Poor Focus & Distractibility
For over 31 years, I had been masking my distractibility and I only really learnt what it meant to be ‘easily distracted’ when I researched ADHD in adults. Contrary to what many people believe, ADHD doesn’t mean you cannot focus on anything. For me, my ability to focus depends on the situation in which I find myself. Generally speaking, I can focus relatively well in a classroom setting, as I am also vehemently competitive and my ability to concentrate is affected by how accountable I am to others – having a teacher and 30 other people knowing what I am doing helps me keep focused. However, I find autonomous tasks difficult and often rely on others to help keep me motivated for a longer period of time. I have often been described as someone who ‘notices everything’ and this is definitely true as anything which pops into my orbit will distract me. Interestingly, I find it most difficult to concentrate when I am in a setting where I have to listen passively, without having the ability to interact with the situation in either a verbal or tactile way. Consequently, I find lectures exasperating and also don’t get a huge amount of pleasure from films – unless they are particularly exciting or humorous. Having ADHD is only one side of the coin in any person’s life and I believe my high levels of extroversion play a part in ensuring I focus better when I am in a group of people – I can thank this for my success in the education system.
Three Things I Use – And You Can Try – To Help Poor Focus & Distractibility
- Create an ADHD-friendly environment. My workspace is designed to be a creative, yet organised, hub and I have many fidgets within easy reach so I always have something to fiddle with when I have to focus.
- Do things in short bursts – where you can. I work for myself, running a private tuition and coaching business, so I don’t have to focus for long periods of time. The ADHD brain is more of a sprinter than a marathon runner and I have set up my business to make sure my job supports this part of my personality.
- Make yourself accountable to people. I am much more likely to get things done if people know I am doing them, so, if I have a less desirable task to complete, I ensure I tell someone I am doing it so I am more likely to see it through to the end.
Not Following Directions & Working Memory
I have never been a person to follow directions and, even though I try my best to adopt a logical sequencing mindset, I often find it incredibly difficult to regulate. In school, I was very much the ‘people-pleaser’ and, consequently, went out of my way to ensure my work was of a suitable standard for the teacher in question. When I was younger, following directions was relatively simple as they were often given in small chunks, and what we had to do in primary school was usually painted with a hue of creativity to ensure our childlike minds were enticed into learning. However, as I became older, my difficulty with following instructions became more apparent and I truly began to learn the spontaneous nature of my thought processes. Higher-level maths was difficult for me to comprehend and I began to realise multi-step problems, following a linear sequence, tied my brain in more knots than the rigging on a ship. Games and dance sessions, where we had to learn a sequence and perform back, were also difficult for me and I remember finding science – which I had loved as a younger child – almost impossible in my later teenage years. Fortunately, my natural intellect had helped me sail through directions when I was younger, but this couldn’t really protect me as I grew in years and was handed more difficult instructions, with more strenuous patterns. Looking back, my horrific problems with algebra and issues with AS-Level biology were caused by difficulties with my linear-thinking patterns.
Three Things I Use – And You Can Try – To Help With Following Instructions & Improve Working Memory
- Make a tactile reminder method. I invented the No-Pro-Bo (instructions here) to ensure I follow the same routine each morning in order to complete my administration duties. I am a strong tactile learner and find methods which involve moving things work much more successfully.
- Practise things which involve linear thinking & working memory. Even though they often push me well out of my comfort zone, I make time for activities which build up my logical thinking skills and working memory, such as maths puzzles and building things with instructions; strengthening my skills in these areas has really improved my confidence!
- Seek help from those who are adept at linear thinking. In my career, lateral thinking is a gift, but I do benefit from discussing things with those who prioritise order and planning over spontaneity. By collaborating with many different people, I have found it much easier to manage the more ‘boring’ parts of my business.
Talking Too Much, Interrupting & Rushing
Out of all the ADHD symptoms, this one is probably the most difficult for me to control on a day-to-day basis, and this hasn’t changed much over my lifetime. A chaotic, loud child, I was well-known as the ‘friendly’ one, or to put it in a less euphemistic way, ‘the intense character who everyone knew.’ I remember being told, on countless occasions, to stop interrupting and I also recall my primary school teachers who struggled to stop me racing off with my work, desperate to be the first in the class to complete the assignment. I was the classically ‘hyperactive-impulsive’ child, who covered up her symptoms by being born female. Even though I pushed children over and was frequently rough enough to cause accidents, my behaviour was put down to ‘being a tomboy’ and my antics were remedied by lots of time outdoors and regular bedtimes. As I got older, I became less physically rough, but my inability to stop talking and interrupting continued. Even now, I find it almost impossible not to interject when I have an interesting point to make and I am constantly monitoring myself to ensure I don’t dominate every conversation. Additionally, I try hard to regulate my impulsiveness and hyperactivity by pacing myself in activities and ensuring I don’t storm ahead in order to finish quickly. Unfortunately, much of my dopamine appears to come from producing work in a short space of time, so ‘pacing myself’ is incredibly difficult as I often find myself storming through tasks just for a hit of cerebral pleasure.
Three Things I Use – And You Can Try – To Help With Talking Too Much, Interrupting & Rushing
- Tell people about your ADHD – if you are comfortable. It is almost impossible for me not to talk too much or avoid interrupting, so I tell new people about my ADHD before I enter a conversation. I am strong on the hyperactive-impulsive traits, so I find it easier to tell people and avoid any embarrassment.
- Take a deep breath if you feel impulsive. If I feel I am about to do/say something impulsive, I try hard to take a deep breath and then assess the situation from a different angle. There are a number of techniques I use in my Coaching & Mentoring to aid impulsive traits, but stopping and taking a deep breath is usually my first port of call.
- Surround yourself with other ADHDers. Neurotypical people will never fully understand what it is like to have ADHD, and I have found my self-esteem and confidence has only truly grown since I entered the ADHD community. Other ADHDers know what it is like living with this unique neurology and you will find support and understanding with people who face similar difficulties.
For more information on how you can manage your ADHD, please see my Coaching & Mentoring page!