naturally low on dopamine and norepinephrine, which control brain arousal and attention levels. Other people may find that, when the situation calls for it, they can “buckle down” and force their brains to focus. For people with ADHD, the advice to “just focus” is maddening; it simply can’t be done.

You can’t force focus, but you can create an ideal environment — both physical and mental — for it to thrive. The key is working with (not against) your ADHD brain, and combining the specific factors that help your focus flourish. When you're wondering, "Why can't I focus?" follow these 12 tips to get started.

Isometric red start button on control panel on turquoise blue background. Beginning, startup and decision concept. Flat design. EPS 8 compatible vector illustration, no transparency, no gradients

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1. Remember the Zeigarnik Effect.

The “Zeigarnik Effect” is the principle that unfinished tasks are harder to get out of your brain than are tasks that haven’t been started. This means that starting a project — even if you work on it for just 10 minutes — will make it harder for your brain to forget or dismiss it. If you find yourself daydreaming instead of getting started, set a timer for 10 minutes and do something (anything!) during that time. Once you start, the big, scary project will turn into an unfinished task — meaning your brain will latch onto it and figure out how to get it done.

monitor with yellow sticker to do list

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2. Use a “daily focus list.”

Write down your major priorities at the beginning of each day. This is a great way to block out annoying distractions and periodically refocus your attention. A daily focus list — a short, bulleted outline of three major and three secondary priorities — isn’t just a “to-do list”; rather, it’s a grounding tool that keeps your head out of the clouds and focused on what’s really important. (Download an example of a daily focus list.)

[Get This Free Download: 6 Ways to Retain Focus (When Your Brain Says 'No!')]

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3. Create a “parking lot.

Racing thoughts and hyperactive imaginations mean that ADHD brains are easily thrown off course by passing thoughts about dry cleaning or returning Aunt Linda’s phone call. Deal with sidetracking thoughts — and the anxiety they can create — with a “parking lot,” an easily accessible place to dump unneeded thoughts until a more appropriate time. The parking lot could be a notebook you carry in your purse, or a post-it note stuck to your desk; whatever it is, it will save you stress and keep your focus unbroken.

man holding confused expression billboard and take phone isolated on blue background

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4. Identify your “overwhelm” triggers.

When the ADHD brain gets stressed, it jumps into fight or flight mode. This looks like a lack of motivation: You abandon your piles of laundry or half-done taxes and binge-watch Netflix instead. Break this cycle by identifying the triggers that cause you to feel overwhelmed. For some, it’s hunger; for others, it’s too many conflicting priorities. Getting a handle on what causes your overwhelm won’t be enough to deter it every time, but you’ll be better equipped to anticipate its arrival and plan accordingly.

Businessman trying to push to the maximum energy value

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5. Go with your flow — not just the flow.

ADHD comes with plenty of superpowers (like hyperfocus), but you can’t always predict when they’ll kick in. Respect your brain! Recognizing when you’re “in the zone” — and able to tackle tasks that require attention and focus — is just as important as recognizing when your brain is in a fog. When you’re totally out of it, give yourself permission to shift your attention to less-demanding tasks, like filing papers or folding socks. You’ll get more done in the long run!

Getting ready for training. The concept of female feet after work

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6. Look for “positive distractions.”

“Distraction” need not be a dirty word. Certain diversions can actually help you get more done in the long run. Take, for instance, exercise: stepping away from a project to go for a walk might seem like avoidance, but physical activity actually boosts the brain and can help you operate more efficiently when you come back. Seek out the “positive distractions” that work for you; good examples include meditation, a quick dance break, or a creative art project. If you’re nervous about getting lost in your distraction, set a timer — and stick to it.

[Click to Read: 25 Everyday Brain Boosts]

Five yellow ranking stars on black wooden background

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7. Forget perfection.

Hyperfocus isn’t always a force for good. Sometimes, it can lead people with ADHD to obsess over small, unimportant details — and kill their real productivity in the process. Work on letting go of perfectionism and settling for “good enough.” This is a journey, not a destination, so don’t expect your perfectionist tendencies to disappear overnight — but you can expect to reduce your anxiety, build your self-esteem, and improve your productivity along the way.

Best friends bumping fists to each other. Friendship and respect concept. Teamwork symbol motivation to achieve results in work.Flat doodle illustration in cartoon style

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8. Buddy up.

Recruit an “accountability partner” — someone you talk to daily, weekly, or monthly — to help you prioritize goals, chart progress, and celebrate successes. Accountability builds focus — and, in the long run, creates change — because everyone (particularly someone with ADHD) thrives on being able to say, “Yep, I did it.” A partner — whether it’s an ADHD coach, a close friend, or even your mom — can help get you where you want to go.

close up of calendar on the table, planning for business meeting or travel planning concept

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9. Set aside planning time.

Lack of planning is one of the biggest focus drains; it’s hard to stay in the zone when you don’t know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing! Even one minute of planning can save you as much as 40 minutes of work, so it’s important that you schedule regular, short planning sessions to sketch out priorities and deadlines for the upcoming days or weeks. Of course, nothing is set in stone — priorities can shift and emergencies can arise. But having even a general sense of your goals and how to plan to achieve them — even if you get thrown off course — works wonders for retrieving your focus from La-La Land.

Telescope (Focus)

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10. Find clarity.

The greater your clarity, the easier it is to stay focused and get things done. If you’re having trouble paying attention to a project, ask yourself these questions to expose the root of the problem: What do you want to achieve? Whose expectations are driving this project — your own or someone else’s? Do you understand what you need to do? Getting a handle on what’s expected of you will make it easier to ignore distractions and maintain a positive mindset.

Old hourglass on the background of clocks.

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11. Set deadlines.

Ever wonder why you do everything at the last minute? It’s because deadlines are actually neurologically useful to the ADHD brain — they eliminate competing priorities and boost adrenaline, making it easier to dive into hyperfocus and crack down on a task. Not every task comes with a clear deadline, however — so you need to create your own. These could be deadlines for each phase of a project — “On Tuesday at 4 PM, I’ll pick up the paint supplies from the hardware store” — or for the project itself: “The bathroom needs to be painted by February 1.” Post your deadlines prominently and set frequent reminders — they’ll increase your likelihood of following through.

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12. Acknowledge — and then dismiss — negative thoughts.

Rumination is the enemy of focus. Repeatedly dwelling on, say, a recent argument with your spouse can block out other important thoughts, making it nearly impossible to get anything done. Trying to block out negative thoughts entirely, however, usually backfires. Instead, acknowledge your natural thought patterns, and plan a time when you can give them the attention they deserve. Tell yourself, “Yes, the argument last night upset me, and my feelings right now are valid” to help you manage strong emotions and circular thought patterns — without letting them hold back your focus.

[Read This Next: How to Banish Negative Thoughts & Feelings]

How to learn to focus on one thing and not be distracted by another - April 3, 2022

Oksana Laryushkina



Practical advice.

Professional illustrator Elena Bondareva tells.

When you know how to concentrate on important things, that's half the battle. The human brain is designed in such a way that when it switches from one task to another, this leads to a loss of concentration: it takes more time to get to the point. Therefore, problems with concentration are experienced by a huge number of people, including representatives of creative professions.


Concentration can be learned, the main thing is to constantly practice. The main recommendations can be divided into three groups: those that need to be performed during work, after and connect physical exercises to the process.

How to concentrate while working

Eliminate provocative factors that may distract you while you work. Install special browser extensions that temporarily block access to entertainment sites and social networks.

Turn off notifications on your gadgets, tell your colleagues and loved ones that you are working on an important project, and ask you not to disturb. Set a limit on the use of entertainment applications on your smartphone: this way you will get rid of the desire to update the information feed. According to a recent study, Russians spend about four hours a day on mobile apps. If you stop using your smartphone for a while while working or studying, this can improve efficiency.


Try to work on one task until it's done. Multitasking is a great quality, but it also becomes a reason why you cannot focus on your business. The more tasks you strive to solve at the same time, the more resources your brain needs to get to the bottom of the problem.

After work

After a working day, the body needs a proper rest. It is important not to overwork the brain with the flow of information in the form of games, films, TV shows: in this case, the brain does not rest, but continues to analyze the incoming information, and therefore, to be overloaded. The best rest after work is a walk: the longer, the better.

Good quality sleep also plays an important role in concentration. Recent studies have shown that more than half of Russians (53%) do not get enough sleep, which affects the concentration of attention during wakefulness. It is important to sleep regularly for 7-9 hours to achieve maximum effectiveness.


Try different concentration exercises. It can be simple crosswords, sudoku, logic and educational games. In bookstores you can find special books that develop logic.



Yoga classes help increase alertness and productivity. Regular practice reduces stress, improves physical and mental performance, and maximizes the ability to focus. You can also go in for sports, jogging.

In addition, you can meditate: the process develops concentration, since the main techniques are centered around its deepening. Beginners are offered a simple exercise: a 20-minute meditation with a clock. This exercise consists in the fact that a person listens to the ticking of the clock with his eyes closed for 20 minutes. After five days of such exercises, a person improves memory, attention, concentration and stress resistance increase.


Julia Kurenkova, entrepreneur and business psychologist, member of the International Coaching Federation ICF, shares her opinion.

How to stay focused and not be distracted

Take scheduled breaks

As in sleep, so in wakefulness, a person undergoes changes in brain waves - electrical frequencies on which our brain works. Based on research, you can take into account the characteristics of these waves and work as productively as possible: every 90 minutes of work take breaks for 10-20 minutes.

Analyze your actions

Ask yourself:

  • When is it easiest for me to concentrate?
  • When is it difficult for me to concentrate? How can this be explained?
  • What is going on around at this time?

Through self-awareness comes understanding of how to optimize work in the best possible way.


Focus on one thing

When a person tries to optimize time and simultaneously talks on the phone, sends e-mail and browses instant messengers, the brain does not absorb such a flow of information. The stress factor affects the quality of each action.

Make a plan and take turns doing tasks

Make a to-do list, highlight the most important ones and start from there. The brain will experience less stress from the upcoming work. When planning the amount of time that a task will take, add an additional 30% to the deadline. You won't be stressed by tight deadlines and will be able to use extra hours or minutes.


Break tasks into subtasks

When we set big goals that take a long time to complete, the brain doesn't see the results of its work and loses motivation. When you complete the small tasks that make up a big goal, you see the results of each step. This gives strength to move on.

Motivate yourself

Even in the most interesting and beloved work, there are tasks that cause anxiety or that you don’t want to start. Try to identify personal motivation and think about how to reward yourself when you complete a difficult or routine task. Buy a movie ticket, have a fancy dinner, book a massage, think about a movie night, or have your favorite meal delivered.


Concentration exercises

Glass of water

Fill a clear glass with water. Take it and keep it in front of you. Concentrate on the glass, hold it so still that the water does not move. Change your hand. Do the exercise for about a minute, gradually increase the time.

Watching the second hand

You will need a watch with a second hand. Watch the second hand make a circle. Once you get distracted, start again. Do the exercise for five minutes: do not think about anything but the second hand. Easy at first glance, the exercise requires great willpower.


Sit straight and close your right nostril with your finger. Inhale slowly for ten slow counts, then exhale, also for ten counts. Repeat the exercise with the other nostril. The task must be completed at least 20 times.

🏃🏽 More workouts, recipes and life hacks in our VK group, join us!

How to concentrate on work or study

Nika Voyutskaya

concentrated to write an article

Author profile

Usually, when you need to focus, it is advised to turn off notifications and move your smartphone out of sight. And this makes sense.

Research shows that even if the smartphone is turned off and lying nearby, it is distracting and wastes cognitive power.

But what if the smartphone is hidden for a long time, notifications are turned off, instant messengers and extra tabs in the browser are closed, and thoughts still return to the YouTube video, a cup of coffee and email? Here are some tips for that.

Why is it hard for everyone to concentrate?

Multitasking may be to blame. We often want to speed up work by doing several things at once. Alas, the brain has difficulty processing and performing two tasks at the same time, and even more so. Switching takes energy from the brain and stimulates the production of "stress hormones" cortisol and adrenaline.

Because of this, we work inattentively: we make mistakes more often, but we still cannot get rid of the feeling that there is a lot of work, but there is not enough time and energy. Studies show that people who are used to multitasking have a harder time focusing even when they are only doing one thing.


“I close my laptop and start living”: 7 ways to quickly switch from work to leisure

And Canadian neuroscientist Daniel Levitin suggests that the reason is dopamine. When we take a break to look at our phone or check our email, we receive new information and thus stimulate the production of this neurotransmitter. Dopamine is part of the brain's reward system. It is being developed - we feel pleasure. This means that the more often we are distracted, the more our brain gets used to not being attentive, because it is so pleasant.


mentally move

Concentration problems are often caused by anxiety. For example, important tasks can cause severe anxiety. Because of this, procrastination begins: a person spends time on endless clarifications and searching for additional information, but cannot focus on the task itself.

If that sounds like you, try the "Leaves on the Stream" exercise, which psychologists use to combat worrying thoughts.

Imagine that you are sitting next to a stream. The water flows slowly and leaves float on it. Place disturbing thoughts or images that interfere with concentration on these leaves. Let the leaves float with the flow, and you just look at them. This is how you learn to look at your problems from the outside, and not identify your life with them.

This technique allows the mind to return to the present moment instead of worrying about potential future problems. Switching and detaching from disturbing thoughts is one of the key techniques of acceptance and responsibility therapy. The effectiveness of this therapy for combating anxiety has been shown by many studies.


How I spent $115,100 to learn how to meditate

And if mindfulness isn't for you, move on to the next tip.


Turn up the music

Playing your favorite songs while you work is a bad idea: intense emotions are distracting.

This is the ideal music for concentration.

💤 Quiet. If the background is too noisy, it draws attention to itself and reduces the speed of information processing. Therefore, adjust the volume so that it is lower than when you listen to music for pleasure.

Is noise always a bad thing? How Ambient Noise Affects Productivity - ResearchGate

👂 Monotonous and monotonous. For example, "white noise": a sound with an even distribution of high, medium and low frequencies that masks other sounds - from knocking doors to telephone conversations of colleagues. Experiment with the A Soft Murmur or Noisli apps, where you can mix all sorts of sounds, from the howl of the wind to the noise of a coffee shop.

💓 On the contrary, moderately rhythmic. But then the compositions should not be too fast, not too complex, and not too boring. To understand what we are talking about, you can listen to brain.fm or Focus@will playlists - they are compiled for concentration, taking into account neuroscience data.


Take a walk in the park

When you feel like you're out of focus, go for a short walk in nature - 15 minutes is enough. Even a small park will do. That's how the contemplation of nature will help.

🌿 Reduce stress levels and quickly restore concentration. Scientists even have a whole theory about this - the theory of attention restoration. To test it, in one experiment, participants were asked to take a short break - just 40 seconds - and look at photographs of high-rise buildings or a flowering meadow. The concentration of those who looked at high-rise buildings fell by 8%, while among nature contemplators it increased by 6%. Wildlife, with smells and sounds, is most likely even better for attention.

🧠 Train your brain to be attentive. As you walk slowly and thoughtfully through the park, you learn to notice details that would normally elude perception. It's almost like meditation, and research shows meditation can improve concentration.


Go for a run

Or walk at a brisk pace for at least twenty minutes. This aerobic exercise improves cognitive function. Concentration of attention - including.

The method works quickly: mindfulness increases immediately after a run or walk for about an hour. If you engage in physical activity every day, then after about four weeks, in general, the ability to concentrate will improve.


Watch the video with cute animals

More precisely, with kittens, puppies, ducklings and other cubs. Looking at them is useful for attention - more useful than adult animals or something not so cute.

Japanese scientists showed the participants of the experiment photographs of kittens and puppies, adult cats and dogs, or neutral, unaffected images. Then they were asked to complete a task that required concentration. Bottom line: the participants who looked at the kittens and puppies completed the task most thoroughly.

YouTube video of a kitten falling asleep

What to do if you still can't concentrate?

If all else fails, it is important to analyze the reasons for the lack of focus.

Learn more