Getting Into The Focus Mindset

I have ADHD, some may even call it severe ADHD. This makes focusing a very difficult and challenging thing for me sometimes. This doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard at what I do, nor does it really mean that I’m not super-efficient. I’ve adapted to my inability to focus and have come up with a few things that help me enter a mindset that enables focus on one subject.

1. Background Noise
I’m not too fond of silence. I always need some noise to put some of my focus on. For example, while writing this very blog post, I’m listening to the constant whirring of my computer fan. The continual humming from that fan is consistent in the way that it consistently goes through highs and lows as it spins. On the other hand, there are wind chimes out my window. Though the sounds of a wind chime can be quite pretty and delicate, they aren’t great for me to focus on as they only chime randomly as the wind blows. On days like today, provided I had more time to focus on my work, I would put on headphones and listen to random songs, be it rock, pop, rap, country, whatever. I need consistent noise, I don’t care what I’m listening to as long as it’s consistent.

2. Consistent Lighting
Lighting can be a big one depending on where I am. I notice a lot of flickering lights that other people don’t or are just really good at ignoring. These give me tremendous headaches, which decrease my ability to focus alone, but I also begin to focus on the flickering of the light. Also, I don’t particularly appreciate working by sunlight on a cloudy day either. The sun casting large sections of shadows as clouds float by and then beaming light as the clouds pass gives me something for my mind to focus on, which isn’t my work. I often work in the dark to avoid the flickering lights, and I keep my monitors at a low brightness so as not to stress my eyes too heavily. After all, I’m already stressing them by staring at code for several hours a day.

3. Time Slots
Something that can also help me focus is dedicating time slots to tasks. These don’t need to be planned days or even hours ahead of time, but I need to have some sort of structure to when I will start and end a task. This one is a little hard to explain because I don’t even need to stop when I say I’m going to stop. Let’s say I get started on a project at 4:30 PM, and I plan to work straight through 6:00 PM. As it gets closer to 5:45 PM, I may decide that I’m not done with what I want to get done that day, but I will stop temporarily at 6:00 PM. This is to give my brain some time to think about what I’ve done in the span of working. It’s sort of a way to grade myself on what I’ve accomplished. It won’t surprise me if no one knows what I’m talking about.

4. Notes
I always have some method of taking notes with me. In terms of a focusing tool, this is to help me when I’m working on something and other things pop into my head. I used to immediately stop what I was doing and start focusing on the other thing. This workflow drastically decreased my efficiency. By continuously keeping a pen and paper handy, I can just quickly jot down what came to mind and then get on with what I was already doing. This only fails when I don’t write a note that explains my thought process enough, and I find myself sitting there an hour later wondering what in the world my note means.

That’s about it. I didn’t have a lot to write about today, but I wanted to share some things that I’ve done over the many years of working for myself to try and improve my efficiency and focus. Most processes are really just adding consistency to what I’m doing because when you set up an environment for one specific thing, your brain can snap into and think, “Okay, I’m in the dark, background noise is going, and I know that I’ll be working until at least this time, let’s get going.” These strategies might not work for everyone, but they’ve proven helpful to me.

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