While that kind of flow state is something that anyone can potentially achieve, research suggests that people with ADHD may experience it more frequently than those who don’t have the condition.
Learn more about the connection between ADHD and hyperfocus and get tips on how to use it to your advantage.
What Is Hyperfocus?
Hyperfocus is a phenomenon where someone becomes completely absorbed in a task. When someone is hyperfocused, their full attention is tuned into that particular activity. They aren’t prone to distraction while in this state, and they can easily lose track of time.
People who are hyperfocusing might not plan for it to happen. They begin engaging with an activity and it ends up holding their attention for hours at a time. Others may be able to harness their hyperfocus when they need to concentrate on the task at hand.
Why Do People with ADHD Hyperfocus?
It’s not entirely clear exactly how hyperfocus happens and what triggers it. However, it’s thought that dopamine is one of the main reasons that ADHD and hyperfocus are so strongly connected. People with ADHD may be drawn to activities that provide instant gratification to overcome a dopamine deficiency. If they find an activity that provides that feedback they’re seeking, they are more likely to stick with it for long periods of time.
Hyperfocus could also be connected to the unique way in which ADHD brains are wired. For example, one study found that people with ADHD exhibited higher levels of activation in the parietal lobe of the brain while playing a computer game compared to a non-ADHD group. This finding stood out immediately since individuals with ADHD are typically found to have lower parietal lobe activation. The higher activation during an activity like playing a computer game could indicate that ADHDers have an increased capacity for focused attention. Under the right conditions, they can actually sustain their attention for longer periods compared to people who don’t have ADHD.
Pros and Cons of Hyperfocus
Is hyperfocus a good thing, or is it a bad thing? The answer is complicated and can depend on the circumstances.
Some of the benefits of hyperfocus include increased productivity or the ability to expand one’s skills or knowledge in a particular hobby or interest. However, there are drawbacks to consider as well. For instance, someone who is hyperfocused might forget about other responsibilities or ignore their loved ones in favor of sticking with their preferred activity.
Tips for Hyperfocusing with ADHD
If you want to take advantage of the benefits of hyperfocusing, it helps to create the right conditions for it to happen. Try the following tips to get into a hyperfocused state.
1. Get other tasks out of the way first.
Hyperfocusing is bound to take up a good chunk of your time, and you may want to take a bit of a rest after you’re done. For that reason, it’s important to get other necessary tasks (errands, emails, etc.) out of the way before you begin. That way, you won’t emerge from your hyperfocusing state with lots of other things on your to-do list.
2. Create a distraction-free environment.
Start by gathering everything you’ll need while hyperfocusing on your selected task so you won’t have to take a break from your flow state to retrieve essential items. Next, create an atmosphere that’s conducive to sustained focus. You can remove visual clutter, for example, and play soothing music or brown noise.
3. Choose the right time.
Think about the best time of day to hyperfocus. Consider when you’re most likely to maintain your attention — mornings, afternoons, or evenings. Next, make sure the time you’ve selected doesn’t interfere with other responsibilities, like work meetings or attending a social event.
4. Set an alarm.
It’s great to let yourself get carried away in your hyperfocused state. But since this can cause you to lose track of time, it helps to set an alarm as a reminder of how much time has passed. If you tend to ignore alarms or timers when hyperfocusing, ask a friend or family member to come check in with you after a certain amount of time has elapsed.
5. Build in rewards.
If you want to continue to harness your hyperfocusing skills, give yourself a reward after successfully working on your chosen task. This added dose of dopamine can help you sustain your motivation and use hyperfocus to your advantage again in the future.