Your Guide To Executive Functions: Focus

by | Feb 11, 2020

executive function

Executive Function: Focus

In the last post, we discussed the difficulty for ADHD when it comes to activating ourselves to action. Or as I say, “getting started.”

And we looked at the work of Dr. Thomas Brown for reference.

For so many of us, getting started is just the first hurdle we must overcome in order to get something done.

The problem is, after we start we need to stay focused long enough to complete the project at hand. I don’t know about you, but focus and attention is one of the things I struggle with the most.

As with all things related to ADHD, knowledge is power. So lets learn more about focus as an executive function.

Understanding executive functions is vitally important to living our best lives with ADHD.

your guide to executive function: focus 


Introduction to Focus and Attention

On his website Dr. Brown describes focus as:

“Focusing, sustaining focus, and shifting focus to tasks. Some describe their difficulty in sustaining focus as similar to trying to listen to the car radio when you drive too far away from the station and the signal begins fading in and out: you get some of it and lose some of it. They say they are distracted easily not only by things that are going on around them, but also by thoughts in their own minds. In addition, focus on reading poses difficulties for many. Words are generally understood as they are read, but often have to be read over and over again in order for the meaning to be fully grasped and remembered.”

In his book Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, Dr. Russell Barkley refers to this as poor self-activation, concentration and alertness. (affiliate link, see my disclosure)

Dr. Barkley goes on to explain that, “adults with ADHD find it very hard to stay awake, alert, sufficiently aroused and activated to sustain their concentration when things are not interesting to them or there is no immediately payoff or reward.”

It’s all in your head

One of the defining issues with focus is our ability to deal with our own inner dialogue. We get distracted by the racing thoughts.

For example, I might start to make a grocery list, but then my mind wanders to the laundry, which leads me to think about my son’s room…and on and on.

Thinking gets us in trouble every time!

How often do you absorb what you are reading or listening to? I’ll give you a minute to think about that.

As I mentioned in my  activation article, if we are not actively interested in what we are doing and we do not see the reward, we are not likely to do it. And if we do – it will be kinda half-assed.

In The Enclave we discuss ways to manage our attention and our thought patterns.

Tips for maintaining focus with ADHD

  • – Visualize what completion of the task looks like.
  • – Write down the steps and choose a half-way point.
  • – Plan for getting sidetracked. How will you handle it?
  • – Make it shiny. As in, make it into a game where you set yourself up for a reward.
    (ex. If I work for 15 minutes…then I get 5 minutes to play on Pinterest.)
  • – Analyze your internal dialogue about what you are doing.

** Research shows metacognition can be helpful for sustaining attention and learning.

When it comes to maintaining focus, you have to be patient with yourself. Look for progress not perfection.

Find ways to reward yourself for what you do accomplish instead of dwelling on your perceived failures. Work on the negative thought patterns and limiting beliefs that hold you back.

Reading and learning more about why you do what you do, will help you to be more self-aware and manage your symptoms.

Understanding executive functions is vitally important to living our best lives with ADHD.

Do you have any tricks for staying focused?

I have included links to books from both Dr. Brown and Dr. Barkley for your convenience. See my full disclosure policy.

Life gets better the moment you take control of how you think about life with ADHD.

Join the Enclave so you can learn how to mange your focus and your thoughts about ADHD!