Whether it's work, school, or tasks around the house, all of us have things that need to get done. This past week, I had a college student with ADHD ask me what she could do to force herself to stay on task. Last semester, she turned in some projects late, and her difficulty focusing was causing problems with her studies.
Our conversation went something like this:
Me: “Actually....DON'T force yourself to stay on focus!”
Her: “You're crazy! If I don’t force myself to stay focused, I'm going to fail out of school and get fired from my job!”
Me: “Have you tried to force yourself to stay focused?”
Her: “Yes, and it doesn't work.”
Me: “What happens when you try to force yourself to stay focused?”
Her: “The more I try to force myself, the more stir crazy I get. Sometimes I get so stir crazy I feel like if I spend one more minute working on my project, I'm going to explode.”
Me: "If forcing yourself to stay focused on one thing makes you feel like you are going to explode, why stay focused on one thing?”
Her: “If I don’t force myself to stay focused, then I’m all over the place, and I get nothing done.”
Me: “Instead of trying to stay focused on one thing, try circling in for the win.”
Her: “Try what?”
Me: “Circling in for the win.”
Her: “Now you really sound crazy.”
Me: “Staying on task can be a challenge for everyone, especially someone with ADHD! Instead of trying to force yourself to say on one task, I've developed a technique I call "Circling in for the Win," and it consists of picking 2 to 4 tasks that need to get done; then, intentionally switching focus from one task to another. This way, you are continually being productive, but at the same time, not wasting energy or driving yourself crazy trying to force yourself to focus on only one subject.
On top of the distractability that goes along with ADHD, many people with ADHD describe feeling “claustrophobic”, or “stir crazy” when they try to force themselves to focus on a single task for too long. Instead of fighting these tendencies, this technique suggests that it's better to go with them in a controlled way.
Circling in for the Win works great for anyone struggling with focus and concentration, but it works especially well for ADHDers. Here's how to make it happen:
#1. Pick 2 to 4 activities or tasks that you need to complete
By picking these tasks up front, you can make sure that they're all productive. These could be completely unrelated tasks such as math homework, cleaning your room, a history report, and fixing your car; or they could be very similar, such as breaking up your math homework into sections: questions 1 – 8, questions 9 -16, questions 17- 24.
#2. Start the tasks
As soon as you start to feel distracted, switch to one of the other tasks. It does not matter on home much time you spend on any one task before switching - switch whenever you feel like it. Just make sure you don't let yourself get sidetracked into any tasks that are not on your list.
#3. Continue circling
Things might seem slow going at first because you are not finishing any tasks immediately, but because you are constantly being productive, you will amazed at how much you get done.
#4. Go in for the win
Once you have a task close enough to being completed that you think you can finish it in one final shot; go for it. Once it's finished, check it off your list.
#5. Making smaller circles
Once you have finished one of the tasks, you'll be spending more time on the other tasks. This will speed things up, allowing you to make smaller, quicker circles. Before you know it, you'll be done with all of the tasks on your list!
This technique really works. Give it a try and share it with your friends!
Dr. Jeff M.D.